Kevin Feige interview: Guardians of the Galaxy, Marvel films

Marvel Studios' boss Kevin Feige chats to us about Guardians Of The Galaxy, boutique Marvel movies, and Jason Statham...

Around these parts, Kevin Feige is a man who needs little introduction. As the president of Marvel Studios he holds more power and cinematic sway over the hearts and minds of geeks worldwide than most. For Feige is the man who’s in charge of the Marvel movie master plan that has seen the studio go from taking a boom or bust gamble when it made the first Iron Man, to box office dominance and critical success, while achieving the biggest and most unique multi-film crossover ever when The Avengers hit the big screen back in 2012.

As if that culmination wasn’t enough, we’re now in the middle of a second phase of films that has included a third Iron Man and second outings for both Thor (in The Dark World) and Captain America (in The Winter Soldier) and that should end with Avengers: Age Of Ultron next year.

Next up, though? It’s Guardians Of The Galaxy, and earlier this week we caught up with the man himself for a quick chat about his current Marvel masterplan…

Well, I was one of those kids that grew up dreaming of the day when we would have as many Marvel movies as we now do.

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That’s great.

I feel almost like even if the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) were to stop now, there’s so much already out there that will exist for future generations.

That’s cool. I like reading when people think about… even in the last few weeks with Dawn Of The Planet Of the Apes and with Guardians coming out, that my favourite comment online is when people go ‘What an amazing time to be a geek’. Even if I had nothing to do with these movies, I would feel that way, that it’s just like ‘Thank God, these are the kind of movies that I wanted to see’ and they are the most popular movies right now.

And it’s amazing to me that you can go into any store now and pick up Captain America Onesies and all this merchandise!

[laughs] Exactly! Exactly!

Guardians Of The Galaxy, then. It all looks exciting, but one of the things that really struck me was that even as someone who considers themselves a Marvel geek, I wasn’t really familiar those characters. When the first trailer hit I thinking that there was such a shift between people going ‘ok we’re curious’ to full blown enthusiasm…

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Good, good.

Can you talk about that trailer, and getting it right? How much work went into it?

A lot of work and frankly there were a couple of different… A lot of the work went into what we showed at Comic Con last year, so the initial teasers were quite similar to that structure, but that was put together for that very specific Hall H 7000 people, who are like you, who we pretty much know are very enthusiastic, know what we are talking about, will understand our references and allusions and therefore it is a slightly safer environment to just show everything that we want to show in the way we want to show it.

When you get to marketing for the broader audience which is the primary audience; the people who don’t know anything about any of these characters, there is a tendency to go ‘okay, how do we sell in a way that makes it seem a little more comfortable.’ So we went on an entire journey with the Disney marketing folks of presenting the movie in different ways, the more straightforward adventure, the more straightforward character journey of a little kid who leaves earth and becomes a space hero, of just a pure action play and it ultimately felt like ‘But this isn’t the movie guys, this isn’t the movie’

And thankfully there came a point where all the folks at Disney and all of us at Marvel were like ‘You know what we have to do? Let’s just show it. Let’s just just show the movie as it really is’ which was represented in that Comic Con piece which was the mug shots leading into ‘Hooked on a Feeling’. We went ‘okay we believe in this, we think this is the best presentation of the movie that we’re making, let’s hope the world responds the way those 7000 people did at Comic Con’ and thankfully, [laughs] thankfully it worked.

Because it was such a declaration – and I didn’t have a chance to talk about this in any other interviews up to now, which is – one of the main drivers for us in this movie was to do something different. To do something unique in a time when – and setting it on August 1st – at the end of the summer after there’s been so many sequels and so many reboots and revamps…

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And listen, we were one of them with The Winter Soldier and I don’t believe ‘sequel’ is a bad word or ‘reboot’ is a bad word, but there is a tendency in the press to talk about ‘ooooh it’s the same thing over and over and over’ and we were excited to do something where you couldn’t say that about it. I mean I guess if people were really cynical they could say ‘oh another Marvel comic based movie’ but at that point you just don’t like anything, you just don’t like life! [laughs]

You can’t win there!

Exactly, exactly, but the notion of okay, we’ve bookended the summer earlier in April with The Winter Soldier, there have been lots of familiar characters that have made appearances, almost all of which were really good so that’s fun, up through Apes which I haven’t seen yet but can’t wait to see. Then loving the notion of saying – because we knew that the story after the summer would be some people bemoaning sequel after sequel – ‘okay, this is not a sequel, this is connected to our universe as we know, but for all intents and purposes this is a brand new set of characters, a unique vision, here is the answer to the originality. That’s how the trailer came about, to show that off.

