Kevin Feige nearly lost his job

After more than a decade of success with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Kevin Feige is currently riding high as the Chief Creative Officer of Marvel Entertainment, overseeing the company’s film, television, and publishing branches. But according to a new interview with MCU actor Mark Ruffalo, Feige nearly lost his job while taking a stand for more inclusion and diversity in the movies he was developing.

These battles behind closed doors at Marvel have been written about in the past. They all boiled down to stories about Ike Perlmutter, who served as the CEO of Marvel Entertainment for more than a decade. He’s a notorious recluse who is rarely photographed in public, and rumors of his stubborn refusal to include female, black, and LGBT characters in Marvel Studios movies have been floating around for years. (Perlmutter is also one of Donald Trump’s biggest donors.) We knew that Feige nearly left Marvel when Perlmutter demanded that Captain America: Civil War be given a smaller budget, but according to Ruffalo, the battle was raging years before that.

In an interview with The Independent, he said:

“When we did the first Avengers, Kevin Feige told me, ‘Listen, I might not be here tomorrow.’ And he’s like, ‘Ike does not believe that anyone will go to a female-starring superhero movie. So if I am still here tomorrow, you will know that I won that battle.’ Because Kevin wanted black superheroes, women superheroes, LGBT superheroes. He changed the whole Marvel universe. We now have a gay superhero on the way, we have black superheroes, we have female superheroes – Scarlett Johansson has her movie coming out, we have Captain Marvel, they are doing She-Hulk next. No other studio is being that inclusive on that level. They have to, though. This is the f***ing world.”

Part of me wonders if Ruffalo might have accidentally mixed up the timeline a little here. We know that Marvel Studios was restructured in 2015, removing Feige from under Perlmutter’s control and giving him the freedom to start telling stories with more diverse characters in leading roles. A report at that time claimed it was the relative failure of 2015’s Avengers: Age of Ultron which gave Feige the leverage to be able to make his case for the restructuring to Marvel’s overlords at Disney, so I wonder if Ruffalo meant the second Avengers instead of the first Avengers when he told this story. I wouldn’t blame him for not being able to keep all of those movies straight in his head.

But if Ruffalo is right about this clash happening back in 2012, Feige has been fighting for diversity and inclusion for a longer than we thought behind the scenes, seemingly even willing to lose his job over it at a time when the Marvel Cinematic Universe was just starting to establish itself as a truly dominant force in Hollywood. Regardless of the timing, stories like these go a long way toward answering questions about why it’s taken such a long time to get female-centric and non-white superhero movies in the MCU.

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