Kevin Feige Interview – THE INCREDIBLE HULK

     June 17, 2008

Written by Cal Kemp

Just hours before the start of the big opening weekend for “The Incredible Hulk,” I caught up with Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige to talk about the film and the rapidly cementing Marvel movie universe.

Obviously a hard-core fan himself, Kevin has been producing Marvel films since the first “X-Men” and now oversees productions under the Marvel Studios banner of which “Iron Man” and “The Incredible Hulk” are the first. With an upcoming slate averaging two films a year, Marvel is going to have its hands full keeping up with the quality that fans have come to expect. Kevin seems confident, though, and the world can only grow more and more excited as Marvel ushers in what seems to be a new age of superhero films.

Collider: How did you approach this one going in? As a sequel or a remake?

Kevin: The best metaphor I have for it and one that we used when meeting with directors like Louis Leterrier and with Universal and everything was — a very nerdy example, but I’m very nerdy so that’s the example I’ll use — is if Ang Lee’s “Hulk” was “Star Trek: The Motion Picture”, then “Incredible Hulk” needs to be “The Wrath of Khan”. If you’re not a nerd, then you have no idea what I’m saying, but it is basically to say there was a first film that did okay but did not, perhaps, deliver on the promise or expectation of a character based on people’s knowledge of a popular television series or popular comic book series. It needs to be a rousing adventure that is incredibly entertaining but, at the same time, explores character aspects that were unexplored the first time around.

Collider: This is the film that’s really cementing this brand new Marvel film universe. What’s it like to have that to play with?

Kevin: It’s a lot of fun, but it’s daunting. You have to fight the urge and the instinct to play with everything in the sandbox all at the same time. We wanted to be cautious with that which is why, when you see the “Iron Man” movie, it’s after the credits and for less than a minute that we play with it. In this one, it’s a scene after a beat or two of black where we have another minute that hints at it. It’s important for me that these movies stand on their own two feet and are an entertaining experience in and of themselves. They shouldn’t rely on the notion of a crossover for people to enjoy it.

Collider: Is there right now an elaborate plan to tie everything together, or are you just taking it as it goes?

Kevin: There’s an elaborate plan, yes. There is. But we consider that an added bonus to the films rather than the backbone. That being said, I love the notion of — three or four years from now — people being able to (on whatever format we’re using three or four years from now) have our first six Marvel Studios films and being able to watch them back-to-back and seeing how they connect to form their own unique experience.

Collider: Which Incredible Hulk stories did you pull inspiration from?

Kevin: There’s so many of them. Initially, it was the television series which was something that was not referenced or even discussed much on Ang Lee’s “Hulk”. We knew we wanted to use that structure as the backbone of our film. On the run, being pursued, looking for a cure. There was a comic series four or five years ago by a writer named Bruce Jones that had adopted a similar fugitive-on-the-run story. That’s where we got the communiqué between Mr. Blue and Mr. Green that ties most of the film together. It came right out of the Bruce Jones run on that series. Louis Letterier has discussed that a lot of inspiration — certainly visual inspiration — came from Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale’s “Hulk: Grey” which is a great standalone one-shot that really does a great job of encompassing who Bruce is, who General Ross is and the relationship between Betty and Hulk in a way that we were very much inspired by.

Collider: You set up the Leader in the film. Is that already being eyed as a plotline for the sequel?

Kevin: Well, knock on wood for the opening weekend. But I mean, sure. We always have various threads and ideas of what could lead us into another story. Tim Blake Nelson is being received so well by audiences now for his performance as Samuel Sterns. When people see the movie, they’ll see more than a possible hint of what could be in his future.

Collider: How important is it for you to keep this family films? It’s not Marvel Studios, but there’s “Punisher: War Zone” coming out soon that’s still a Marvel character and will be working with an R. Are the Marvel Studios films always going to be for everyone?

Kevin: I think the answer is probably yes. Certainly, the next four that we’ve announced will be. Many years from now, we may expand out and do some of our dark, R-Rated properties but right now, our mission statement is absolutely PG-13.

Collider: Can you talk a little about what’s been announced and what’s in the pipeline to come?

Kevin: Sure. We did announce — a few weeks ago now — for 2010, “Iron Man”, followed by “Thor” — which I’m very excited about because it’s unlike anything done before. A superhero fantasy Norse god adventure. And then in 2011, what we’re calling “The First Avenger: Captain America” in early summer followed up, of course, by “The Avengers”.

Collider: And you also announced a “Runaways” film.

Kevin: We have Brian K Vaughan, who wrote the comic series working on a draft for a feature of “Runaways”. And we have Edgar Wright working on a second draft of “Ant-Man”.

Collider: Will “Ant-Man” take a more comedic approach, or will it tie directly into the Avengers film?

