×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

How Kevin Feige Defied Naysayers to Build a Lucrative Universe

Given its impact on Hollywood moviemaking, it’s hard to believe that the first movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe debuted just over a decade ago, reviving “Iron Man” star Robert Downey Jr.’s career in the process. But Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige, who will receive the PGA’s David O. Selznick award for his industry-changing body of work, still vividly remembers the days when pundits and industry experts questioned the future of a business plan focusing exclusively on superhero-driven entertainment.

“Not only has there not been the quote-unquote superhero fatigue that people have been asking me about since years before ‘Iron Man,’ but here we are having our biggest year ever,” Feige tells Variety. “Our instincts have always guided us, and the successes have always just encouraged us to keep following those instincts.”

2018 was the studio’s biggest year ever, thanks to “Black Panther” and “Avengers: Infinity War,” top grossers whose combined haul earned the company almost $3.5 billion and counting. Feige credits this recent success to both careful planning and anticipating the appetites of an increasingly diverse worldwide audience. “We knew that giving people who hadn’t had the chance to, A, make these kinds of films or, B, see themselves up on that screen reflecting these kinds of films was important, and was the future,” Feige says. “And look what happens when people have stories to tell and they don’t always get to tell those stories? Give them the budget, give them the canvas, and they’ll paint something amazing.”

Feige’s knowledge of the Marvel Universe made him an indispensable resource on the first “X-Men” film, in which he impressed producer Lauren Shuler Donner, and later, Marvel Studios founder Avi Arad. By the time he became president of production in 2007, he’d hatched the plan for an interrelated series of films that would become the MCU.

“That was always the pinnacle of cinematic storytelling to me, something that was so enjoyed that people wanted to learn more and weave the larger mythology,” Feige says. “Marvel Comics have been doing that for 80 years.

“I wanted to replicate the experience of reading a comic book for filmgoers, and I want to continue to expand the definition of what a quote-unquote Marvel movie can be. Those were my two goals from before I even had the authority to try to implement them.”

With 20 Marvel Studios films under his belt in half as many years, three more in 2019 and at least six others in various stages of development, Feige’s output, as well as his ambition, continues to grow. But the PGA honoree says he ultimately measures success less in box office receipts than in the ability to tell stories that not only exceed, but expand, their expectations of popcorn entertainment.

“What’s most important is delivering on the promise of something that is going to bring you into the movie theater, but then giving you much more than you than you thought you were going to get.”

More Film

  • Billy Eichner Power of Pride Variety

    Billy Eichner on the Homophobia He Still Sees in Comedy and Hollywood

    On “Billy on the Street,” Billy Eichner has made a name for himself running up and down Manhattan’s sidewalks, ambushing clueless New Yorkers and interrogating them about pop culture. A brash physical comedian, Eichner has no qualms about asking perfect strangers embarrassing questions, hectoring pedestrians about their willingness to have a threesome with Jon Hamm [...]

  • State of Pride Full

    How Hollywood Is (and Isn't) Getting Better at LGBTQ Inclusion

    Brandon Flynn, one of the breakout actors from Netflix’s “13 Reasons Why,” has spent the last two years fielding questions about his personal life. In 2017, he wrote a passionate post on Instagram, advocating for an Australian vote that allowed for same-sex marriage. Soon enough, news sites such as HuffPost and E! News were reporting [...]

  • Prince Mohammed bin Salman Abdulaziz al

    Saudi Crown Prince Should Be Investigated Over Khashoggi Killing, U.N. Report Says

    Mohammed bin Salman, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, should be investigated in connection with the killing of Jamal Khashoggi because of “credible evidence” that the prince is among those liable for the dissident journalist’s death, a United Nations report said Wednesday. While no “smoking gun” has yet been found that directly incriminates the prince [...]

  • 'Midsommar' Film Review

    Film Review: 'Midsommar'

    Whatever you think of the end result, there’s always something thrilling about watching a young director who’s earned a long line of Hollywood credit decide to spend every last cent of it on a single film. And writer-director Ari Aster has certainly done that with his “Hereditary” follow-up, “Midsommar.” Following a group of American grad [...]

  • South Mountain

    Film Review: 'South Mountain'

    “South Mountain” joins the company of “Gloria Bell” and “Diane” as yet another 2019 drama intimately attuned to the literal and emotional plight of a middle-aged woman. In the case of Hilary Brougher’s incisive feature, the female in question is Lila (Talia Balsam), whose quiet life in upstate New York is destabilized by a continuing [...]

  • The Good Girls

    Shanghai Film Review: 'The Good Girls'

    The economy’s a mess but Sofía’s hair is perfect in Alejandra Márquez Abella’s “The Good Girls,” a film that is all surface in a way that is not, for once, a negative. The primped, powdered and shoulder-padded story of the fall from grace of a 1980s Mexican socialite is all about buffed and lustrous surfaces [...]

  • ‘Midsommar’ Traumatizes Early Audiences (Who Totally

    ‘Midsommar’ Traumatizes Early Audiences (But in a Good Way)

    Ari Aster can likely cross off “sophomore slump” from his list of many nightmares. Distributor A24 let loose the follow-up to the director’s widely praised, commercial hit debut “Hereditary” with two buzz screenings, which ran simultaneously in New York and Los Angeles on Tuesday night. Response was almost unanimously positive, if not significantly rattled. “Holy [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content