Spider-Man: Homecoming is out now! Get your tickets here!
Mild Spoilers ahead
Kevin Feige is basically the king of the Marvel Cinematic Universe – he’s the president of Marvel Studios, and he’s produced every Marvel movie since the first Iron Man. He knows everything there is to know about Marvel, from the comics to the films, and he’s just as excited to bring Peter Parker into the MCU as I am to see our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man here.
You were involved with the first Spider-Man movies – why did you want to bring back Peter Parker?
Well, I didn’t think we were bringing him back, or redoing him – I thought about introducing, for the first time ever, a Spider-Man in the [Marvel] Cinematic Universe. That you didn’t know it before, but even during Iron Man 1, there was a little kid, somewhere in Queens, who was named Peter Parker.
Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, as you know, didn’t create a hero by himself in New York City, which is all we’ve seen previously on the big screen. They created somebody in drastic contrast to the other heroes around him, and who was as powerful as them, in many ways, but had to be home at a certain time, and had to be in school the next morning, and had to do his homework, and didn’t live in almost a literal ivory tower, or come from another planet, or get exposed to gamma rays and smash things around. And we’ve never been able to do that before. When we were doing that first Spider-Man film, and I was lucky to be there and couldn’t believe that I was even partially, a tiny bit involved, I would never have thought that we would one day have a Cinematic Universe in which to incorporate him.
So, it’s a crazy bookend right now to my beginning at Marvel. I had worked on the X-Men films for a number of years, but was officially employed by Marvel in the summer of 2000. And maybe my first day was going to Sony and getting the Spider-Man script and meeting Laura Ziskin and Sam Raimi. And now here we are, on the other end of those seventeen years, putting him into a Cinematic Universe that I wouldn’t have even dared to dream could exist back then.
Could you talk a little more about how the Sony and Marvel partnership came about? Because this is the first time that you guys have paired up.
It was really ideal in that it had very little to do with lawyers and agreements and corporate deals and almost entirely to do with Amy [Pascal] and I sitting together and saying, you know what would be cool… Just, purely from the creative level. And it’s a big testament to her, and to everybody at Sony, and to all the people at Disney that said, this is the best thing creatively for the character. And we’re both very invested in the character. Which doesn’t always happen.
This Spider-Man is so young – Tom Holland looks like a kid, and he reads like a kid. Watching the movie you’re worried about him, facing these villains down, which is so different from the earlier films.
That was one of the ideas, was to tap back into what Peter was in those early, first hundred plus issues that Ditko and Stan Lee did. And that was younger, and we wanted to cast an actor that seemed even more age-appropriate – in large part because it would be, again, that striking contrast next to Tony Stark or next to Captain America where they do go, he’s a kid. In that great battle scene in Civil War, at one point somebody says, “How young is this kid?” When he calls Empire Strikes Back an old movie. We wanted to see a Spidey like this and also allow him to get nervous in battles and talk. That’s really what Spider-Man’s about. It’s not about a wisecrack or a one-liner, he’s nervous in these big battles and he can’t stop talking.
And he has to keep getting saved by other superheroes.
Until he saves himself, which is my favorite – bit of a spoiler, I guess – but my favorite moment, inspired directly from one of the original comics.
Issue number 33. And in the history of the comics, a really definitive moment with some amazing Ditko art that delineated him from a kid to a hero. A kid to a grown-up. We wanted to do that in the movie. And [Tom Holland] crushes it.
This is one of the only New York movies that – as a New Yorker – actually feels like it’s set here. Did you create an intentionally diverse Queens?
Oh, for sure. That was always one of the primary ideas of how to tell this story. Spider-Man always, in the books, lived in the real, contemporary world, and we wanted it to feel that way. And that world changed as time changed. So that doesn’t just mean he uses a cell phone. It means his classmates look like – as you say – what New York really looks like. Jon Watts spent a lot of time here and went to school here, and in one of the second or third meetings we had with him, he brought in a lookbook of New York high schools and the makeup of those schools and said, this is what it needs to feel like.
