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May 4, 2015

Kevin Feige @ SCA

Leonard Maltin and Kevin Feige at SCA

Kevin Feige, known as the Mastermind of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), has achieved incredible success with the comic book franchises he oversees. As President of Marvel Studios, he has produced every film in the MCU, including Iron Man, Captain America, Guardians of the Galaxy, and now, The Avengers: Age of Ultron, which opened at midnight on April 30th and quickly became the No. 2 biggest US box office opening of all time at $191.3M, second only to its predecessor, The Avengers. With hit after hit, Marvel’s impressive streak of blockbuster successes are due in no small part to Feige’s unflagging dedication to making great films, and his clear creative vision for MCU’s eclectic army of superheroes.

Feige, an alum who has been honored with the School’s prestigious Pickford Award, came to SCA to speak in Professor Leonard Maltin’s CTCS 466: Theatrical Film Symposium class on the same night that Age of Ultron bowed in theatres.  Speaking to an audience that had just seen the film, he outlined his goals for the MCU and his approach to planning. “We’re dreaming, always, 10 to 20 years ahead, but realistically working, actively, within a 5 year stretch at any given time. We have release dates through 2019, and that feels like tomorrow to me. I’m leaving here and going to keep working on the movies to try to make sure they’re ready.”

The Avengers: Age of Ultron sets the stage for “Phase 3” at Marvel, the next slate of nine films planned for release, which includes the newest installments of the Captain America, Guardians, Thor, and Avengers franchises, in addition to a few new faces, such as Black Panther, Doctor Strange, and the Inhumans.

Even with careful planning, filmmaking is an uncertain business. Feige stressed the importance of flexibility both in being able to adjust to necessary change and recognizing when change is for the better. “We change things every day when new ideas come along and better ideas come along, or when an idea in a movie that is currently filming will somewhat impact a movie that’s still in development,” he explained to the packed crowd at Norris Theater. Those considerations are especially important, given Feige’s bold and unconventional choice of making sure that the MCU is consistent and logical across each branch of its sprawling and varied franchises.

Such is the scope of Feige’s ambition at Marvel. His films have changed the expectations set for “comic book movies” both in the U.S. and abroad. Globally, The Avengers: Age of Ultron has already hit $626.7M in box office sales. Like the success of Marvel itself, its heroes are also not content to only dominate in the states.

“We shot in Seoul, South Korea. We shot in Johannesburg, South Africa. We shot in Northern Italy. We shot at Dover Castle, in Dover, England. And our primary base of operations was in Shepperton Studios in London. When we were developing the movie early on, we very much wanted it to have a globetrotting aspect to it,” Feige said. “Avengers are not American heroes. The Avengers are heroes for the entire planet.”