Huge Hollywood blockbusters like “Marvel’s The Avengers” have an enormous cast and crew, all working in tandem to make the best film possible, but fans who have seen any of the vast array of films made in the last ten years based on Marvel characters may have noticed a constant name in the credits: Kevin Feige.
The celebrated producer and key architect behind the Marvel Cinematic Universe--including all three Iron Man films--will send Tony Stark on his most dangerous journey yet in Marvel's "Iron Man 3" this summer. To get a taste of what's in store, we've got a special interview with Feige right here on Marvel.com, and if you haven't already, check out what Guy Pearce had to say about the film last week!
In our latest installment of "Iron Man 3: Under the Armor," Feige offers a unique perspective on the upcoming film from the man who was involved in every stage of the movie from conception to premier. Now read on to hear what he had to say, and keep your eyes on Marvel.com for all things Iron Man!
Marvel.com: Highlight the arc of Tony Stark over the course of these films and where we find him now in “Iron Man 3.”
|Iron Man takes flight in "Iron Man 3"|
Kevin Feige: The journey of Iron Man, and frankly the journey of the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe, started with the journey of Tony Stark. The exciting thing about “Iron Man 3” is, yes, it’s the culmination from “Iron Man” and “Iron Man 2,” but it’s also a follow up to “Marvel’s The Avengers.” So it’s one of the first situations I can think of where you have a movie that is the sequel to two movies and in a way that liberates it to be more unique than anything that has come before, which is what we’re most excited about.
Tony is a guy who is all about his journey; he’s all about the arc. When we met him in “Iron Man,” he was a pompous fellow building weapons and almost immediately suffered a life-changing, dramatic accident by being blown up by one of his own missiles in Afghanistan. He galvanized himself into building this Iron Man suit, giving up the weapons game and dedicating himself. As he tells Pepper, “I finally know what I have to do. I know what’s right." “Iron Man 2” tested that and he had some health problems. In “Marvel's The Avengers” he was faced with something world-changing, again.
Not only did he encounter all of those crazy characters with hammers and capes and shields and gamma-irradiated strength, but a portal to another world opened above his head. Tony Stark is a very scientifically minded guy who thought he was at the cutting edge of science, and suddenly learned in those brief moments at the end of “Marvel's The Avengers,” that there is an infinite amount that he doesn’t know.
|The Armored Avenger, worse for wear in "Iron Man 3"|
I think that made him feel small in a certain way and I think even encountering those other super heroes in “Marvel's The Avengers” made him feel like he was not the most powerful person in the world, which I think Tony likes to feel like he is. He may be the smartest person in the world, but not necessarily the most powerful. So when we meet him at the beginning of “Iron Man 3,” he’s using the suit as a shell almost. It is a shell to shield himself from all of this new information, this new influx of reality that is crashing around him. At the same time, as tends to happen in good movies, another villain arises. And suddenly, when he’s sort of at a state where he’d much rather stay in his lab and work on his suits, something happens that forces him to get out of his house, to get out of his lab and even in some cases, get out of the suit, to confront this new evil.
Marvel.com: How has Robert Downey, Jr.’s performance over the years surprised you?
Kevin Feige: The reason we cast Robert in “Iron Man” is because he’s a spectacular actor, and since then he’s obviously become the biggest movie star in the world and has shown us each time why that is. He’s not resting on his laurels. He doesn’t come in and say, “I’m the biggest star in the world.” He comes in and shows you why he’s the biggest star in the world.
|Robert Downey, Jr. stars as Tony Stark/Iron Man in "Iron Man 3"|
And the way he does that is by giving this unbelievable performance that can be, of course, snarky and, of course, funny, which Tony Stark is all the time and Robert can do in his sleep, but it’s the more touching moments too. There are scenes with Pepper in “Iron Man 3” that are really emotional and really loving. In a fun way, not in a dour, sort of movie-of-the-week way, but in a fun way and in a way that you don’t usually see between men and women in these kinds of action movies.
It was important to us that the relationship between Tony and Pepper carry through all four movies including “Marvel’s The Avengers” and certainly into “Iron Man 3,” and it sort of reaches its pinnacle in “Iron Man 3” in a very nice way. He also encounters, along his surprising journey in “Iron Man 3,” a little boy named Harley. We’ve never seen Tony interact with children necessarily. Iron Man saves a few occasionally along the way, but we’ve never seen him interact with a child and I don’t think it’s something Tony does very often.
