May 2, 2011

God of Thunder Takes SCA by Storm

Alumnus/Thor Producer Kevin Feige Visits Students

Kevin Feige is the President of Marvel Studios and has been on the production team for twenty-two superhero films, more than any other executive in history. Before he was the man that referred to as the “mastermind” of Marvel Studios, he was a student at the School of Cinematic Arts following his dreams. Feige graduated from the Production Division in 1995.

“The most important thing I learned was how to function in the real world and it was classes like [Leonard Maltin’s 466 Theatrical Film Symposium] and internship programs which exposed me to the industry,” said Feige. “I was lucky to be hired by a company that I really wanted to work for before I graduated because, two years before that, I started interning and started getting out there.”

Don Payne, Kevin Feige and Leonard Maltin speak to
students in Norris Theatre

“I grew up in New Jersey. I couldn’t intern at a movie company out there, but here, you drive in twenty minutes in any direction and there’s a major movie studio. You can get into that circle. That circle is USC alums.”

On April 28th, Feige and Thor screenwriter Don Payne visited Maltin’s class after a pre-release screening of the film and answered questions from the students.

Maltin opened the questions by asking Feige why he chose Kenneth Branagh for a tent-pole action film when he was primarily known for his version of Hamlet. “I’ve always been rewarded for making the risky choice,” responded Feige. “By the time I make the choice I don’t think it’s risky anymore but it can be perceived that way from the outside. Robert Downey Jr. was risky when we cast him. John Favreau was coming off of Elf when we hired him to do our first big solo produced Marvel film.”

“I want to hire people that bring something else. I want a filmmaker who can bring something else to the part. We know the people who can make the costumes look great. We know the people who can make the effects look photo-real. We know the people who can storyboard amazing action sequences. We wanted someone who could bring something else.”

“What excited me about early conversations with [Branagh] was this sense of grandeur that he brings to things but every conversation we had with him came right back down to the characters.”

Screenwriter Don Payne spoke about the transition from being a writer on The Simpsons to writing for Thor. “It was very intense,” said Payne. “When I came aboard, they were making this movie. The missile had left the silo. It was me basically rebuilding the missile as we were going.”

“It was a year and a half before production started and I started working with Marvel and bringing in new characters and rewriting scenes. It was a great experience. It was the most intense experience of my career.”

Payne recommended to students to approach their stories like putting a puzzle together with each person on the creative team’s contribution being a piece.

“The humor that is getting such great reactions came almost exclusively from [Payne],” said Feige. “I knew that he was talented enough to do both [drama and comedy.] We never wanted the film to be stodgy.”

Thor opens on May 6th. Feige is currently producing several films including Dr. Strange, The Avengers, Captain America: The First Avenger, and Ant-Man.