The secret to Marvel Studios' success is making a "great movie" with or without characters as well-known as Spider-Man, according to studio president and Marvel chief creative officer Kevin Feige. The once independent studio, now owned by Disney, found blockbuster success with the formerly B-list Iron Man — brought to life by Robert Downey Jr. — before turning Captain America, Thor and the Avengers into A-list movie stars. Following the success of the Infinity Saga-closing Avengers: Endgame, the highest-grossing movie in history with nearly $3 billion in box office receipts, Feige says Marvel will continue to take risks with lesser-known Marvel Comics heroes who will next headline Marvel Studios' Phase 4 across projects like The Eternals and Shang-Chi.
"I'll let you in on a secret: you've just got to make a great movie. You just have to work very hard to make a great movie," Feige said during Brazil's CCXP19. "People did not know Iron Man — I think some of you might have known Iron Man, the people at the biggest pop culture festival in the world knew Iron Man before we made the movie — but most of the moviegoing audience of the world didn't."
The same applies to Chris Evans' Captain America, Chris Hemsworth's Thor, or the Avengers — brought to life with an assemblage of high-profile talent including Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner and Mark Ruffalo — and it was most true, Feige continued, for the ensemble of oddball characters who premiered in the James Gunn-directed Guardians of the Galaxy.
"Guardians of the Galaxy, they said, 'What are you talking about, a tree and a raccoon in space?' And we went, 'Yeah! Yeah, we think it's gonna be fun,'" Feige said. "So that's great. And that's what we want to keep doing after having the success of Endgame — keep taking risks and trying something like this Black Widow movie that focuses on entirely new characters with her past who are played by the amazing Florence Pugh, and David Harbour, and Rachel Weisz, it's incredible."
That film, set in-between the events of Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War, is followed by The Eternals, a cosmic epic described by Feige as a "very ambitious, big movie."
"Many people haven't heard of it," Feige admitted, "but what's so fun is the support for Marvel Studios is so big, people I think are excited to come and see what we have in store."
Black Widow opens May 1, followed by The Eternals on Nov. 6, 2020. Other future Marvel projects include Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, in theaters Feb. 12, 2021, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness on May 7, 2021, and Thor: Love and Thunder, out Nov. 5, 2021. Follow the author @CameronBonomolo on Twitter.