Marvel Studios hasn’t exactly worked only with obscure filmmakers. But the studio has shown a marked preference for lesser-known people with careers rooted in smaller genre productions, comedies, or character-heavy work rather than for putting A-List action directors behind the camera. And in fact, the directors with the biggest names prior to working on Marvel films all got their jobs in the franchise before it was established as the enormous cash cow it is today.
That early slate of Marvel directors included names like Jon Favreau (“Iron Man”), Kenneth Branagh (“Thor), and Shane Black (“Iron Man 3”). But since then, the studio has increasingly tapped far less well known names, like the Russo Brothers for the “Captain America” sequels, or James Gunn for “Guardians of the Galaxy.” Or indie darlings Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden, recently announced to helm “Captain Marvel” starring Brie Larson.
At the “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” junket on Thursday, The Wrap asked Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige about that practice. As he puts it, part of why the company picks directors with smaller, more intimate films on their resumes instead of courting A-Listers is that the studio can help with its directors with the spectacle, and it’s more interested in ensuring there’s heavy character work to go with that spectacle.
“I think it’s all nurturing to a certain extent, but it’s really that nurturing is really just supporting. And whether it’s John Watts or Anna or Ryan coming up or most recently Ryan Coogler on Panther which was wrapped yesterday or James Gunn on the first Guardians or Joe and Anthony on The Winter Soldier or Joss or Favreau,” Feige told TheWrap.
“It is giving them the support structure that knows how to mount the big production and knows how to do cutting edge action visual effects, but allows them to bring their vision to it, and of course, that’s what all the best of our filmmakers have done. So it’s basically saying you don’t have to have mounted a big car chase scene to be considered to direct here because we don’t want folks who only know car chases. We want people to focus on characters and to focus on time.”
That includes Fleck and Boden, who Feige says were hired for that specific reason. “I think it came down to their strength, their amazing strength, in the amazing diverse variety of films they’ve made is on these character stories, on a very sort of beat and focus and three-dimensional character journey. And if you look at their characters in their films, they’re totally different, different backgrounds, different parts of the world,” he says. “And yet, Anna and Ryan have this ability to just inhabit that person and follow them on a very unique journey.”
“And at no point do we want on any of our movies the character to get lost amongst the spectacle,” Feige added, “because there is a lot of spectacle in our movies, and certainly ‘Captain Marvel’ is gonna have a lot of spectacle… but at the heart of the whole movie is [main character] Carol Danvers. And that’s all that matters. And Ann and Ryan are not going to lose sight of that. They haven’t done big effects movies before, but most of our directors haven’t. We know the people that can help them with that.”
All of that said, what if an A-List director came calling with a big idea — someone like Quentin Tarantino for example?
“We’d take that meeting,” Feige told TheWrap. “You’d definitely take that meeting for sure.”