Bemoaning comic book movie sequels has always been a strange criticism to level anyway, because for those of us who are aware of the comics, there’s decades worth of material to use. Comic book movie sequels should almost always be seen as a continuation of the bigger picture, or story…

Yes, totally and for people who know the comics, they’re all so diverse and all so unique and that’s why earlier [at the Q&A that preceded our interview] I was saying the notion of a comic book genre, or comic book movies limits actually what comics really are. And if you think it’s just a guy who puts on a costume and stops a bank robbery, it’s much, much more than that and that is why we made a period Cap, or a Thor that takes place as much on Asgard as it does on Earth, or Guardians.

You talked about Groot earlier, and about how a character that can only say three words has had a profound emotional effect on some people. On the evidence of the footage so far, you can tell that beyond Peter Quill’s wit, or the humour of it, you can tell there’s heart in there. For me anyway, my reading of the Marvel films has always been that the heart is very important – it’s why I was drawn to Captain America when I didn’t think I was going to be.

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Good, yeah – people have asked me for a long time, particularly in international markets ‘Red, white and blue? What do we care about it?’ and I went well, because like all the other Marvel stories we’re really doing Steve Rogers story, Steve Rogers as an individual is the story and is what to latch onto. That’s why we wanted to do that film as a period film, so we could spend the entirety of the first act with Skinny Steve as we call him, with the little kid who wants bigger things.

And you say that that kind of emotional core is going to carry on into Guardians Of The Galaxy?

Yeah and James Gunn who has that Peter Quill wit you’re talking about, it comes from him, and a very, very wry, very sort of cutting sense of humour, but he also is a big, old softie and when he was writing and putting this together, cynicism doesn’t exist which is great. There are very, very openly emotional scenes in the movie that I think people, when we screened the movie early on, were caught off guard by.

That’s fun, just like when people see trailers for some of our movies, Iron Man 3 in particular and even Avengers one, they’re always saying [adopts a hushed tone] “oh it looks like it’s going to be much darker! These movies are going to be much darker this time!” and it’s like ‘well sort of, but wait until you see the movie!’

With this one, they say “oh it looks like a comedy, this is just an overt comedy isn’t it?”….’Mmm sort of!’ and where there were humorous elements in those films that seemed darker, there are darker elements and in particular emotional and moving elements in this movie that you don’t see yet in the humour of the trailer.

But there’s always the temptation to label, and think everything has to go darker. But you can have both.

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Yes, yes sure. [laughs]

Has there been any movement on the boutique line of Marvel films, or is TV now going to take care of any smaller productions?

I never quite thought of it that way, but I think might be a good way to put it.

There was never necessarily a plan of doing ten million dollar little films, or anything like that. We do two a year, but what I’m more interested in, and as you will see in Guardians and the type of filmmakers that we hire, is bringing all kinds of sensibilities to the movies.  So in other words just because a movie costs a lot of money, has a lot of explosions, has a lot of visual effects in it, shouldn’t mean to us that it can’t also have the same kind of emotion, or heart or, frankly, quiet dialogue scene that you would have in a ‘quote unquote’ smaller movie, or an independent movie.

That scene that you saw at the end of the seventeen minutes [of Guardians footage that has been screened], where the characters are just sitting around the table arguing about “You’re just copying me from when I said I had a plan!” “It’s not that unique of a thing to say!”, that scene goes on… for like another eight minutes and it’s one of our favourite scenes in the whole movie, because the movie stops and you watch these characters who hopefully you’ve grown to really like and get to know over the course of the movie, you know hash their issues out in something not unlike a therapy session! [laughs]

And that was in early drafts of James Gunn’s script and we said [adopts enthusiastic hushed tone] “This scene is great! James make the whole movie feel like this! This scene is great!” and he said “I’m so happy to hear you say that, I was afraid you guys wouldn’t like that, I just figured you guys would say that there was too much talking, get them back on the ship flying around” And we said well no, this is great. And what Joss Whedon said to him at one point is “Put in more James Gunn” and that’s what you’ll see.

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Final question, then. Do you have a favourite Jason Statham film?

[He replied with the enthusiasm that I usually reserve for the topic] A favourite Jason Statham film!? I like the initial Transporter movies, we ended up working with Louis Leterrier for one of our early movies because of Transporter 2, so that’s good.

Ah of course, The Incredible Hulk!

I also like the Guy Ritchie Statham movies. What is your favourite Statham?

I’m a big fan of Crank and of the man himself, so I’m always promoting his work.

I only met him once when he came to the set of Iron Man 2 as Mickey Rourke’s visitor.

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Oh really, because of The Expendables?

No it was before that, I think they knew each other already, but he’s cool. I’ve always wondered how we could fit him into our world!

Well The Punisher is maybe one choice…

Right, right!

But a little obvious I guess. There are plenty of options though!

And with that we really were out of time, so thank you very much Mr Kevin Feige!

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