The superheroes of Marvel have spectacular powers at their disposal to achieve goals and blow off steam — but the busy executives at the monolithic content engine which creates them are mere mortals, who need practical solutions to manage time and handle pressure from the industry and fans.
One popular method that has captivated their Burbank, Calif., offices is the practice of transcendental meditation (TM), Variety exclusively learned in reporting this week’s cover story on Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige.
Sitting in his dimly lit office on the Disney lot this month, Marvel co-president Louis D’Esposito told Variety he independently sought out the practice and then talked it up to Feige and vice president of production and development Stephen Broussard. The meditation calls for the silent repetition of a mantra to help distract from the daily grind and allow for focus and relaxation.
“We even have a meditating room up here. Everyone got TM certified,” D’Esposito said of the executive suite, teeming over with busts of Jeff Goldblum in “Thor: Ragnarok,” pinball machines, dangling Spider-Men and an impressive trophy case of Iron Man suits. The disclosure represents a rare insight to a Hollywood office culture defined by its policy of extreme secrecy, from upcoming slate titles to what superheroes appear in bonus scenes after end credits to tease the next Marvel hit.
The practice was developed by the guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in the late 1960s and has proliferated Hollywood’s A-list over the years. Oprah Winfrey, Jerry Seinfeld, George Lucas, David Lynch and many more are fans. Tech CEOs praise its effectiveness for entrepreneurs. Last year, Ellen DeGeneres devoted an entire segment of her talk show to TM.
“You’re given your mantra and you can’t tell anyone. Part of me thinks we all have the same mantra,” D’Esposito joked. We may never know his secret phrase, but we certainly know the workload the company is staring down. In addition to capping off three phases and ten years of films with the expected box office beast “Avengers: Endgame,” Marvel Studios will develop standalone streaming series for Disney+ and program live and filmed content for the forthcoming Marvel Land attractions at three Disney parks around the world.
“It helps relieve the pressure because it can get to you,” D’Esposito said of TM. “We take a lot of pride in what we do. We feel the same pressure on every film. We want it to be great, we want the fans to enjoy it, and we want it to be critically acclaimed. What’s great about [meditating] is that I’m never going to sit down and clear my mind.”
There is an exception. Victoria Alonso, the third person in Marvel’s leadership triangle who serves as executive vice president production, prefers slamming tennis balls to zoning out with TM.
“I need to sweat,” Alonso said. “My Sunday on the tennis court is a religious experience to me.”