Back in 1999 as the first X-Men film was developed and produced, executive producer Lauren Shuler Donner promoted a 26-year-old assistant in her office to the role of associate producer on the movie, thanks to his encyclopedic knowledge of the Marvel Comics universe from which the X-Men had sprung.
That associate producer’s name was Kevin Feige, and based off his work on X-Men, he was hired by then-Marvel Studios head Avi Arad as his second in command. From that point on, Feige became Marvel’s president of production in 2007, and was eventually named head of Marvel Studios after the company was purchased by Disney in 2009.
He is widely credited as the architect of the multi-billion-dollar Marvel Cinematic Universe, leading the charge to introduce heroes like Iron Man, Thor, Captain America and others in their own films before teaming them up in a series of epics as the Avengers.
Feige added the title of Chief Creative Officer for Marvel Comics, Marvel Television and Marvel Animation to his resume last year as Disney reorganized its corporate structure, making him pretty much the supreme overlord of all things Marvel going forward.
But screenwriter David Hayter, who worked with Feige, producer Tom DeSanto and director Bryan Singer on the original X-Men, says that even though Feige has become one of the most powerful execs in Hollywood, he remains both earnest and a fan at heart.
“He was very enthusiastic and obviously hyper-intelligent,” recalls Hayter about the young exec. “But what really impressed me about him was how well he knew not just the X-Men, but the Marvel characters.”
Hayter continues, “Kevin was a big collector of the action figures and the toys. He was really into collecting those things. And through that love, he had learned the mythologies of all of these characters, so he was a very smart, very informed resource.”
While acknowledging that Feige “didn’t have the power then that he has now,” Hayter adds, “It didn’t stop him from being completely committed to making a great X-Men movie. That just came out of sheer love of the world, like it did for me… I think Kevin’s love of it produced such amazing ideas from him, just because he wanted to see this world fully realized.”
After mentioning that Feige cameos in X-Men as well — as one of the doctors injecting the adamantium into the body of Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) — Hayter reveals that he recently got together with Feige for a meeting (although, typically for anyone associated with Marvel, Hayter would not say what they met about).
“He’s still very unassuming,” says Hayter. “I mean, he’s enormously powerful, and he knows it, but he’s very unassuming, very friendly and still just does it for the love of Marvel. So I admire Kevin enormously, and he’s certainly earned his position and his accolades.”
While it’s a certainty that the X-Men will be rebooted and reinvented in the Marvel Cinematic Universe after a 20-year, 13-film run at 20th Century Fox — which was kicked off by that first X-Men movie — Hayter doesn’t expect to be invited to work on that prospect.
But it’s good to know that the person in charge of that formidable project is still a fan at heart…which is arguably the key to the success of the MCU to date.
Watch for more soon from our interview with David Hayter.