Even just setting things in the less glamorous parts of the city, like the Staten Island Ferry, a bodega in Queens…
Totally. Seventeen years ago – when you were in kindergarten – seeing Spider-Man swing through the streets in amazing CG single-shot was awesome. It had never been done before. It’s been done now. So we really liked the idea of having him go out on the Staten Island Ferry – what would he do on the Staten Island Ferry? How do we go on a field trip to Washington, DC and throw him up on that monument? I grew up in New Jersey, you’d always have a big junior high school field trip to DC. We have him go to a party in the suburbs where during a chase scene, he shoots his web and it doesn’t connect to anything, because there’s nothing out there. And now he has to run across the golf course. That was part of the early conversation, to put him out of his element – a, because it feels real for a student in New York, and b, because you hadn’t seen that before.
This is a genuinely hilarious movie – was that also part of the conversation?
I think you have the two elements: one, humor is a huge part for us at Marvel Studios, going back to Iron Man 1, to the tone that Favreau and Downey helped us set. Because I really do think that, when an audience is sitting there in a theater, they bought their ticket, and the more they laugh, the more they become open to it – and then you can get in some heart, and get in some emotion and scares and shocks and tragedy. But they’re open because you got them laughing.
So that’s the one hand. The other hand is, Spider-Man’s a funny character. As we already said, Spider-Man’s defense mechanisms are these quips and the way he just keeps talking, like in the ATM battle. He’s always reacting to the danger of his surroundings with humor. So you put them together, and you get, hopefully, a very funny movie.
And you know what my favorite thing is – it’s the tiniest dumb thing. But Hannibal Buress has to show these videos, he’s required by the state to show these PSAs that Captain America, Steve Rogers agreed to do at some point around the time of Avengers, and he goes, “Your gym teacher” (gestures) – and he’s on the wrong side. That’s my favorite thing.
Aaron Davis, Donald Glover’s character, made a very brief appearance, and he mentions his nephew – will we be seeing anything from Miles Morales?
Well, Sony’s planning an animated Spider-Man film that’s going to feature Miles heavily. So that’ll be the first time you see him on the screen, in the animated incarnation. And we did that just because we love to throw things out there and get people talking about it and if and when – who knows – but, we’ve put it out there, that Aaron Davis has a nephew somewhere in the MCU.
I feel like there’s been a recent surge of uplifting superhero movies instead of dark and gritty ones – how does Spider-Man slot into that?
I think everything ebbs and flows. We put out a trailer for a new movie (not Ragnorok) that seems a little dark and people always ask, oh, are you going to go dark now, is it gonna be gritty? And we want all our movies to have elements of both. I think this movie has some shocking things in it, and some emotional things in it as well.
When Spider-Man is climbing the monument, K.A.R.E.N. mentions –
Wait, do you know who plays K.A.R.E.N.?
No, I don’t!
Jennifer Connelly. She’s a great actress – she’s an Academy Award winner, Beautiful Mind, Requiem for a Dream, Labyrinth – and coincidentally, she’s married to Paul Bettany, who plays J.A.R.V.I.S. So K.A.R.E.N. and J.A.R.V.I.S. are married.
Anyway, the monument!
The monument! She mentions that if he falls, he would probably die. But later he gets thrown around a lot – Spider-Man isn’t unkillable, is he?
No, I don’t think he’s invulnerable, I think if you go splat off the Washington Monument, there’s not much that can save you. No, I think he’s very vulnerable. He’s super strong, but I think a bullet would take him down.
You’re obviously a huge Marvel buff – who’s your favorite unadapted superhero?
Who hasn’t been in a movie yet? I used to have a lot of answers to that question – Dr. Strange, Ant Man, Black Panther – so many of them have come up, and frankly, we’ve got seven films that we’ve already announced that we’re planning over the next few years. So it would probably be a spoiler to list too many. Captain Marvel, for a long time, was the answer – and it’s still the answer, we haven’t filmed it yet. So, I guess that’s the answer. We’re gearing up to film early next year.