Avengers Endgame: 13 Things We Learned From Kevin Feige In Exclusive Live Spoiler Q&A
By James White, Chris Hewitt, Ben Travis Posted 9 Aug 2019
When Marvel Studios boss and MCU main instigator Kevin Feige is available to sit down and answer some questions, you get Kevin Feige to sit down and answer some questions. So it was that Empire gathered a group of lucky subscribers for an exclusive Q&A with the power producer all about Avengers: Endgame. We talked portals, star-packed funerals and big decisions. Here’s what we learned…
Warning: HUGE spoilers for Avengers: Endgame throughout!
Still here? Then read on for all the spoilery goodness.
1) The Infinity War-Endgame double bill was thought up on a Marvel Studios ‘creative retreat’
To help light the creative fires at Marvel post-Iron Man, Feige began taking a select group from the studio on retreats to work on ideas away from the usual pressures of office life and schedules. And, a few years ago, they began building to what would become the end of the main story of the Infinity Saga. “We were on our third retreat, perhaps, five years or more ago, when we started talking about what would become Infinity War and Endgame,” Feige says. “And in particular, how do we pay off this purple guy that Joss [Whedon] set up at the end of Avengers and start to intertwine him with these awesome Infinity Stones that we have that provide wonderful macguffins in all these individual films. When you put them together, we thought it could be more. And it was on that retreat that we thought of doing two movies at the same time, which has its pros and cons.”
2) Kevin Feige pitched Tony Stark’s death to Robert Downey Jr. around the time of Civil War
With the prospect of a grand finale looming, it became clear that Infinity War and Endgame would wipe major players off the board – and with his contract expiring, Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark was a natural fit. And, of course, it fell to Feige to make it happen, broaching the idea during the making of Captain America: Civil War. “I remember pitching that to Robert Downey Jr. probably in December of 2015, I think,” he recalls. “I pitched him the idea of the two-part finale for Avengers and Spider-Man: Homecoming, which was a part of that leading into it. It took a little while, but eventually it came together. I think at first it doesn’t seem real that this journey will come to an end. But as it got closer to filming, it really was emotional for all of us, and particularly for him.”
3) Feige wanted the Endgame deaths to live up to Logan
Endgame needed to have impact. And not just Thanos punching people. It called for real, lasting consequences, especially in a cinematic universe where death has not always been the final word. “There was some sense that deaths don’t matter in our movies – Nick Fury gets shot and died in Winter Soldier and comes back in the third act, which was awesome, but is not a death,” Feige explains. “And people were clamouring for, not death necessarily, but stakes and real emotion. And I remember thinking, ‘be careful what you wish for,’ as we started getting closer to this. But we never questioned it. All of the angst and all of the effort went into sticking the landing, to making it worthwhile.”
A big influence on Feige and his team was another superhero movie that did very different, very final things with its main characters. So perhaps we can thank director James Mangold and star Hugh Jackman for some of Endgame’s emotional power. “We saw Logan like the audience did, in a theater having nothing to do with the making of that film and went, ‘oh my god, what an amazing ending for Hugh as this character.‘” Feige says. “And there are only a handful of examples where an actor so associated with a character can go out perfectly. And Logan is the only one that jumps to mind right now, there are not that many of them. And that’s what we desperately wanted to give Robert, and that was what our focus was on.”
4) Downey Jr. shot his final scene where he first auditioned as Tony Stark
With multiple versions of Tony Stark’s heroic final snap being shot as Endgame developed (“He used to say the f-word in one version,” says Feige), Robert Downey Jr.’s final day of filming ended up being his ‘I am Iron Man’ moment – a late addition to the film. It required a last-minute available soundstage and ended up shooting, fittingly, on the Paramount lot. “That was shot in a stage right next door to the stage where he did his audition for Iron Man,” Feige recalls recalls. “And it was the first time we had been on that lot together since then. I thought, how amazing that the stars have aligned and his very last shot as Iron Man will be done in this place where he first performed Tony Stark. And how all of our lives had changed so dramatically from that first audition to that last shot.”
5) The funeral scene was shot around the time of that 10th anniversary Marvel photo
Remember that incredible epic Marvel Studios 10th anniversary photo that came out last year? The sheer logistics of getting all the stars in one place is a mind-boggling feat – but the reason they were all available is that they were all around to shoot Tony Stark’s funeral scene (which Feige still refers to as “the wedding”, its codename on set). “[The funeral] was shot in October 2017, the day we shot the 10th anniversary photo,” Feige reveals. “That’s why we did that photo then, because we had everybody there. And it was astounding, having all those actors there, and it’s very solemn in the movie, because they’re all great actors, it’s very effective. On the day it was just insane.”
With the funeral scene shooting before Black Panther, Infinity War. Ant-Man And The Wasp and Captain Marvel had even come out, there was some amusing confusion on set with the mass cast gathering. “Tom Holland [was] coming up to me, saying, ‘Is that Michelle Pfeiffer? What is happening?’,” laughs Feige. “Gwyneth Paltrow [was] asking why Sam Jackson was there, and the other actors [were] jumping in saying, ‘What are you talking about? He’s Nick Fury! You’ve been in movies with him.’ But it was really something special.”
6) Kevin Feige is sat in the cabin at the funeral
You can’t see him, but Kevin Feige and the Russos are (sort of) in that star-filled funeral shot at Tony’s rural cottage. “I was on the balcony of that house,” he reveals. “In that shot, as you see in the movie, right inside the cabin, was video village where I was sitting with [executive producer] Trinh Tran and Joe and Anthony.”