So it’s fun to see Robert’s performance as he’s a little standoffish at first about this kid and sort of treats this kid like an adult, but also clearly embracing a little bit of the fatherly overtones that this kid wants to get out of Tony Stark. And again, it’s a surprising thing to see from Robert. That it’s not just the snark; it’s not just the humor; it’s not just romance that he can do with Gwyneth so well, but these very sort of touching moments with this little kid.
Marvel.com: What would you say is going to be different about his character in this film?
|"Iron Man 3" hits theaters & IMAX 3D May 3|
Kevin Feige: Our favorite moments in the saga that is Iron Man really go back to the first act of “Iron Man,” where Tony Stark, who you meet in the back of that humvee with those soldiers, is clearly on top of the world. He’s a very famous guy; he’s a rich guy; he’s a successful guy and he is ignorant. Sort of happily ignorant to the ramifications to what his work is doing to the world. Then that comes crashing down around him when that convoy is attacked. He’s thrown into a cave, a bag over his head, tied to a chair--the very first image we see before the “Iron Man” title appears in “Iron Man.” We thrust him into literally a cave with a box of scraps and we need to see him get out of that situation.
We like painting Tony into a corner and taking away all of his toys and all of the immense wealth and assets and leave him with just his mind and see how he can get out of that situation. You’ve seen in the trailers that there’s an attack on Tony’s house. So by the end of the first act of “Iron Man 3,” his house is gone. His technology is gone. All he has is a barely functioning prototype suit that, soon after he escapes from the house that’s destroyed, is not functioning at all. So Tony finds himself in the middle of the United States of America, in Rose Hill, Tennessee, completely out of his element. A guy who lives in Malibu and goes to Monaco and gallivants in Manhattan in the middle of Rose Hill, Tennessee, with a suit not working, doing an investigation about the villain known as the Mandarin, to try to figure out where he is. Tony believes there are clues here that are going to lead him to find where the Mandarin is, so he drags the broken suit into a shed that he finds and takes an axe and opens it up. It turns out that he is in the little workshop of this young boy named Harley.
It is a lot of fun to see Tony out of his element, without any of his toys, with just his mind, to see how he can overcome. And there are villains that come and attack him in this sequence, with no suit at all to grab. I won’t give away whether he is successful or not, but you can probably guess, and it’s that ingenuity that’s fun. How is he going to get out of that cave with a box of scraps again? And that’s something that we really didn’t see in “Iron Man 2.” We didn’t see it in “Marvel's The Avengers” either, and it is something that is wholly unique to “Iron Man 3.”
|Tony Stark's house under attack in "Iron Man 3"|
Marvel.com: Why was it important to set the tone to have Tony get back to basics?
Kevin Feige: Early on in the development of the first Iron Man movie, we did talk about back to basics for Tony because we wanted to see him just use his brain. We wanted to see what he could do when the odds are against him and he doesn’t have anything. You wonder how he is going to get out of this one and it also allows you to be with Tony while he’s figuring it out.
But how do you take a billionaire, industrialist, playboy and make him relatable and make him into somebody that you can root for? One way is to have Robert play Tony, who is a very likeable hero. The other way is take away everything he has and make you root for the guy. How do you make the biggest super hero in the world into an underdog in a small town in the middle of the United States? Take away everything he has. And that’s really what we wanted to see there--how he then fights to build and get it back.
Marvel.com: How did screenwriter Drew Pearce come onto the film?
Kevin Feige: We had developed a film with Drew Pearce and we didn’t end up making that film. As we were starting to film “Marvel’s The Avengers” and were finishing up post production on Marvel's “Thor” and Marvel's “Captain America: The First Avenger,” I was in London and I asked to meet with Drew--who had just been told and was disappointed understandably that we weren’t going to be moving forward with this movie that he’d written--but I asked him about “Iron Man 3.”
|Tony Stark's newest armor in "Iron Man 3"|
Of his own accord he wrote about a 25-page treatment and outline, sort of an essay of ideas, about where he saw the character going. While we didn’t go with everything he had in that initial document, there was so much there and so much passion, that we decided we wanted him to come on board and team him up with the writer/director we were hiring, Shane Black.
After some initial hesitancy on both Drew and Shane’s part, within a matter of weeks they became great friends and most importantly great partners in this screenplay, and Drew has stayed with us throughout the entire process and done a tremendous job.
Marvel.com: You tend to have your writers on set while shooting. Why is it important to have such access to the writers?
Kevin Feige: I love having the main writers with us throughout as much of production as possible, in case there’s a good idea that pops up or a better idea that comes up or if there is a concern on set. You put a scene on its feet, the actor starts saying the lines and there’s a little concern about a word here or there and, while Robert famously loves to adlib, you always want to make sure that those adlibs are still servicing the plot.
