As the president of Marvel Studios, he's likely the only guy who knows absolutely everything that's going to happen in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (or the MCU, if you want to sound cool). After a string of hits -- "Iron Man," "Thor," "Captain America: The First Avenger" and, of course, "The Avengers" -- that interconnect like one giant armor-clad, cape-donning soap opera, it's Feige's job to make sure they all make sense -- and make money.
Marvel's latest, "Captain America: The Winter Soldier," takes the titular super soldier (played by Chris Evans) and the shady security agency he works for (S.H.I.E.L.D.) and shakes them up in a way that has serious implications for the MCU, including next year's "The Avengers: Age of Ultron." But Feige wants to shake things up in other ways, too. In August, we'll travel to a far-flung corner of the universe with a gun-toting raccoon and sentient tree in "Guardians of the Galaxy." Who says this guy doesn't take risks?
Feige is notoriously tight-lipped about future projects, but I did my best to pry something out of him when we sat down to talk about "Captain America: The Winter Soldier."
Moviefone: Was "Captain America 2" always going to be about The Winter Soldier? I heard that screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely had prepared a second possible story.
Kevin Feige: Well, no. I'm glad you brought them up because the reaction to the movie's been very good and some people have called it our best script. I definitely think it's one of our best scripts without a doubt. And Chris Markus and Steve McFeely get so much of the credit for that. They were the sole writers on this movie from day one. They were essentially the sole writers on the first "Captain America" film. They helped us out on "Thor" and "Guardians of the Galaxy," too. They're just amazing collaborators and amazing screenwriters. Much of the tone of this movie was just something that we wanted the movie to have, and the [directors, Joe and Anthony Russo,] fully supported that idea. It was brought to life by Chris and Steve.
My memory of it is they did an outline very early on -- maybe just after the first movie came out, or while we were doing "The Avengers" -- that was just a slightly different incarnation of what this was. And then we brought them back in and sat down with them and I pitched them the idea that we're on this slippery slope and S.H.I.E.L.D. has slipped over the edge by this movie. That really helped with this conspiracy thriller angle that we wanted to do, the espionage element that was always so awesome in Brubaker's run and (films like) "Three Days of the Condor." Suddenly, we have a conspiracy. And they took it and they ran with it. And putting Winter Soldier into the middle of that made sense for the version of the story we wanted to tell.
"The Winter Soldier" is the most popular Captain America story in the last ten years. So even in my first meeting with Sebastian Stan -- he had screen tested for Cap and we thought, well, we don't think he's Cap but he's great. I think we just hired him for Bucky, by the way, off of his Cap audition. He didn't have to audition for Bucky. And in that meeting we said, "Have you heard of Winter Soldier?" And we talked to him a little bit about that, too. And we said, "But one day, if we should be so lucky, you might be getting metal on."
This movie features a kind of mini-team, with Cap, Black Widow, and The Falcon. In the Marvel comics, we see a lot of these team-ups. Could that happen in other movies? Is it possible we could see, say, the Hulk and Doctor Strange in a movie together?
Well, I don't know that we'll do that, but I will say that absolutely the fun of the MCU is that characters can pop up starting with Fury in "Iron Man" and then Tony Stark in "The Incredible Hulk." So we definitely like the idea of mixing and matching. Even Banner showing up in the tag of "Iron Man 3," right. That is great, great fun. I really believe in the Marvel team-up, the classic trope of peers teaming up. This movie sort of is that, if you look at it as a Widow/Cap team-up. So that definitely is something that is always at the top of our mind in terms of future projects.
The great thing about that, too, is that you can bring in someone like The Falcon without the burden giving him his own movie, or doing it with a lot of fanfare.
Well, yeah, absolutely. There are some characters that we have to think about it now, how to bring them in. The Falcon, it was a given that he would come in through the Cap world as he did in the comics. You can often see, you know, where characters start and then spin out into their own thing. I love the notion of new adventures for Cap and Falcon, you know, just the two of them together. They're so great together. The chemistry's great together.
But, on the other hand, I do think [Doctor] Strange is one that I certainly think you start off with his own movie. There's no right way or wrong way necessarily in the big picture, but because he's associated with such a different side of the Marvel Universe, to suddenly have our characters turn a corner and go, "Oh, hey, let's go see the Sorcerer Supreme." What? What are you talking about? Just like if Tony Stark in "Iron Man" had broken out of the cave and said, "You know what? I don't want to sell weapons anymore. I'm going to go talk to Thor because I want to learn to be a hero." You'd go, "Who's that?"
Word is that there are three or four directors in the running for the Doctor Strange movie. Where does that stand?
Well, it's real that we're meeting with directors now. I would not say it's down to three yet. I wish it was. I'd like to find a director as soon as possible and start continuing to develop the movie.
So, is it official that Strange will be in Phase 3 at this point?
Well, you know, Phase 3 is a few years along, so I hope it's there somewhere. But no, nothing's official.
Having somebody like Robert Redford in a Marvel movie, what does that say about the newfound respect comic-book movies are getting within the acting community? Can you imagine a day when a Marvel movie is, say, nominated for Best Picture?
I don't know. I will say this. The fact that we get incoming calls -- which is the industry term for an agent calling and asking if we have anything for so and so, which is how the Robert Redford thing came about -- is pretty amazing and wonderful, and, frankly, all the respect we need. Hey, these unbelievably talented actors who haven't necessarily done something like this before trust you to be the ones to put them in a movie like this for the first time. We take that very seriously. That also is more important than any of the other sort of accolades. The public loves it. Actors respect us enough to love it, and we take it very seriously. We really look at that as a big responsibility to say, here's a great actor willing to come into your sandbox. Let's make sure he has a good time and let's make sure he ends up looking awesome at the end of the day.
The awards thing, who knows? You know when "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" won [in 2004], I was very excited for that. Now nine or ten movies get nominated. We'll see what happens. You saw at the awards this year, where Chris Evans introduced the heroes montage, it occurred to me that in this three-and-a-half hour show they basically devoted a two-minute montage to movies people actually see. It was not just our movies. "Casablanca" was in there. "Die Hard" was in there. "Back to the Future" was in there. It was an honor to have our movies be a part of that.
"Captain America: The Winter Soldier" storms into theaters April 4. Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez / Getty Images for Disney.