After a decade of unprecedented success, Marvel Studios is at a pivotal moment: the looming farewell to some of its founding superheroes, and the rise of a new generation.Kevin Feige, the creative force behind the billion franchise and a slew of Marvel stars, discusses its precarious beginnings, stumbles, and ever-expanding empire.Kevin’s like that.”Feige obligingly zooms through his biography for me: childhood in Westfield, New Jersey, in the late 70s and 80s, an obsession with blockbusters (), terrible grades in junior high, movies at the local theater every Friday night. All he wanted to do, his entire life, was make films.As he relaxes in the interview, Feige’s storytelling instincts kick in, and he begins to infuse his own narrative with touches of destiny or, as he calls them, “Can you believe it? The first of those moments came years before when Feige landed a college internship working for director Richard Donner and his wife, producer Lauren Shuler Donner.“At the heart of Kevin is a real”—Scarlett Johansson paused before using the same word everyone does to describe her boss—“fanboy.”—Kevin Feige sits in his office on the second floor of the Frank G. Alongside a shelf of his trademark baseball caps, some stacked four deep, Feige’s walls and tables are adorned with reminders of the characters, narratives, and modern-day myths he’s brought to the big screen. Mark Ruffalo thinks this is actually the key to Feige’s success: “The people that I think are great, like Daniel Day-Lewis, don’t make it about them—it’s about the material,” he said.But when it comes time to tell his own origin story, Feige smiles warmly at me before . “You don’t see Daniel Day-Lewis trying to show you how fucking great Daniel Day-Lewis is, and he’s our greatest actor. Feige’s grades improved in high school, and he got into the University of Southern California—his goal since he was 11 or 12 years old—only to be rejected from its selective film school five or six times before he got in.On a sweltering October weekend, the largest-ever group of Marvel superheroes and friends gathered just outside of Atlanta for a top-secret assignment.Eighty-three of the famous faces who have brought Marvel’s comic-book characters to life over the past decade mixed and mingled—Mark Ruffalo, who plays the Hulk, bonded with Vin Diesel, the voice of Groot, the monosyllabic sapling from Angela Bassett, mother to Chadwick Boseman’s Black Panther, flew through hurricane-like conditions to report for duty alongside Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Gwyneth Paltrow, Brie Larson, Paul Rudd, Jeremy Renner, Laurence Fishburne, and Stan Lee, the celebrated comic-book writer and co-creator of Iron Man, Spider-Man, Doctor Strange, the Fantastic Four, and the X-Men.
Created in 1993 as Marvel Films, the movie arm of the comics company simply licensed its characters to other studios, earning most of its money from merchandise sales. thinking about how precarious it all felt in the beginning.”Feige has never really forgotten that feeling of uncertainty.Later, when each Donner was looking to hire a full-time assistant, Feige thought the choice was clear. “I never liked the idea that people weren’t attempting things because of the potential for them to look silly,” he says.Richard Donner, who directed was formative,” he says.) But he ultimately decided to work for Shuler Donner—the busier of the two—and set himself on the road to becoming a producer. “If you go back and look at it,” he admits, “he’s got big-ass hair in that first movie. “Anything in a comic book has the potential to look silly.Moviegoers, for now, will simply have to trust in Feige.Luckily for Marvel obsessives, the 44-year-old studio executive is one of them. It’s not that he’s told the story too often—Feige rarely talks about himself in interviews—he just finds his own journey deeply uninteresting.Which is how he found his way to Marvel and an important lesson in risktaking. One day on set, Shuler Donner and Avi Arad, then head of Marvel Studios, watched as an exasperated stylist, at Feige’s insistence, sprayed and teased actor Hugh Jackman’s hair higher and higher to create the hairstyle that would become the signature look of the character Wolverine. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to make it look cool.”Feige’s passion and geeky attention to detail caught Arad’s eye.