Marvel’s Kevin Feige on ‘WandaVision’, ‘Star Wars’ and the Pandemic

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On Friday, Marvel Studios embarked on its biggest bet since launching “The Avengers” in 2012 with the premiere of its debut television series for Disney Plus, “WandaVision.” While other divisions of Marvel have ventured into series that are nominally part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe – like ABC’s “Agents of SHIELD” and Netflix’s “Daredevil” and “Jessica Jones” – “WandaVision” is the first television company produced by Marvel Studios proper, that is, by studio chief Kevin Feige.
For 12 years, Feige led the MCU’s 23 feature films to historic and industry-transforming success, with each film bringing together a larger tapestry of storytelling that culminated in 2019’s “Avengers: Endgame” and “Spider-Man: Far Away. from home ”. The next phase of the MCU – the feature films “Black Widow” and “Eternals” and the Disney Plus series “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” and “WandaVision” – were all set to debut in 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic, however, pushed all of those titles through to 2021, and forced the studio to reshuffle its schedule and put “WandaVision” on pole for the future of the MCU.

This decision was at least in part logistical: “WandaVision,” starring Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff (aka Scarlet Witch) and Paul Bettany as Vision, places its characters in versions of classic American sitcoms like “The Dick. Van Dyke Show, ”“ Bewitched, ”and“ The Brady Bunch, ”allowing for a more TV-friendly production imprint that helped the show finish first. But it is also symbolic. “WandaVision” – from showrunner Jac Schaeffer and director Matt Shakman – is radically different from anything Feige and Marvel Studios have done before, and makes it clear that the MCU’s foray into television will not be business as usual.

Feige himself is busier than ever, with at least 17 feature films and TV titles scheduled over the next two years – not to mention his side concert producing a ‘Star Wars’ film alongside the ‘Star’ feature film projects. Wars ”from fellow superhero storytellers Patty Jenkins (“ Wonder Woman 1984 ”) and Taika Waititi (“ Thor: Love and Thunder ”). Feige doesn’t really want to talk about venturing into a galaxy far, far away. But in his conversation with Variety On Zoom, the 47-year-old super-producer has been outspoken about how much of himself he’s poured into “WandaVision” and how the pandemic is already reshaping his plan for the MCU.

What prompted you to tell this particular story with Wanda and Vision through classic sitcoms?

The answer to the series is that Wanda and Vision are great characters in the comics that we don’t scratch the surface of in the movies, played by actors so spectacular, and we’ve only scratched the surface of that. that they can do. . Highlighting these actors playing these characters was the main reason for wanting to make “WandaVision”. The way we did it is largely because I spent an inordinate amount of time as a kid watching TV and doing rehearsals of a lot of sitcoms. I’m old enough to remember when Nick at Nite was new.

I have really become psychologically attached to a lot of these so-called TV characters. It was the only aspect of my youth and what made me the person I am today [that] we never really got to use. My love for all kinds of movies and genre films has absolutely been poured into the 23 movies you’ve seen us do at Marvel Studios before, but that aspect of my past, I hadn’t even considered that I could do anything. it would be.

The two things that changed were seeing the [2016] comic mini-series “The Vision” [by writer Tom King and artists Gabriel Hernandez Walta and Mike Del Mundo] end up on my desk. These covers in particular of Vision standing at the door of a suburban house with a white picket fence and a letterbox that has “The Visions” written on it – which almost looks like “Leave it to Beaver” type pictures. – and what it was like when he was in that environment is what got me to say, “Let’s look at these two things together.” And [second], making what is now our first Disney Plus series in a way that can’t just be a movie. It’s not just a long Disney Plus movie. We’re going to do shows like this, but for our premiere it was great to do something that could only be done for TV.

You have 10 titles for this year and at least seven titles announced for 2022, which is a huge expansion from the Marvel Studios slate of years past. What do you do to maintain the quality control that Marvel is so well known for?

The time spent making these things was about the same. We just had a year of delay, like the whole world did, before we could take them out of service. Admittedly, a number of films released this year were supposed to be released last year. But even taking that into account, yes, there is definitely a lot more to it than what we’ve done before. And that’s really all we’ve been building for the past three years. As we wrap up the Infinity Saga with “Endgame,” “Infinity War,” and “Far From Home,” we’re also planning the sequel. And that expansion into Disney Plus was part of it from the start. It was the idea of ​​developing and expanding the MCU in this different platform, which would allow us to explore more characters – like Wanda and Vision, like Loki, like Falcon and the Winter Soldier – than we have met before, but couldn’t focus or spend as much time with us as we would like. And also continue to bring new characters to the MCU, thanks to the embarrassment of the richness of the comics. We have an amazing team of people in the studios with creative producers dedicated to each project, 24 hours a day on site. The management system that we started when there were only a few movies and a handful of us is the same now when there are a lot of movies, and many, many more of us.

The metabolism of television is usually that a new season of a show arrives about once a year. Is this something you’re aiming for with Marvel’s shows for Disney Plus?

It will vary. Some shows were designed to expand our storytelling further and then move on to features. We have already announced that Lizzie Olsen is part of “Doctor Strange 2”. We announced that Teyonah Parris is part of “Captain Marvel 2.” There are shows that, while still interconnected, are built with multiple seasons in mind. So that will vary the way a lot of big TV, I think, varies now, whether it’s a few years between seasons of “Game of Thrones” or “Stranger Things,” or sequences like – what is it? that I just watched? – “Queen’s Gambit.” One of the fun things about streaming is that the rules are loose so you can creatively follow where you want to go.

The pandemic, which you alluded to earlier, is an experience that virtually everyone on the planet has shared together, which has never really happened in this way in our lifetime. How is the MCU going to deal with this creatively, going forward?

I’m going to tell you, because it’s a very good question, that about a year and a half ago, when we were developing all of these things – maybe two years ago, I don’t remember – i started saying the Blip, Thanos’ event that drastically changed everything between ‘Infinity War’ and ‘Endgame’, which gave people this global universal galactic experience, would only serve us so well, that we just have to keep looking ahead and keep going to new places. I was worried it would turn out to be like the Battle of New York, which was the third act of “Avengers,” which ended up being referenced as an event of some sort consistently, and sometimes better than others. I was suspicious of this. As we started going into a global pandemic this past March and April and May, we started going, Holy Mackerel, the Blip, this universal experience – just as you described it – this experience that affected everyone. humans on Earth, now has a direct parallel between what the people who live in the MCU have encountered and what we have all encountered in the real world. And it’s been quite interesting, as you’ll see, in a number of our upcoming projects, the parallels where it will look very good for people to talk about the COVID pandemic. In the context of the MCU, they talk about the Blip.

But it really revitalized that notion in a way that made it substantial. My nervousness was just to be an event that we constantly refer to between things. I wanted it to make more sense behind it. And if that meant letting go and coming up with new things, that was it. Of course, we always come up with new things from the comics, but the real world connotations are shocking and somewhat depressing now between our worlds.

We have reported like others that “Loki” showrunner Michael Waldron is going to write a “Star Wars” movie that you are producing. What is the approximate time horizon for you? Are we thinking of the early, mid, or late 2020s?

We think we’re not – that is, uh – everything you’ve heard of that has been disclosed. It’s not something we’ve officially announced or committed to. So suffice it to say that the focus is on just how many Marvel things we’re working on. The what, where, when and how [“Star Wars” movie], I do not know. I’m excited about “The Boba Fett Book”, and the “Rogue One” show, and the Obi-Wan show, and the Patty movie and the Taika movie. [Smiles] After “Thor: Love and Thunder”, of course.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

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