Devin Leonard profiles Kevin Feige, the head of Marvel Studios and how he turned a cast of lesser superheroes into consistent box office gold.
Hundreds of fans had been waiting for hours behind the police barricades on Hollywood Boulevard, in front of the El Capitan Theater in Los Angeles. Many of them wore Captain America masks and held replicas of his shield. One by one, the stars ofCaptain America: The Winter Soldier arrived. Chris Evans, who plays the hero, emerged from a Chevrolet Tahoe in a three-piece brown suit, waving to the crowd. Scarlett Johansson, who portrays his comrade, the Black Widow, showed up in a tight black skirt and lacy white top. She obliged the paparazzi, putting her hand on her waist, tilting her head back, and smiling. Amid the spectacle, a black SUV pulled up, and out climbed Kevin Feige, president of Marvel Studios, the moviemaking arm of Marvel Entertainment, a division of Walt Disney (DIS).
He’d gotten stuck in rush hour traffic on his way to the première. “It took me an hour and a half to get here,” he sighed. Feige is 40 years old and solidly built, with neatly trimmed red hair. He had on a blazer, a blue shirt, jeans, and a nicer pair of shoes than he wears at the office. He blinked uncomfortably as a photographer took his picture.
Feige is one of the more shrewd and successful studio heads of his generation. Captain America: The Winter Soldier opens on April 4 and is likely to do better at the box office than Captain America: The First Avenger, Marvel’s first film about the patriotic superhero, which grossed $370 million. He produced them both. And he’s considering a third. Feige’s films aren’t groundbreaking—they rely on epic showdowns at major landmarks, set to Carmina Burana-style angelic choruses, and the force of computer-generated graphics is strong within them. Still, they feel like a refreshment of the genre, so much so that instead of diminishing returns, Marvel’s sequels make progressively more money.
Someone in the crowd saw Feige and started a chant: “Kevin! Kevin! Kevin! Kevin!” Feige looked embarrassed. “You know, usually when people do that, I turn around, and Kevin Spacey’s there or Kevin Costner’s there,” he said. The fans knew who he was. Feige went over to the barricades and autographed their shields, their posters, and their glossy fanzines. “Oh my god, Kevin, take a picture with me,” said a young woman with a green camera. Feige posed for the requisite selfie. He didn’t want to disappoint the die-hards.
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