Marvel Studios Phase Four

Rumors have been circulating around Hollywood recently that Kathleen Kennedy would be stepping down from Lucasfilm, and that Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige would be coming in to head up the future of Star Wars. Sitting down across from Feige at the Ant-Man and the Wasp junket, I was able to ask Feige about the speculation and put an end to the rumors.

feige at last jedi premiere disney image

The Rumors

The rumors claimed that Disney is unhappy with Kennedy’s handling of the Star Wars franchise, specifically the numerous problems on the standalone films leading to the lackluster box office of Solo: A Star Wars Story. Kennedy was responsible for hiring Gareth Edwards, Josh Trank, Chris Lord and Phil Miller, and Colin Trevorrow, all of which didn’t work out in some way, costing the company hundreds of millions on reshoots and fixes.

These reports weren’t coming from disgruntled Star Wars fans, but actually reputable sources. The rumor spread so fast among industry types that I received no fewer than five phone calls about it from reputable people around Hollywood. Richard Rushfield’s respected industry e-mail newsletter The Ankler first mentioned the rumblings that Kennedy might exit Lucasfilm by September of this year. Earlier this month, Deadline off-handedly mentioned the rumors that Kevin Feige will be the new president of Lucasfilm, noting that the speculation was “roundly denied.”

The rumored plan was for her to step down in September to semi-retire, which would be a way of saving face. At the time, I followed up on the rumors confirming that Kennedy had no plans to leave Lucasfilm or retire any time soon. But the rumors persisted and began to include Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige’s name as the one who Disney would bring in to head up Lucasfilm and Kennedy.  There were even some people claiming that Feige was seen spending some time in the Lucasfilm offices on the Burbank lot.

Kevin Feige’s Denial

In April, I asked Feige when his contract was up with Disney and Marvel, and he revealed that he was approaching the end of his lengthy contract sometime later this year. I followed that up by asking if he had aspirations beyond Marvel, like producing other films. His response was typically vague: “I love making movies. I love making movies. I love being part of movies.  I love having a large say in the way that movies are made. And that’s what I wanna keep doing.”

Could Lucasfilm provide this type of playground? Might Feige be getting tired of the comic book universe that he’s been working on in some capacity since the original Bryan Singer X-Men film?

At the Ant-Man and the Wasp junket, I was finally able to ask Feige point blank about the rumors. Will he be involved in the future of Star Wars? The executive’s answer was a shake of his head. He smiled and said:

“No. Only in my backyard with my action figures.”

So there you have it – a denial from the man himself.

Kevin Feige on DC

Kevin Feige’s Relationship With Star Wars

Feige would have made sense on paper. He’s a huge HUGE Star Wars fan, and talking to him over the years, I’ve gotten the sense that Star Wars was his first love before comics. He’s not been secret about his Star Wars love, appearing on The Star Wars Show in April talking about his Star Wars fandom.  Around the release of Captain America: Civil Wario9 asked Feige if he ever wanted to make a Star Wars film, and his response is telling of his fandom:

I have two jobs: Running Marvel, being a big Marvel fan, and being a Star Wars nerd. Those are my two jobs. My house is full of Star Wars so I’m as big a Star Wars fan as there is. What’s great is, I’ve often said if I wasn’t making these Marvel movies I’d be waiting in line to see them but, and this must happen to you too, you’re behind the scenes, you see things, and you’re losing the purity of the experience of being a film fan. I’ve not lost that at all with Star Wars and I don’t want to lose that. I saw The Force Awakens at the premiere but I probably knew less than you about the movie. … The closest I have is sometimes, we were doing Doctor Strange in the vicinity where there were some Star Wars things starting to happen and sometimes I’d try to peek around a corner and see a piece of plywood being turned into a ship of some kind and geek out. So I like being the Star Wars fan that I am. 

And yes, he certainly knows how to make a connected cinematic universe successful.

Kathleen Kennedy

Will Kennedy Leave Lucasfilm?

Of course, this doesn’t mean that Kennedy won’t leave Lucasfilm at some point. I’m guessing that the prestigious producer doesn’t want to make Star Wars the remainder of her career in Hollywood. If I were to guess, and this is purely a guess at this point, I would think she will at least oversee the company through the release of J.J. Abrams’ Star Wars: Episode 9, completing work on the sequel trilogy she has overseen since the very beginning.

And let’s be clear: if Kennedy was to leave the company, it would have nothing to do with the small but vocal subgroup of Star Wars fans who hated The Last Jedi and have been demanding Kennedy’s head on the block – from what I’ve heard, Disney honcho Bob Iger and all of the executives at the company were delighted with how the film turned out and are excited to work with Rian Johnson further on his planned trilogy.

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