Interview: Kevin Feige Discusses 'Captain America: Civil War,' 'Black Panther,' Spider-Man, And More

Marvel Studios has come a long way since 2008's Iron Man. At the time, who would've thought that box office hit would pave the way for a superhero frenzy in Hollywood? Perhaps Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige – the man that helped build the Marvel Cinematic Universe — knew. Feige's latest offering is Captain America: Civil War, a superhero showdown pitting Team Cap and against Team Iron Man.

Directed by Anthony and Joe Russo, Civil War is a rather large ensemble story, full of familiar and new characters. Both Black Panther and Spider-Man get plenty of screentime, but more importantly, they serve a purpose in the story. We discussed these two new additions to the MCU with Feige, who also talked about the lessons he learned from the first Iron ManCivil War's airport set piece, Ant-Man and the Wasp, and more.

Below, read our Kevin Feige interview. Warning: SPOILERS ahead.

I interviewed Jon Favreau last week.

Awesome.

And when I revisited the first Iron Man for that interview, I felt that movie didn't get enough credit for what it did for the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

It sure should.

What lessons did you learn from Iron Man?

Every lesson. I learned every lesson. I mean, that was our first movie. I have been at Marvel 16 years now. In the first six or seven years, we were working on our films that other studios had the rights for, that other studios paid for, and other studios had all the control over. There were a lot of great learning experiences there. There were some awesome movies in that run, and there were some movies I felt could've been better in that run. But we learned all sorts of lessons along the way. When we finally got to do it ourselves, it was time to put up or shut up. It was saying, "Everything we believe could be done with our characters, let's put into this movie." If it hadn't worked, we would've thought, "Oh, I guess our ideas maybe aren't the right ones." [Laughs.]

Jon helped lead the charge on that. There are a lot of the things we continue to do at the studio that Jon helped initiate. It comes down to collaboration. Jon was a spectacular collaborator. Instead of just looking at designs by himself, he'd say, "Come on, everybody, let's go in a room, put up the designs, and all talk about them." He did his early cuts on the movie, and we started submitting notes, and he said, "Ah, I don't want to get all this paper. Just come in here and let's talk about it." That's how we make movies now.

At the time, Robert Downey Jr. was an odd casting choice to some, but since then, you've continued to make out-of-the-box casting decisions, like Chris Pratt or Paul Rudd.

Even then we believed our heroes were the marquee, and that liberates you from the need to hire a movie star or to look for someone that has a proven box-office record. We just want to find the best person to inhabit this. Now, most people that have inhabited this are now big marquee movie stars. Everybody here is. As I said in the press conference, they're all A-listers now and could carry their own movies. It's always been about finding the person who best inhabits the character, whether audiences have ever seen them in a movie like that or not.

Casting for a Marvel project, I imagine, is a different experience compared to casting most movies. You need to know if they'll fit with the cast and if it's someone you want to work with for years.

Sure. That's true.

And you mentioned how Robert Downey Jr. read with Tom Holland for the part of Spider-Man, to see if he was right for the role. Do you have any previous examples of that?

Yeah, it was a unique case, but we had... Chris Pratt and David Bautista did a chemistry reading together. I don't know if we officially hired Chris by that point or not, but often... that's what helped get Dave Bautista the job: how great he was opposite of Chris together in a camera test. Sam Jackson was very gracious when we were searching for Maria Hill. He read with a bunch of actresses, and obviously, Cobie Smulders rose to the top that way. You often don't have that, because it's often based on timing. Downey was down in Atlanta shooting Civil War in the early days, so we brought Tom and some other actors down there. It does help. It's great to see. Frankly, now Tom is doing it with some of the actors and actresses we're looking at for his Spider-Man film.

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What did you and Sony want to establish about this new Spider-Man?

It was pretty specific. We wanted to show a much younger Spidey, in contrast to our other heroes, a Spidey that — as he was in the early '60s when he was first created in the Marvel bullpen — was totally different from the Marvel heroes. The other heroes don't have to worry about homework. They don't have to worry about being home at a certain time. That's what makes Spider-Man Spider-Man. We also wanted to let audiences know he's already Spider-Man; he's been Spider-Man for a little while when we meet him. There wasn't the expectation we'd tell an origin, I think, everybody in the world already knows.

