Before Kevin Feige became president of Marvel Studios and overseer of the shared Marvel Cinematic Universe, X-Men movie franchise producer Lauren Shuler Donner promoted her then-assistant to associate producer on the mutant super team's 2000 big screen debut.
Feige then served as co-producer on X2 and executive producer on X-Men: The Last Stand before landing his Marvel Studios role in 2007 and blazing a new path with 2008's Iron Man, launching an interconnected universe of films — what is now the highest-grossing franchise of all time.
"I’m not surprised—I’m just so proud," Shuler Donner tells Vanity Fair in a piece celebrating Feige's success with the groundbreaking Marvel Studios, who decided to self-finance and produce their own films after selling the screen rights to their biggest characters to studios like Sony and Fox.
"When we were developing the X-Men movies, he and I had laid out a plan where the X-Men franchise should go," said Shuler Donner, who has produced every X-film, including spinoffs Deadpool, Logan and the upcoming The New Mutants. "Fox picked another route. I’m not surprised he kept that [comic book] aesthetic, and decided he would take the Marvel world and join them together and make five-year plan after five-year plan."
Fox has found success with the X-Men franchise — the series has pulled in a cumulative and unadjusted $4.9 billion worldwide across 10 films and counting — but Feige's Disney-owned Marvel Studios could reclaim the rights to Marvel's premiere mutant team in a deal that could be announced as soon as next week.
Fox just released first look photos and plot details from X-Men: Dark Phoenix, which continues the adventures of Professor Xavier (James McAvoy), Magneto (Michael Fassbender), Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) and a young team of X-Men (Nicholas Hoult, Sophie Turner, Tye Sheridan, Alexandra Shipp, Evan Peters and Kodi Smit-McPhee).