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Kevin Feige Gives Credit To The Real Reason The MCU Is Still Kicking

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Jesse Grant/Getty Images for Disney

Marvel Studios boss Kevin Feige joined director Jon Favreau in a recent video celebrating the 15th anniversary of Iron Man, the 2008 film that launched the ridiculously successful Marvel Cinematic Universe and changed blockbuster filmmaking forever. Feige doesn’t hog all the credit for the MCU’s domination of Hollywood, either. In fact, he thinks there’s one reason the whole shared universe experiment worked: actor Robert Downey Jr.

While discussing casting, Feige said hiring Downey Jr. is “one of the greatest decisions in the history of Hollywood.” Although that sounds like a massive pat on the back for Feige and Favreau, remember that back then, Feige didn’t have the influence he does today and likely had to convince skeptical executives that the actor could draw a crowd. (At that point, Downey Jr. hadn’t yet seen massive box office success in a leading role.)

Feige noted that there were “dark days” on later MCU films when he sometimes said to Downey Jr., “We wouldn’t be in this mess if it wasn’t for you — meaning, we wouldn’t have a studio if it wasn’t for him” and the success of the first Iron Man.

According to Favreau, once they cast Downey Jr. the director’s life “got a lot easier” and more actors started coming on board — such as Gwyneth Paltrow and Jeff Bridges — because the project seemed more interesting. “People were just popping in because [Robert] was cool,” Favreau explained, highlighting Paul Bettany’s voice work as the AI Jarvis.

In fact, Favreau claims that he didn’t even realize what the movie was until Downey Jr. came on board:

“[W]hen you’re directing, you have to have a take, a point of view, that has to last you years. And if you don’t have that, I don’t know how you do it. … You’re making a lot of decisions, but the thing kind of takes on its own energy. [Downey Jr.] coming on clicked it. … He was that puzzle piece that made it all work.”

Favreau also credits Downey Jr. with helping rewrite scenes and improvising on set, which gave Iron Man the spontaneous tone that the MCU has seemingly lost while building its complex mythology over the past decade and a half.

Feige and Favreau go on to discuss fans’ early reactions to Iron Man at Comic-Con and memories of opening weekend, all of which create a nice nostalgia blanket for Marvel fans who appreciate how quaint and idiosyncratic those early films are, in ambition if not in storytelling. In some ways, the original Iron Man feels like it barely belongs in the same genre as something like Quantumania. And judging from this discussion, a lot of that may be due to Downey Jr. himself, who apparently “had a standard” that he wanted to meet in the early MCU days.

Although Marvel occasionally still produces a film that feels singular — the Guardians of the Galaxy trilogy and, like, two of the many plots in Wakanda Forever leap to mind — it’s hard not to feel like we were witnessing a wild experiment in blockbuster moviemaking during Phase 1 and didn’t appreciate it enough at the time.

Still, news that Blade is constantly being rewritten to please star Mahershala Ali may forecast a return to quality content, once the writers’ strike finally ends. Until then, let’s all relive how awesome it was to see Tony Stark first march out of that cave wrapped head to toe in newfound courage and a lot of metal.

About the author

Matt Wayt

Matt Wayt

Matt lives in Hollywood and enjoys writing about art and the business that tries to kill it. He loves Tsukamoto and Roger Rabbit, and thinks snap zooms in CG shots are tacky.




Kevin Feige, President of Marvel Studios and Chief Creative Officer of Marvel, speaks onstage during D23 Expo 2022 at Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, California on September 10, 2022. (Photo by Jesse Grant/Getty Images for Disney)

Jesse Grant/Getty Images for Disney

Marvel Studios boss Kevin Feige joined director Jon Favreau in a recent video celebrating the 15th anniversary of Iron Man, the 2008 film that launched the ridiculously successful Marvel Cinematic Universe and changed blockbuster filmmaking forever. Feige doesn’t hog all the credit for the MCU’s domination of Hollywood, either. In fact, he thinks there’s one reason the whole shared universe experiment worked: actor Robert Downey Jr.

While discussing casting, Feige said hiring Downey Jr. is “one of the greatest decisions in the history of Hollywood.” Although that sounds like a massive pat on the back for Feige and Favreau, remember that back then, Feige didn’t have the influence he does today and likely had to convince skeptical executives that the actor could draw a crowd. (At that point, Downey Jr. hadn’t yet seen massive box office success in a leading role.)

Feige noted that there were “dark days” on later MCU films when he sometimes said to Downey Jr., “We wouldn’t be in this mess if it wasn’t for you — meaning, we wouldn’t have a studio if it wasn’t for him” and the success of the first Iron Man.

According to Favreau, once they cast Downey Jr. the director’s life “got a lot easier” and more actors started coming on board — such as Gwyneth Paltrow and Jeff Bridges — because the project seemed more interesting. “People were just popping in because [Robert] was cool,” Favreau explained, highlighting Paul Bettany’s voice work as the AI Jarvis.

In fact, Favreau claims that he didn’t even realize what the movie was until Downey Jr. came on board:

“[W]hen you’re directing, you have to have a take, a point of view, that has to last you years. And if you don’t have that, I don’t know how you do it. … You’re making a lot of decisions, but the thing kind of takes on its own energy. [Downey Jr.] coming on clicked it. … He was that puzzle piece that made it all work.”

Favreau also credits Downey Jr. with helping rewrite scenes and improvising on set, which gave Iron Man the spontaneous tone that the MCU has seemingly lost while building its complex mythology over the past decade and a half.

Feige and Favreau go on to discuss fans’ early reactions to Iron Man at Comic-Con and memories of opening weekend, all of which create a nice nostalgia blanket for Marvel fans who appreciate how quaint and idiosyncratic those early films are, in ambition if not in storytelling. In some ways, the original Iron Man feels like it barely belongs in the same genre as something like Quantumania. And judging from this discussion, a lot of that may be due to Downey Jr. himself, who apparently “had a standard” that he wanted to meet in the early MCU days.

Although Marvel occasionally still produces a film that feels singular — the Guardians of the Galaxy trilogy and, like, two of the many plots in Wakanda Forever leap to mind — it’s hard not to feel like we were witnessing a wild experiment in blockbuster moviemaking during Phase 1 and didn’t appreciate it enough at the time.

Still, news that Blade is constantly being rewritten to please star Mahershala Ali may forecast a return to quality content, once the writers’ strike finally ends. Until then, let’s all relive how awesome it was to see Tony Stark first march out of that cave wrapped head to toe in newfound courage and a lot of metal.

About the author

Matt Wayt

Matt Wayt

Matt lives in Hollywood and enjoys writing about art and the business that tries to kill it. He loves Tsukamoto and Roger Rabbit, and thinks snap zooms in CG shots are tacky.

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