Marvel Decade

Marvel Decade: Kevin Feige

The President of Marvel Studios relives 10 years in the life of Marvel on the big screen



As the year 2000 dawned, Marvel Comics had only recently escaped bankruptcy and the company's future stood on shaky ground at best.

Flash forward 10 years. With landmark achievements in film, animation, publishing and digital media behind it, Marvel not only solidified its hold on the comic book world, it established itself as an incredibly successful worldwide entertainment brand with few peers.

As the company stands at the edge of 2010, takes a look back with the people who made it all happen speaking in their own words; this is Marvel Decade.

Kevin Feige began working on Marvel movies in 1998 as an Associate Producer on "X-Men"--the smash hit that kicked off the Marvel big screen revolution. As the number of Marvel films grew, so too did Feige's role in the development and management of the brand's role in Hollywood. From co-Producer to Executive Producer and finally to Producer and President of Marvel Studios, Feige has stood front and center over the last decade as Marvel has become the powerhouse behind "Iron Man" and the "The Incredible Hulk." "Iron Man 2," set to lead off the next Marvel decade in filmmaking on May 7, 2010, heads up an ongoing slate of already announced films that includes "Thor" and "The First Avenger: Captain America" in 2011 and "The Avengers" in 2012.

The Marvel Curse
I started at Marvel proper in August 2000; I had been working as an associate producer on "X-Men" in 1998. We worked on that for almost three years. Back in those days there was the "Marvel Curse." It was the dawn of and other fan sites saying that our movies were going to suck. We just kind of kept of our head down and made the movie. We focused on the characters and kept it true to the comics.

The X-Men Come to Life
There was a cold night in Toronto, Canada. We were filming a small scene from the movie where the Blackbird lands on Liberty Island. It was the first time all the actors were together in costume, I walked into Bryan's [Singer, the film's director] trailer and there they were all sort of standing together. It was the X-Men brought to life, it's a moment that has stayed with me.

Opening Night X Frenzy
Another memorable moment from the "X-Men" was the Friday night opening of the film and how crazy everyone went once they saw it. We didn't know what to expect. The trailers were well received, but there were still a lot of doubters when the first photo of Wolverine was leaked onto the Internet. When the crowd started cheering, it just felt like the start of something big. Only we didn't know then just how big things would get.

With Great Power...
Two weeks into my official employment, I found myself in a room with [director] Sam Raimi going over the script of "Spider-Man." That was the next step for Marvel. Of course there were concerns with taking on that project. Even when we shot the first promotion photo it looked so good a lot people thought it was CGI! But it wasn't and that's where we started to see things go the right way.

...Comes Great Responsibility
The amazing thing about ["Spider-Man"] was how it broke all those records its opening weekend. The movie brought Marvel and Spidey back into pop culture. Audiences around the country would cheer for the Marvel logo when it appeared on screen for that movie, and that was astounding.

The First Sequel
After the first Spider-Man, we had three movies in the works: "Daredevil," Ang Lee's "Hulk" and "X-Men 2." I was mostly with "X2" at the time, due to working on the first film. It was the first sequel I worked on. With that film came one of our first big San Diego Comic-Con experiences. We took footage from the sequel after only five weeks of production and made a teaser trailer for Comic-Con [cut by Bryan Singer] where everybody who saw it went nuts.

Alfred Molina as Doctor Octopus
Super Hero Films: Just a Fad?
All three of those movies did really well. That was the first year people started to ask me when I thought this fad was going to end, and my answer to that question even to this day is that as long as we keep making these films in fresh and unique ways it's never going to run out. The only reason a fad is going to end is if it goes stale, but that's one of the reasons we choose to make the movies that we do, so that doesn't happen.

And Along Came a Spider, Again
In 2004 came "Spider-Man 2." I think that was one of the best films we've ever done. Again, with the sequel, we were able to get the origins out of the way and focus on the character and his relationships with those around him. There was even talk of Alfred Molina being up for an Oscar [for his performance as Doctor Octopus].

Mining the Marvel Universe
The mid-decade also brought the "Fantastic Four," "Punisher" and "Elektra" films. This got studios wanting to move forward with a lot of the characters faster. Things got a little out of our hands then. That's when we started thinking above making the movies internally. When the day finally came that we had our own studio, that's when everything changed.

"Iron Man"
With Great Movies Comes Great Loyalty
"Spider-Man 3" and "X-Men: The Last Stand" were the most successful of their franchises and that says a lot about the loyalty of the fans. They were challenging films to make. "Spider-Man 3" got to be too much of a good thing. With those films we learned that bigger is not always better.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe Forms
"Iron Man" and "The Incredible Hulk" wound up being the first films we produced at Marvel Studios by ourselves. It was great to get those titles back in our own hands. When you know the characters as well as we do, it's great to look at their cinematic potential. We had a lot of names on the list when it came to casting Tony Stark, but Robert Downey Jr.'s quickly rose to the top. Then, getting Samuel L. Jackson to make a cameo as Nick Fury was also huge. After that, Robert was nice enough to stop by the "Incredible Hulk" set. This set up that Marvel Studio films are really going to bring the Marvel Universe to the big screen-the films are no longer their own separate island, and you never know what to expect.  

The Green Goliath
The best thing about "The Incredible Hulk" was doing the movie we wanted to do. We wanted to blend the television series with the comics. With Tim Roth as Abomination we were able to show a battle that wasn't

"The Incredible Hulk"
possible in the original TV show but was done in the comics. Plus there are a lot of Easter eggs that are in there that we'll be playing off of in the coming films.

With Great Casting Comes Great Acting
In terms of casting these films, Ian McKellen [as Magneto] and Patrick Stewart [as Professor Charles Xavier] really set the bar pretty high. Hugh Jackman and Tobey Maguire also established a high precedence for filling the shoes of our iconic characters [as Wolverine and Spider-Man respectively]. We wanted the same thing when we started casting our own movies. The reaction to the new trailer for "Iron Man 2" has been great. With Mickey Rourke and Scarlett Johansson joining the cast [as Whiplash and the Black Widow] everyone is real excited.

Hammer Time
To be honest the thing that I'm most excited about right now though, is the screen test we just finished for "Thor." We've done some costume tests and watching the Asgardians walk onto the sound stage takes me back to that first time I saw the X-Men on the set all together in Toronto. Only it was unlike anything we've ever put on film before! It's great to be starting the next decade in such an exciting way just as we did last decade. We're really redefining the comic book genre and what a Marvel movie can be. It's going to be great.


Come back tomorrow, Dec. 31 for Dan Buckley, Marvel CEO & Publisher, Print, Animation & Digital Media as Marvel Decade concludes. 

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:cap: = Damian Lewis or Kiefer SutherlandI would like to hear you guys sound off on my idea for casting Steve Rogers / Captain America ... DAMIEN LEWIS (Band of Brothers, Life) He proved to be an excellent soldier in Band of Brothers and I think he would be believable as the ultimate boy scout that is Captain America. or KIEFER SUTHERLAND (24, Call of Duty: World at War)He has the presence to be the team leader and is believable as a soldier that would give his life for his country.What do you guys think?