Kevin Feige is on top of the world. The Hollywood super producer and President of Marvel Studios has just achieved another smashing success. Spider-Man: Homecoming has been getting rave reviews from the initial press and industry screenings. The film’s journey mirrors his own. Feige started working for Marvel the year the first Spider-Man script was delivered. Seventeen years later, he finally has the character front and center in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Spider-Man: Homecoming is a joint venture between Marvel Studios and Sony Pictures. Marvel made the film while Sony financed and retains the rights. The collaboration took place because of the efforts from Kevin Feige and Amy Pascal, the former head of Sony Pictures. They settled their corporate differences and pushed all egos aside. Each company played to their strengths and the result is the best Spider-Man film yet.
We interviewed Kevin Feige last week at the Spider-Man: Homecoming press event in New York. He and Amy Pascal were all smiles. They looked like they won lottery. You could really sense that a great vision had been accomplished. Kevin was forthright about what it took to get to this point. He gave Amy Pascal all the credit, and was careful not to criticize the previous Andrew Garfield and Marc Webb films. It doesn’t look like the X-Men, Fantastic Four, or any Fox owned characters will make it into the MCU. But Kevin did not rule anything out. If there’s one thing he’s learned so far, anything is possible, as long as you respect and appreciate the process. Please see below our full interview with Kevin Feige.
How does it feel to be sitting here with a great film and Spider-Man finally in the MCU?
Kevin Feige: It feels pretty good. Shockingly, we’re coming up to our tenth anniversary of Marvel Studios, dating to the release of Iron Man. Right now, I’ve been with the company for seventeen years. I feel it’s been a book end. X-Men was my first film, how I really got to know Marvel, and how I got this job. My first Marvel contract was dated August 2000. My first day, I went to Sony, where I met Sam Raimi and Laura Ziskind. They had just gotten their first draft of the Spider-Man script. For those seventeen years to be bookended, from that to this…wow. For him to be in our universe, it was a pipe dream at that point.
Marvel Studios made the film, but Sony has the rights. How much creative freedom did you get from Sony?
Kevin Feige: There was a lot of trust. We put more pressure on ourselves than anyone could ever put on us. That’s with every movie, much less a Spider-Man movie. Sony was nothing but supportive. They wanted us to do what we do. They wanted a Marvel Studios movie.
Do you think that the performance and reactions to the Marc Webb, Andrew Garfield films opened up Sony to your ideas?
Kevin Feige: I think Amy [Pascal], who I started this conversation with, and ultimately made the deal, wanted the best film. She had always stayed in touch and liked the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I think she understood how fresh it would be to do a Spider-Man in our universe. The first time that Spider-Man is not the lone hero swinging through the canyons of Manhattan. The first time he is in the world where he was created, the world that he belonged. That leads you, as you can see in Homecoming, to an abundance of fresh new stories and dynamics to follow. So, yes, tapping into our mythology. She wanted it. Amy loves Spider-Man more than anyone I have ever met. She was responsible since the Raimi movies. She wanted this to happen. She was on set every day. She loves this character…(laughs) she’s calling me right now…
[Kevin’s phone starts ringing.]
That’s probably a much more important call than talking to me.
[Turns his phone off.]
Kevin Feige: Not all. (laughs) All egos were set aside. We, at Marvel, look everyone has an ego, but we want the best idea. It’s never forgetting that we are in an unbelievably lucky position, to be able to make these kinds of movies and do this. I still pinch myself. I still remember being a kid in New Jersey, just excited to see the new cardboard standee of Back to the Future Two. (laughs) And now, to be in this position, we don’t take it for granted. It means a lot to us. Egos, positioning, it’s of no interest to us. We care about the movie. Amy felt the same way. She knew this was the best thing. So we have two giant studios that put aside everything, to do what was best, for that guy in that costume.
[Points to Spider-Man poster.]
Can this vision pass through to other Marvel characters held by other studios. Do you think this can lead to The Avengers with X-Men, or Fantastic Four?
Kevin Feige: There absolutely no plans for it. There have been no discussions about it. I think we have a lot to do and a lot of characters to do it with. I think Fox is doing a lot of smart things with their characters. Logan and Deadpool, just awesome, I don’t know if there’s any need on their part, or our part. There’s no reason for it, but look at what’s happened during my last seventeen years at Marvel. Why would I say never?
Anything is possible?
Kevin Feige: I will never say never to anything. Do you think James Bond could be in Spider-Man? I don’t think so…BUT. Will real aliens ever come down and we can use that instead to fight The Avengers? Maybe, I never know what’s going to happen. (laughs)
That would be hilarious.
