Marvel Studios president and producer Kevin Feige recalls the “touch-and-go” process behind the making of Captain America: Civil War, the first film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to feature a rebooted Spider-Man (Tom Holland) following a pact with Sony Pictures. In 2014, Iron Man star Robert Downey Jr. also negotiated a new deal to appear in what was then referred to only as Captain America 3 after it looked like Downey would appear in a small role or, worse, not at all. (Downey’s reported $40 million+ payday angered Feige’s then-boss, Marvel Entertainment chief Ike Perlmutter, according to reports at the time. In 2015, the rocky development on Civil War led to a restructuring that put Feige under Disney, away from Perlmutter-controlled Marvel.)
When appearing as guest speaker at the New York Film Academy, where Feige participated in a lengthy Q&A session, Feige was asked to describe how Marvel determines which movies get made and which Marvel Comics characters are selected for those movies. This prompted Feige to recount the development of the Anthony and Joe Russo-directed Civil War, once forced to consider forgoing the central conflict between Downey’s Iron Man and Chris Evans’ Captain America:
“Spider-Man in Civil War, you’ve heard the stories that is was always touch-and-go, were we going to be able to make the deal with Sony or not? That happened again recently,” Feige said with a laugh, referencing this summer’s public divorce between Sony and Disney-owned Marvel that followed the expiration of the original five-movie pact allowing Spider-Man to appear in the MCU.
“But that was happening the first time while we were writing and making Civil War,” Feige continued. “So Joe and Anthony Russo, and [screenwriters] Chris Markus and Stephen McFeely, and [producer] Nate Moore were on that movie developing it, and I’d be running in and out being like, ‘I think it’s gonna be Spidey!’ And then I’d go, ‘Forget it. It’s not gonna work.’”
While negotiating the deal that would ultimately bring Spider-Man into a shared Marvel universe for the first time, Feige was also working to secure Downey for Civil War and future Avengers movies.
“We didn’t have a deal with Downey,” Feige said. “So it’s like, ‘Looking good with Downey! It’s Cap versus Iron Man.’ ‘I don’t know, it might not be Downey. Alright, it’s gonna be Cap versus who?’”
While developing Civil War, Markus and McFeely weren’t “writing full versions,” Feige noted, “but being prepared to make a shift if we had to.” Because Marvel chooses a movie, announces a movie, and sets a release date, the studio has been “very lucky that usually it’s worked out.”
“It was during those conversations that Nate said, ‘What about Black Panther? What about bringing T’Challa into this civil war as a third party who didn’t have an allegiance to either side, who had his own issue?’” added Feige. “And, if we don’t have Spider-Man — and God forbid if we didn’t get Robert — there’d be another element, a new, fresh element to make the movie worthwhile. We ended up getting it all, and it being great.”
The Russo brothers once explained Civil War considered dropping the comic book storyline of the same name and instead focusing on the Madbomb from Captain America comics, completely moving away from the hero-versus-hero angle that caused a schism in the Avengers.
Markus and McFeely later revealed they had multiple “contingency plans” in place, including a version of Civil War that had Paul Rudd’s Ant-Man in the role ultimately filled by a newly-recruited Spider-Man.
Upcoming Marvel Studios projects include Black Widow on May 1, 2020, The Falcon and The Winter Soldier in fall 2020, The Eternals on November 6, 2020, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings on February 12, 2021, WandaVision in spring 2021, Loki in spring 2021, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness on May 7, 2021, What If? In summer 2021, Hawkeye in fall 2021, Thor: Love and Thunder on November 5, 2021, and Black Panther 2 in May 2022. Moon Knight, She-Hulk, and Ms. Marvel series have also been announced.