Kevin: Well, Edgar has a very specific take on it that absolutely has comedic elements to it, but I wouldn’t call it a comedy. He’s a brilliant, brilliant filmmaker. It’s very witty and clever in all of Edgar’s signature ways.

Collider: I was just standing by a comic book store about 20 minutes ago and had a conversation with a ten year old kid and he said that he was most looking forward to the “Runaways” movie.

Kevin: Oh, that’s great! A ten year old kid said that? Oh, that’s wonderful.

Collider: There’s such a push for 3-D movies to start hitting theaters. Are there any plans for a 3-D Marvel film?

Kevin: I think it could be a lot of fun. It’s definitely something we’re exploring but it’s such a new technology that we want to be careful not to use it as a gimmick. But we’ve seen a lot of presentations and it’s very impressive. I think in the future it could be used and will be used like widescreen, like surround sound, like CG. It’s another tool towards telling a story and definitely something we’re discussing.

Collider: When it comes to the selection process of matching directors with the films, what do you look for?

Kevin: In the filmmakers that we’ve hired up to this point, I look for a couple of things. I look for an enthusiasm and a desire to tackle a project of this size. A knowledge of what must be delivered in a movie like this. Which is to say, a particular amount of entertainment value that’s expected when people line up and pay ten bucks but also a drive to deliver above and beyond that when it comes to the characters and comes to the emotions. Not delivering on what’s expected is, I think, one of the disappointments with the Ang Lee “Hulk”. It didn’t go all the way into delivering what was expected and spent too much time — while fascinating — sometimes it became overwhelming in terms of the spectacle of the story. When you have filmmakers like John Favreau come to you and say, “I’m ready to make a film of this size. I want to bring my own personal spin to this genre.” You look at the film he’s done in the past and, I mean, he did a Will Ferrell Christmas comedy that could have been a two-dimensional SNL skit and turned it into an extremely well-executed Christmas story that pops up every year on TV again. With “Zathura”, same thing. It reminded me of the Amblin films that I loved in the 80’s. He’s got a deft touch. With Louis Letterier on a film like Incredible Hulk, you see a film like Transporter which just delivers on the action front. You have the fun and the excitement, but Jason Statham has a character that is sort of unexpectedly charming and witty. The film that got him this job, however, was “Unleashed” with Jet Li, Morgan Freeman and Bob Hoskins. It was both poignant and action-packed. And poignant in the way that Danny — the Jet Li character had been abused and had the collar but is incidentally a monster in the ring can be very soft and touching. There’s a scene is the film where he eats an ice cream cone for the first time and — it sounds ridiculous — but I believe it’s one of Jet Li’s best performances. It’s so similar to what we want from the Hulk to have a quiet moment of humor like that where otherwise, he’s tearing up the city. Louis, the same way, was very enthusiastic about it. He did all sorts of storyboards and concept designs that were just spectacular.

Collider: Speaking of Jon Favreau, will he be returning for “Iron Man 2”?

Kevin: I certainly hope so. I am emotionally proceeding as if that will be the case. We want the team back together again to tell the next story that we’re all excited about telling.

Collider: Louis has been teasing that Captain America is hidden somewhere in the Hulk but no one seems to have spotted him.

Kevin: Well, there are Easter eggs hidden throughout for those who want to find them. In the case of Iron Man, they found it right away. In the case of Hulk, you’ll need to look beyond just the theatrical film to find him. Let’s put it that way.

Collider: Of the characters whose films haven’t yet been announced, what character are you most excited about one day seeing on the big screen?

Kevin: That we haven’t announced yet? I think Black Panther would be great. I’d love to see the world of Wakanda. It’s incredibly unique and I’d love to do that story some day. I think Dr. Strange and the world of magic is something I’d be very interested in. I think that could make a great film at some point. There’s a lot of other Avengers that I think could be fun to meet and explore one day. But certainly for the next three or four years, we’ve got out plates full with the films we’ve announced. We have a lot of challenges ahead but I know we’ll pull them off.

Collider: Is there a risk in announcing a film and racing to meet a release date?

Kevin: Sure, there’s always a risk for that. When you’re a studio that has 20 movies in the pipeline, you have to feed the beast, then there’s a greater chance that you’ll be forced to push things ahead. When you’re making two movies a year and they’re your bread and butter and your livelihood, you’re not going to make those same kind of cutting-corner mistakes. That being said, every movie I’ve ever made has been made towards a release date including the first Iron Man and the Incredible Hulk. That’s part of the challenge and, I think, part of the fun. To know that you’re not working on a script that might never be made and is not in eternal development hell but has a finish line. I actually find that creative juices start flowing in a very effective way when that’s the case.

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