What was that initial conversation with Sony like? How's that process been?

You're dealing with two very powerful studios that have their own interest. It's a testament to Amy Pascal, who's producing the film with us, and Tom Rothman, who runs Sony, and to all the people that run Disney. They realized the best thing for the character was to do this. It was great. The standalone Spider-Man is Sony Pictures' film, but they've engaged us in producing it. So far, so good.

Similarly to Spider-Man, you could also skip past showing Black Panther's origin story.

We can [move forward from here]. Don't spoil this until after the movie comes out, but we can deal with the aftereffects of the death of his father and going back to Wakanda, and he's dealing with a geopolitical landscape that's completely different now. That'll certainly set him off in his own movie.

Ryan Coogler struck an excellent balance between art and commerce with Creed.

Best movie of last year.

What do you think he'll bring to Black Panther?

I think he'll bring all of that [to the film]. He's already been involved for some months now. We've been working with him on the story. He watched early cuts of this film, and he gave very good feedback about Black Panther. I just think he's one of the best filmmakers today. Creed, I think, was my favorite movie last year.

The character has a slightly different philosophy and sense of morality than the other Marvel heroes. Will that play a role in Black Panther?

It does. In his future movie, he's embracing the mantle he's inherited, but he's not the kind of king that sits on a throne and just passively rules. When you're dealing with that level of leadership, you're constantly faced with these difficult choices. Laying the groundwork for that morality over the course of this movie going into that one was important.

During the airport set piece, I was glad I didn't know about Big-Man going in.

Good!

But I bet there were discussions about saving that transformation for Ant-Man and the Wasp.

We did discuss that. You know, Wasp was in early versions of that sequence as well, and that we definitively said, "We want to save that for Ant-Man and the Wasp," because that's so much what the movie is going to be about: her as a hero. We also wanted... Joe and Anthony [Russo] said they needed something big to turn the battle, and that just seemed like the greatest way to do it.

What was the experience like of seeing that airport sequence come together? 

It was pretty amazing. We kept saying, "Very good will not be good enough for this sequence. This sequence has to be great." The visual-effects of the sequence were challenging, but really coming together. There was a lot of work with the dialogue and continuing to ride that balance between a fun, crowd-pleasing sequence, but, at the same time, these people you care about, all of them, are fighting each other. It was always riding that: making sure it was brutal enough you realize there are real stakes — and people aren't pulling their punches — but, at the same time, we were having the geeking out the way we wanted to, as the full experience.

That first Ant-Man followed the formula of a heist movie. Which formula does Ant-Man and the Wasp follow?

I can't say [what genre], but certainly we are in early days now of working on it. Paul Rudd is working on that story as we speak with [director] Peyton Reed. We certainly want to stay true to what made it so unique and different, and we'll see how that comes together.

Mentioning the decision to wait on introducing the Wasp, when you're deciding which characters should crossover into other Marvel films, is it always simple decision making? 

It's usually pretty organic. Because, again, we're a relatively small group at Marvel Studios, so everybody knows what everyone else is doing. I saw some [referencing Ant-Man and the Wasp]... let's just say that, when something cool pops up in one of the other movies, people want to use it in upcoming movies.

Ant-Man... I love that here we are. A year ago, people were questioning, "Oh, Ant-Man? Is that going to work? How's that going to play?" Now, he's one of the best things in Civil War. I think that's awesome.

I agree. I love that with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 a lot of kids are going to be introduced to Kurt Russell for the first time.

That's a great point. He's pretty... we're early days in production on that. Actually, well, not that early. We're probably a third of the way through or more. He's everything you want Kurt Russell in a Guardians of the Galaxy movie to be.

I know you can't say anything about who he's playing, but–

He's awesome. [Laughs.]

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Captain America: Civil War is now in theaters.