If something’s not working, how can we build something that does work for the scene, but still bridges properly from the prior scene into the next scene? Having a writer there is a tremendous asset.
Marvel.com: What was it about Shane that made you know right away that he was the man to bring in for the job?
|Star Robert Downey, Jr. and director Shane Black on set of "Iron Man 3"|
Kevin Feige: We’ve talked a lot about it and Robert has talked a lot about it and it’s true, that Shane has sort of been in the shadows of [Tony Stark's] world since “Iron Man.” Robert had worked with him on a great movie called “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang,” which Shane wrote and directed, and frankly, that was one of the movies that Jon Favreau and I looked at when we initially started considering the idea of casting Robert for “Iron Man.”
Robert would take scenes on “Iron Man” and go over to Shane’s house and just ask Shane about them, and Shane would give some great input. The one that I remember most clearly was the scene at the beginning of act two in "Iron Man." Tony’s returned from Afghanistan, he’s broken out in the Mark 1, Rhodey has picked him up, Pepper has met him outside the C-17 there at Edwards Air Force Base and the first thing he says is that he wants to do a press conference.
He ends up coming in eating a hamburger and tells everybody to sit down. He talks about his father a little bit, in the ramp up to announcing that he is no longer making weapons, and much of that scene was written and inspired by the conversations with Shane Black. So he was always sort of there helping and guiding in the background, particularly for Robert, for his character. When it came time to find a new filmmaker for “Iron Man 3,” I won’t say he was the first person we thought of because you always start with a list and you go through a lot of names.
Frankly, we had no idea if Shane would be interested or not and when it became clear that Shane was interested and we began taking meetings with him, it became clear that we had to do this. There was a manifest destiny from “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” through casting Robert and now to Shane doing it and bringing that Shane Black energy to the franchise. There are examples out there of very good part threes and there are examples out there of disappointingly mediocre part threes. It’s our goal to make this one of the better and more exciting part threes, and the only way we really feel we can do that is by taking chances and by not just sticking quote unquote to the formula, by going outside the box. And frankly, “Iron Man 3,” under the direction of Shane Black, is almost another genre. It is a technological thriller as Shane calls it. It’s a throwback to action movies from the ’80s and ’90s and just sort of has a balls-to-the-wall nature to it.
It delves into Tony Stark’s character in a great, quirky, unexpected way, and one of the signatures of a Shane Black film, which “Iron Man 3” has in spades, is that when you think the movie is going to go left, it suddenly goes right. That was fun to do. It’s scary sometimes, but fun to do. You can probably only do it on a part three, where the audience has expectations. The audience thinks they know the way you’re going to go with something and then you totally turn it on its head and spin it. It was exciting and it was a way to not fall into the “threequelitis” trap.
Marvel’s “Iron Man 3” pits brash-but-brilliant industrialist Tony Stark/Iron Man against an enemy whose reach knows no bounds. When Stark finds his personal world destroyed at his enemy's hands, he embarks on a harrowing quest to find those responsible. This journey, at every turn, will test his mettle. With his back against the wall, Stark is left to survive by his own devices, relying on his ingenuity and instincts to protect those closest to him. As he fights his way back, Stark discovers the answer to the question that has secretly haunted him: does the man make the suit or does the suit make the man?
Starring Robert Downey, Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Guy Pearce, Rebecca Hall, Stephanie Szostak, James Badge Dale with Jon Favreau and Ben Kingsley, “Iron Man 3” is directed by Shane Black from a screenplay by Drew Pearce and Shane Black and is based on Marvel’s iconic super hero Iron Man, who first appeared in the pages of TALES OF SUSPENSE #39 in 1963 and had his solo comic book debut with THE INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #1 in May of 1968.
“Iron Man 3” is presented by Marvel Studios in association with Paramount Pictures and DMG Entertainment. Marvel Studios’ President Kevin Feige is producing and Jon Favreau, Louis D'Esposito, Stephen Broussard, Victoria Alonso, Alan Fine, Charles Newirth, Stan Lee and Dan Mintz are executive producers. The film releases May 3, 2013, and is distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.
In addition to "Iron Man 3," Marvel Studios will release a slate of films based on the Marvel characters including "Thor: The Dark World" on November 8, 2013; "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" on April 4, 2014; "Guardians of the Galaxy" on August 1, 2014; the untitled "Marvel's The Avengers" sequel on May 1, 2015; and "Ant-Man" on November 6, 2015.