7) Ant-Man’s daughter could have been digitally inserted into the funeral
The magic of the funeral scene is that all the actors were there for real – though there were talks of inserting one extra character who didn’t feature in the sequence. “We did at one point toy with putting Cassie there,” says Feige, referring to the now-teenage daughter of Scott Lang. “At one point we thought of digitally adding her so it’s the family, but we thought, ‘This is the heroes celebrating the other heroes and the loss of Tony’, so we didn’t do it. Aside from Smart Hulk and Rocket and Groot, everybody’s actually standing there.”
8) How does Old Man Steve come back at the end? Ask Maz Kanata…
Months on from release, the debate still rages – how did the elderly Steve Rogers appear on that bench at the end? Has he been low-key living in our timeline all along, or did he pop in from an alternate universe to hand over the shield? With the Russos and Markus and McFeely offering different takes on it, it was time to ask Feige for a definitive answer – which he didn’t give, instead invoking another fan-favourite saga to get out of a tight spot. “That’s a good question, for another time…” he laughed. “Who says that? Maz Kanata in The Force Awakens in regard to, how did Luke Skywalker’s lightsaber get in your castle. Ever since I heard that line I said, I’m gonna use that – a lot!”
9) There may be concept art of Cap’s severed head, and one idea had Thanos sitting on a throne of skulls
You would think it’d be hard to top the drama of Thanos snapping away half the life in the universe at the end of Infinity War, but there were definitely certain dark turns that almost ended up happening in Endgame. Such as? Our heroes returning from their time heist to discover that their opponent has been ahead of them the whole time, and is now ruling a ruined 2023 Earth. And more than that, he’s sitting on a throne made of skulls. It all came from riffs on images in the Infinity Gauntlet comicbook saga that Feige was intent on drawing from while they developed the film. “One of the ideas had Thanos tossing, like a bowling ball, Cap’s severed skull head, still in the cowl, to Captain America himself. And it was pretty cool, but the logic to get there defeated us. I think it ended up in a set of pages at one point in the script. There might be a piece of concept art somewhere with it.”
10) If you were on a flight during the snap, you didn’t die when you returned
Hulk’s un-snap (resulting in a phenomenon now known as ‘The Blip’) saw the 50% of all life in the universe that Thanos blinked out of existence get blinked back into it. But with that happy result came lots of questions – like, if you return at the exact same place where you left (as has been established), what happened if you were in a giant metal tube hurtling through the sky? “If people were in an airplane when they were dusted, they didn’t return at 35,000 feet,” Feige says, putting our minds at rest for the first time in months. “They didn’t fall to their deaths because Smart Hulk is smart, and when he snapped… You can wish for whatever you want and you can wish for everyone to come back safely. Done.”
11) The portals scene makes Feige cry every time
Endgame is not with its emotional moments – Black Widow’s death, Tony’s heroic sacrifice, Thor’s reunion with Frigga – but the bit that makes Kevin Feige well up is its most triumphant scene, the portals scene. “Almost every version, starting with the green screen, just actors running down a green ramp version, got me. Every time,” he says. “More so than any of the deaths. At some point I know they’re not dead, the actors aren’t dead, it’s not real. That moment of them all returning, with me it goes even deeper because it’s, ‘Holy Toledo, we’ve introduced all these actors, we’ve made movies of all these characters.’ So that got me a number of times.”
12) Tom Holland isn’t as bad with spoilers as you think
Spider-Man actor Tom Holland has become somewhat legendary for his loose-lipped tendencies when it comes to blabbing future plot points in interviews. Yet according to Feige, he keeps a lot more under wraps than he ever lets slip: “The truth is that Tom is amazing, and has kept a lot of secrets. About the two-millionth time it came up about him being terrible with secrets, he came up to me and said, ‘You know, I do keep a lot of secrets…’ I know, but it’s a thing now, a fun thing, so let’s lean into it. And he’ll go off and spoil something else. We did not take any special measures for Tom or Mark Ruffalo, who has a tendency to let his phone record at all times and all places. But they’re also both so lovely that you can’t get that mad.”
13) There could be a massive Infinity Saga set on the way with more deleted scenes
With Endgame already on home entertainment release in the US (it’s out in the UK on 2 September), Marvel has started revealing bits of deleted scenes and never-before-seen footage – and there could be a lot more on the way, with Feige tentatively teasing a huge set encompassing the entire 23-film Infinity Saga. “If we do a big, giant Infinity Saga box set, we might include- I’m assuming if you’re going to spend the money to buy a box set with everything in it, you’re a fan. And it’ll take more than a couple of really, really bad scenes to turn you,” he laughs.
Most recently, fans saw a scene of the Avengers kneeling on the battlefield after Tony’s heroic sacrifice play. “I like sharing those scenes. And when we have something like that that we love, and which was not an easy decision to cut out but was the best decision for the movie, it’s a great avenue to say, ‘We’ll put it out there.’ It’s not like no-one will ever see it. There are things that we think nobody should ever see. And I think we’ve just recently been discussing that now we can start to show some of our less proud moments.”
As a fan himself, Feige knows how much it means to fans to get to see the stuff that didn’t quite work. “There’s stuff that still pops up from the Star Wars trilogy occasionally – Tosche Station for instance,” he explains. “That is not great, it certainly shouldn’t be in the movie, but I love seeing it. I love that they shot it and it exists and we get to see it. So usually we love putting that stuff out there. There’s some things that we’ve been too humiliated to show, but I think we’ll bring out soon enough.”
Avengers: Endgame will be out on Blu-ray on 2 September.
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