Marvel’s Kevin Feige On Bringing Thanos To Life And The Success Of ‘Black Panther’


And this marks the end of or series of Avengers: Infinity War discussions with Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige. Hey, the movie is out now and there’s probably a good chance you’ve seen it. (Yes, it made a lot of money on Thursday night.) Ahead, Kevin Feige talks about the challenges of teasing Thanos for six years and, now, finally giving him his own story. And he also discusses the overwhelming success of Black Panther. (Beverly Hills Cop and Sesame Street are also mentioned but that’s a whole other thing.)

This interview was conducted before I had seen Avengers: Infinity War, so there are no intentional spoilers in here because I couldn’t have done that if I had tried, but in retrospect I kind of, sort of backed into one. But it’s probably only a spoiler if you have seen the movie, so in that case you are spoiler-proof anyway. But I present this as a warning nonetheless just in case.

Seeing you at the press conference, surrounded by that whole huge cast with a big smile on your face, it reminds of the fake story Axel Foley says he’s writing to get a hotel room in Beverly Hills Cop, “Kevin Feige Is Sitting On Top Of The World.”

I thought it would look like something else, the old Sesame Street number, “Which One Of These Things Doesn’t Belong.”

No one is thinking that.

[Laughs] Well, that’s what I was thinking.

So when does Axel Foley get to join the MCU?

You’ll be proud to know that’s the first time I’ve ever been asked that question.

We’ve had six years of Thanos buildup, now here he is.

Yeah. Josh Brolin has crushed it. He’s delivered a performance beyond the loftiest expectations.

And there are expectations.

You’ve heard me talk in the past, that if you’re going to tease a guy for six years and see him smirking in a chair, and see him smiling in a chair, and see him making a few declarations here and there – by the time he actually shows up, you better deliver. And, frankly, that’s why we didn’t see him in any more films leading up to Infinity War, because after Guardians and Ultron we were like, okay, the next time he shows up, it’s got to be with purpose and where he’s officially on the move.

And here he’s now basically the main character…

And what Josh has done, both in the voice capture work in Guardians and that little beat in Ultron, but then actually coming in on set and being in all the scenes with the actors in his big high tech motion capture rig and delivering an astounding, subtle, and super emotional performance as a purple Mad Titan – it’s really impressive. It’s really something to behold and all the credit goes to Josh. The amazing artists who are also helping bring him to life, of course, deserve much of the credit as well.

One of the things we were able to do on this movie, because we knew it was Thanos and because we have been working on it for so long – long before we were filming, maybe six months before we started filming – Josh was gracious and agreed to come in and do a motion capture test. Which allowed us to have some footage of Brolin as Thanos that the effects vendors and our visual effects supervisor, Dan Deleeuw, could start working with even before we started filming. And it was so impressive what they did and so inspiring. On the very first day Brolin came onto set in Infinity War we brought him into our trailer first, with the Russo brothers and Dan Deleeuw, and showed him what it was going to be like. We showed him himself as Thanos. And he was amazed and he literally I think even said, when he saw every nuance of his lips and his eyes, “Oh, I can just act. Now I can just deliver a performance.”

So he was worried?

“I don’t have to adapt or accommodate for the translation or any technological reason and I can just act.” And that’s what he did and it’s astounding.

When Infinity War is being written, do you give hints on who needs to die or who can’t? Or do you let them decide, then go from there on if it works or not?

It’s a combination. I mean, there are ideas we have and places we want to go that can be guide-markers as they start. And there are new ideas that come along as the story is being developed. And what’s so great about Chris and Steve [Markus and McFeely] and Joe and Anthony [Russo] on this is they’ve been with us for so long now, they love the sandbox of the MCU and they feel deserved ownership of the sandbox of the MCU and there’s no education needed. And they will read a draft of a movie that comes out before this and one that will come out after it and come up with great ways of how to interconnect them and how to provide an overall experience to make it as cohesive as possible.

So if they came to you and wanted to kill off, say, Black Panther?

No, I mean… every individual movie trumps everything else. So there are things that happen in this movie that will impact the next few movies and, certainly, the untitled Avengers next May.

Did Black Panther exceed your expectations? Not as a film, but the reactions? It made more money than Titanic.

It’s amazing. I like to say we always have big dreams at Marvel Studios; we always have lofty ambitions at Marvel Studios. And we knew that Ryan Coogler was delivering on those expectations. Once the movie came out and it was received the way it was received in the country and around the world, yeah, that clearly surpassed even our wildest and already very high expectations.

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