Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige On Crafting Great Post-Credits Scenes [Interview]

A few weeks ago, I sat down with Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige at the Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 press junket, and we discussed a variety of things. We talked about how the Marvel tradition of post-credits scenes started, and how they are developed before, during and sometimes after filming. I also asked him about the lesson he learned working on You've Got Mail so many years ago (seriously!) and why he chose Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck to direct Captain Marvel. I also try to make some sense of the current chronology of the current Marvel films. All this and more below!

Kevin Feige

I'm supposed to ask you...

Uh, oh.

This is a funny one, what is the one thing you learned while working on You've Got Mail many years ago, one lesson that you learned that you still today take towards your work?

[Laughs] There were a lot of lessons. One I remember in particular is that it always lands on the producer to have the difficult conversations that are needed on sets with cast. Not that there were that many on You've Got Mail. But if there was an issue with somebody's hair, an issue with somebody's wardrobe or something, it would always be...I remember [director Nora Ephron] would turn to Lauren Donner, my boss at the time, and said, would you please talk to so and so about this thing? And I'd go, that's gonna be an awkward conversation. Yikes. And Lauren would go in there and have the conversation and it would work out. And I realized that's what you have to do.

See, a lot of people might think the producer's job is easy, but it's...

Well, it always varies. And it's such a ubiquitous title that there are a lot of different people with that same title do a lot of different things.

Brie Larson captain marvel fan

You just hired Boden and Fleck for Captain Marvel. Why them?

They came in many, many times. And impressed us in the room with what they had to say about Carol Danvers.

You mean they pitched for other movies or–?

No, no, they came in many times for this film. And they live in New York and would fly out on a moment's notice to come in and pitch on it, which always means a lot. And Anna and Ryan had just a very strong sense of not just the plotting and the machinations of the plot, but on Carol's journey, which is the most important thing about the movie. We can help out with all the accouterments of action and of sci-fi worlds. But we wanted somebody who could really be a guiding hand to Carol and to Brie [Larson] and to that journey, which is what the whole movie is about, somebody becoming this powerful being in the universe. And you look at their work and like most of the directors we've hired, not giant, effects-driven action, but rather very unique and, in their, case very personal character stories and character journeys. And very diverse in terms of the subject matter that they've chosen to tell. And they sort of nail it every time. And I think they see Carol as just another rich, three dimensional character to explore, who just happens to be able to fly and punch through moons and lead intergalactic teams.

Guardians of the Galaxy 2 - Baby Groot

The chronology of these movies is getting a little complicated because [Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2] takes place closer to the last one, as Baby Groot has only grown a bit since we saw him in the credits of Vol. 1. And we learned on set that Spider-Man: Homecoming takes place right after Captain America: Civil War. Can you explain what is going on here in going forward? Is Captain Marvel before Infinity War or in-between Infinity War and Avengers 4? How is everything set?

Very carefully. Captain Marvel I won't talk about, but with Guardians, yeah, I mean, it's the timeline that stays true to the characters that we're following. And because we never really date the movie...it doesn't say 2012, it doesn't say 2017. I guess it does say 1980 at the beginning of this. But they will all meet up. But if you follow the timeline, yes, there's a year or more that will have gone by between the end of Volume 2 and Infinity War for the Guardians.

Well, something like with Spider-Man, does that take place I guess two years ago from when it comes out? So does that mean the second Spider-Man is going to take place before Infinity War?

No.

Does that make sense what I'm saying?

It does and that's not the case.

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I've talked to you a lot about how you pick directors, the retreats, development, the whole process. One thing I haven't talked to you about is how these after credit things came about and how they come about.

Sure.

So I wanna start with that. How did that become a tradition at Marvel?

Well, Sam Jackson, Iron Man 1 for sure. That's absolutely how it came about. I always liked that sort of thing, whether it's Ferris Bueller or Masters of the Universe. As a film nerd, I never wanted it to end. I didn't want the experience...no matter how good or bad the movie was, just the experience of being in the movie theater, I didn't want to end. So I would always sit through the credits. My Mom would do that, too. Would read all the names and think it's so interesting what everybody does. So I would always sit through all the credits and you're about two-thirds of the way through and it's like oh should I go? Well maybe there's, I mean, that one time there was something in that movie. Maybe there'll be something on this movie. And there never was. Almost never was.