Kevin Feige: Yes, but please don’t write a story saying James Bond is going to be in Spider-Man. (laughs)
I’ll give you credit on the byline. Moving on to Homecoming. When I first saw Tom Holland in Civil War, he blew me away. You cast the perfect Spider-Man. How did you find him?
Kevin Feige: Lots of auditions. Our casting director Sarah Finn auditioned hundreds and hundreds of kids. We watched dozens and dozens and dozens of tapes. There was something about him. I’d be lying if I didn’t say we looked at American kids first. The last Spider-Man was British, and here comes this British kid who was incredible. You’ve heard the story. Robert Downey Jr. was kind enough to tape with the final candidates. Here comes Tom Holland, walks into a room with Robert Downey Jr. for the first time. He was nervous, but so charismatic. He was bouncing back and forth with Robert. I now know Robert. I can read behind his eyes. I can tell when he’s not feeling it. With Tom, I think we’ll have the audition on the dvd, it’s really a sight to behold. It was exactly what we wanted, the dynamic of Peter Parker meeting Tony Stark for the first time. Peter Parker, on one side, is a normal, enthusiastic kid, but he also has these unbelievable abilities. That’s what Tom Holland is. He’s an amazing actor, and gymnast, and dancer. The bonus was we found the perfect Peter Parker who can put on the suit. He’s the best Spider-Man stuntman we’ve ever had. For the first time ever, almost everything you see in the movie is either him in the actual suit or his motion capture for the digital version.
He absolutely nails it. Another thing I must bring up is the diversity of the cast. I feel that New York City is accurately presented. Was that the foremost thought when casting the ensemble characters?
Kevin Feige: I will say we always look for the best actor. On this film, we wanted this movie to be as grounded as possible. Everyone has to be relatable. The school is the real world of New York. Vulture is a working class guy. He’s thrust into this universe. It’s as diverse as it gets. When Jon Watts came in, one of his presentations, in the many, many meetings before we hired him; was a spiral notebook from Kinkos. These were real high school in New York. You flip through it and think, this is it, this is absolutely what it needs to be. As we cast every role, we made it look like the world as it really is.
You achieved it. With all of the international financing now for these tentpole movies, it’s good to see reality in casting…
Kevin Feige: Certainly in this movie. We cast the best Liz. We cast the best Michelle.
A question about the Easter Eggs in the post credits scenes. The one in Spider-Man is absolutely hilarious, but you had so many of these post credit scenes in Dr. Strange and Guardians 2. Why are there so many now?
Kevin Feige: (laughs) They come about very naturally, usually during production or post. Chris Evans, Jon Watts, and our producer, Eric Carol, shot all of those PSA’s. We were having them do all sorts of silly things with the PSA’s. The first end tag I can remember is from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. When he comes, and is like, what are you still doing here. From that point, I stayed until the end credits, just in case, just in case, aww nothing. And often in the MCU films, some things we plan, but others, the timing just works out quite well. The notion that Guardians 2 has five tags, and they’re all awesome, but then people were like, how many are there? (laughs) So people kept asking me if we were going to have all these tags on the movies. I was like, just wait until Homecoming.
Pure genius. I’m still laughing. Final question, you are on an epic roll. The MCU has not failed for any film. It just keeps getting bigger and better. Do you have any worries about Thor, Infinity War, or Black Panther? Is there any fear of failure after these colossally successful films?
Kevin Feige: Umm, yes, yes, of course we do…
So you think it can still be f**ked up?
Kevin Feige: (laughs) I worry we’re going to f**k this up now. If nothing else, it’s our continuing fear to not be good.
How have you guys continued to be so good? What`s the formula to the Marvel success?
Kevin Feige: We really care about these movies. We are fans first. Nobody is going to get fatigued. We want to make everything good, and different. The tonality of this movie is totally different from Civil War, Black Panther, or Thor coming up. We never sit around and think of Spider -Man as our sixteenth movie. We see it as a new genre. We craft superheroes into different genres of film. That’s what we’re interested it. Iron Man One was an independent movie. People forget that. I had a completion bond company. I had to do sales pitches everywhere. That was an independent film. If that film hadn’t worked, we would have lost the film rights to a bunch of characters and I would have never been able to produce a film again. We haven’t lost that sense. We are in a privileged position. We’re lucky to be here. If we screw it up, we won’t be here anymore. We want to work hard.