With 19 Marvel movies under his belt — all of which have debuted at the No. 1 spot at the domestic box office — Kevin Feige would be justified in sitting back and enjoying his unprecedented Hollywood success story.
But the president of Disney’s Marvel Studios isn’t the type to rest on his CGI laurels.
“It’s nothing but insecurity and anxiety,” Feige said during a recent talk at the annual Produced By conference on Saturday in Los Angeles. “The fun outweighs it just a little bit more.”
Feige, 45, told an adoring crowd gathered on the Paramount Studios lot that Marvel had just completed post-production work the day before on “Ant-Man and the Wasp,” which is set to open in cinemas next month.
It will be his 20th Marvel movie since starting with “Iron Man” 10 years ago. Marvel Studios is currently shooting “Captain Marvel,” starring Brie Larson, and is in post-production for the fourth “Avengers” movie.
“It seems like one long job to me,” he said.
In a movie industry dominated by superhero franchises and endless sequels and reboots, Feige is the undisputed box-office champion. His track record at Marvel reached new heights this year with the back-to-back successes of “Black Panther” and “Avengers: Infinity War,” both of which have earned more than $1 billion worldwide.
Together, the Marvel movie universe under his tenure has grossed an estimated $16 billion globally.
Feige doesn’t appear to obsess over the numbers. “It’s the creative aspects that interest me,” he told the audience.
Nonetheless, he conceded that in terms of dollars, “there’s never enough money,” even as the budget ceilings for Marvel movies keep going up.
“The above the line is very big for these movies,” he said, referring to star and director salaries and other marquee talent. The Marvel movie universe has attracted numerous A-list stars, including Chris Pratt, Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr. and Scarlett Johansson.
Feige also spoke about working for the Burbank-based Walt Disney Co., which acquired Marvel Studios in 2009 for $4 billion.
“I’m not sure we would be here if we weren’t bought by Disney,” he said, adding that his movies benefit from the studio’s marketing and distribution might, as well as consumer product merchandising.
“I love the toys based on movies,” he said.
Feige also briefly touched on Disney’s impending acquisition of most of 21st Century Fox, in a deal valued at $52.4 billion. A marriage of the two companies could bring the “X-Men” and “Fantastic Four” franchises into the Disney-Marvel fold.
“I sit waiting for a call saying yay or nay from people above me,” Feige said.
The New Jersey native grew up as an eager consumer of popular Hollywood fare including the “Star Wars,” “Superman” and “RoboCop” movies. (He saw “The Phantom Menace” 13 times, he told the audience.)
Getting into the entertainment business was one way to escape the Garden State, though he said he was rejected from USC’s film school four or five times before eventually being admitted.
His first professional break was an internship with director Richard Donner and producer Lauren Shuler, where he worked his way up from being a receptionist.
He worked on the early “X-Men” movies and was hired by Marvel Studios, eventually becoming president of the company.
On Saturday, Feige was asked by a member of the audience if Marvel intends to hire more women to direct its movies. The upcoming “Captain Marvel” is being co-directed by indie film veterans Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden, who is the first woman to helm a Marvel superhero movie.
“I can promise you that a heck of a lot of them will be,” he said.
Feige said he is mapping out the future of the Marvel movie universe and deciding which characters to turn into movies. He said that for the foreseeable future, Marvel TV characters like Luke Cage will remain separate from cinematic releases.
But he said Marvel is exploring lesser-known characters from the Marvel canon for potential big-screen projects.
“We’re working on the next five years of post-‘Avengers.’”