Kevin Feige exclusive interview: Marvel boss on India's role in MCU's future, WandaVision's treatment of trauma

ByRohan Naahar
Jan 12, 2021 06:35 PM IST

In an exclusive interview with Hindustan Times, Marvel Studios president, Kevin Feige, spoke about India's role in the future of the MCU, and the mind-bending WandaVision, the studio's first streaming series.

Kevin Feige, on a regular day, commands just as much attention as some of the movie stars who work for him. As the president of Marvel Studios, Feige has changed Hollywood forever, and over the course of a little more than a decade, created the biggest film franchise in history.

Actor Robert Downey Jr. (L) and Kevin Feige, President of Marvel Studios at the premiere of Avengers: Infinity War.(REUTERS)
Actor Robert Downey Jr. (L) and Kevin Feige, President of Marvel Studios at the premiere of Avengers: Infinity War.(REUTERS)

But after having already conquered the film industry, Feige has now set his sights on streaming. On Friday, Marvel will unveil WandaVision, the studio's first series for Disney+.

Created by in-house talent, Jac Schaeffer, the nine-episode show stars Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany, reprising their roles as Wanda Maximoff and The Vision. While little has been revealed about the show, which has found itself with the added responsibility of commencing Phase Four of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Feige spoke to Hindustan Times about the mind-bending origins of the idea, and what made them want to tell this story.

Feige also spoke about the future of the MCU, and the part that India and South Asia will play in it. WandaVision will premiere with two episodes on Disney+ Hotstar Premium, with a new episode every week following that.

Excerpts from our conversation:

Marvel has this unique ability to balance the spectacle with the humanity, and that's the sense I got from the first three episodes of WandaVision as well. What was it about this story that made it something you absolutely wanted to tell?

Well, it started with a desire to dig in deeper to Wanda Maximoff and The Vision, and by extension, work with Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany more, and put a spotlight on both of them as performers and as actors.

So that really was the goal behind it, exploring these characters and what the actors could do with those characters. And then, it being our first Disney+ series and our first project to not release in theatres but on TV, to play with the medium, and how storytelling differs to when you're making a feature film that'll run two hours-three hours, to a series, that could evolve slowly, over time and over numerous episodes. That was very exciting for us.

These characters are very rich, and what they've gone through in the films was so traumatic, so this felt like the way to do that, and to do it in a way that we've never done before -- not just in nine episodes, but as this tip of the hat to American sitcoms of the past. Not just stylistically what they look like and having the fun that we do in the first three episodes, of matching, with love, the styles of those (shows), but also, as the show continues to evolve, what they meant psychologically to viewers.

The comfort factor that comes with that was interesting to explore for those characters, and even looking at all of us who've worked on the show -- Jac Schaeffer, our head writer, and Matt Shankman, our director -- tapping into what TV has meant to us. In making the Marvel movies, it was always (about) what movies meant to me, and what a big fan I was, and am, of event filmmaking, and movies that really make a dent in the social discussion and pop-culture... But also, I loved week-to-week television, and the comfort that came with having these characters that you grow to love over the course of multiple episodes. WandaVision is an homage to that.

Watch the interview here

We've seen Marvel take steps to increase South Asian representation in Ms Marvel, but what are conversations that are happening specifically in relation to the South Asian community and India, if any?

There are, and there are lots. I'm a big believer in the universality and the universal connections between all of us and these characters can connect on a global level, which our movies have shown. We didn't sit down and say, 'what does this section of the world like and let's formulate something that appeals to everyone.' Honestly, we didn't do that.

We worked on what appeals to us as humans. That, I still believe, is the primary way to do that. Part of what comes with that, though, is who's at the forefront of those stories. And not everybody is a white male that can carry a story like that around the world. So you're already seeing, and will continue to see, in the title characters and the leads, a shift that represents a lot of different people, and the world in which we live, and not just the United States.

South Asia, in particular, is very much a part of the conversation, and a part of things we've already announced and already shot. I'm excited to have the world see it. But I'm becoming oddly acquainted with Indian film choreography, based on a number of different projects we're working on!

Also read: Avengers Endgame movie review: An epic conclusion to Marvel’s Infinity Saga; it’s a triumphant tear-jerker

One of the most bittersweet things about Marvel is how close the studio has come to working with certain filmmakers. For some reason or the other, it didn't happen (Edgar Wright, Ava DuVernay, and several others have publicly spoken about departing Marvel projects). Do you ever go back and start conversations with them again for different projects? Do you keep the conversation going with certain filmmakers that you came close to working with?

Yes, for sure! And there are probably more examples (of this happening) than people know about publicly. You meet lots of filmmakers for lots of different projects, and you only hire one. But because we've been lucky enough to work on additional movies and projects, we always have the opportunity to bring people back, and finally find something to work with them (on).

We met with Matt Shankman (WandaVision director), a handful of times over the years. Soon after one of his great, great Game of Thrones episodes, the next week he came in for a meeting. And it wasn't until this that we found the perfect thing, that he was, in my opinion, born to do. So there are examples of that across the board.

Also read: When Robert Downey Jr almost quit MCU in 2013, and Marvel hinted at replacement

I have to ask you, what are some of your favourite sitcoms?

There are all the classic ones that I was exposed to in syndication or repeats on television or on cable. The Brady Bunch is a pillar. The Dick Van Dyke Show is an absolute inspiration; Bewitched, to a certain extent; My Three Sons; Leave it to Beaver; Family Ties; Growing Pains; Family Matters -- a lot of the family ones, the ones that focus on family.

To go back to the word I made up -- the universality of storytelling -- lots of things have shifted and changed, decade by decade, but the notion of people loving each other and trying to care for each other, is relatively similar. And that's why certain things -- even as silly as the Brady Bunch is -- remain poignant. The Brady Bunch and The Dick Van Dyke Show are the ones that I've shown to my kids...

And isn't that what Wanda wants, essentially? To have a family and to make connections...

That's right (smiles). I think that's absolutely right.

Follow @htshowbiz for more

The author tweets @RohanNaahar

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