So when I started making movies, I'd be like that'd be fun to do. The Sam Jackson Nick Fury idea came about during production. You've heard this story, Sam was willing to do it. We shot it secretly. It leaked the next day. But we didn't wanna put it in the body of the film 'cause we thought it would be distracting. So we thought we'd put it at the very end of the credits for people who like me when I was a kid could be rewarded for staying and if you stayed that long, you probably knew who Nick Fury was. And what that meant. And then it became a tradition and then it really varies. Sometimes we conceive of the tags during development, sometimes during production, sometimes during post-production.

iron man 2 thor's hammer coulson

Can you give me some examples?

I think the tag on Iron Man 2 I hit upon while I was reading the drafts of Thor. And we had that beat where Coulson drove to the Hammer, "Sir, I found it." And as I was reading the script, I do it all on the iPad now, but then it was paper. And I would go, and I circled that little thing and I said tag. Then you can do things like move that up in the shooting schedule so it became one of the first things we shot on Thor so we could cut it together and put it in Iron Man 2. The The Avengers example, of course, is the shawarma idea, which came up super, super, super late at the end of post-production.

shwarma avengers

I'm surprised you guys went ahead with that. I remember you shot that the same day as the junket, afterward.

It's one of my proudest moments of doing the impossible or figuring out a way. People go "You can't do that," like there's literally no way to shoot another scene. The movie's done. Well, and when it's The Avengers, getting those cast together...you can write a book some day of the scheduling of Infinity War. Believe me.

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WARNING: SPOILERS for the Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 after credits scenes follow. You can stop reading this interview now if you haven't seen the movie.

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Rocket and Baby Groot sf

So for Guardians, you have five after credit scenes. How did they come about? Are they all conceived by James in the scripting?

Oh, yeah. There were a few written into the first draft. I want to say adolescent Groot was written in the draft. I think maybe Kraglin with the arrow was written into the draft. And then there were others that came about. The Stan Lee one...which this is hands-down my favorite Stan Lee cameo that we've ever done. The reveal that he hangs with the...did you hear what he says?

Yeah, about him being a FedEx deliveryman, so I'm wondering does that mean he is like a Skrull or something? I know you guys don't own the Skrulls. Like that he–

Yeah, we do.

So it suggests that he's this person that has been in every one of those movies?

Certainly something to be considered. We shot a lot in that moment when he came down to Atlanta to film that. Let's just say he, Stan Lee, is certainly is a different type of entity within the Marvel Cinematic Universe, who can hang out with the Watchers and tell them stories about all his cameos.

And that's also a question I had, the Watchers, aren't they Fantastic Four owned by Fox? Has there been a deal made?

No. There's joint custody with a number of things. There are certain characters that they have, but races that we share. If that makes sense?

That makes sense.

James is always throwing things to Stan and always getting Stan to try more things. And in one of those times, he said, he told the Watchers not to walk away and Stan just called after them as they're walking away. And it was so funny that we put that at the very, very end of the movie. The Ayesha tag with Adam Warlock came up also towards the end of production, the beginning of post-production. To give her a little bit of an exit into the movie and more of a sort of solidifying her whole purpose in the movie. And like at the premiere they go "we'll call him Adam." People go "Oh, I wonder who Adam is?" When there are fans seeing the movie, they'll know who Adam is.

Is something like that conceived as just like "Oh, it's a fun thing and oh maybe if it gets played in another movie of Adam Warlock?" Or like are you consciously thinking of oh, we need Adam Warlock down the line, Infinity War, whatever, let's...

Adam is not in Infinity War. That is not a tag for Infinity War.

Okay.

But it varies. It varies. In that case in particular, James has ideas. And had played with incarnations of Adam Warlock in earlier drafts of other Guardians films. So he's always been top of mind for the Guardians franchise. And if he appears anywhere in the future, it'll be with Guardians.