Kevin Feige couldn’t have anticipated back in 2017 that the little TV experiment that he dreamed up – a send-up of classic sitcoms revolving around Elizabeth Olsen‘s Wanda Maximoff and Paul Bettany‘s Vision – would become the auspicious introduction to Marvel Studios’ “Phase 4,” the next era of stories after the decade-long “Infinity Saga.” But perhaps it’s appropriate that “Marvel Studios’ first foray into longform narrative storytelling TV is an homage to TV, [and] is something that could not have been done as a movie,” Feige told /Film in an interview ahead of the Disney+ debut of WandaVision.
“And…I hope all of the shows we’re doing currently for Disney+, and all the movies we’ve ever made, try to showcase an advancement and a progression in storytelling, to the types of stories that we can tell with these characters in Marvel Studios,” Feige added.
Those stories may lead into more Marvel Cinematic Universe films — it has been confirmed WandaVision will lead into Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, with the confirmed appearance of Olsen’s Wanda in the Doctor Strange sequel — or into further seasons of these Disney+ shows.
“It’s a combination of both of those things just based on where the story is taking us,” Feige said.
Read on for our full interview with Feige on WandaVision.
You are a professed fan of classic sitcoms and helped spearhead WandaVision‘s sitcom premise. Why was it WandaVision in particular the project that you wanted to be the show homaging classic sitcoms and were there any other characters that you considered for this approach?
No, that this was the only one it was a convergence of many things. We were finishing the Infinity Saga, which was an amazingly fun but stressful time for me and for all of us in Marvel Studios, and I was finding comfort, as I had in my childhood, with these old shows that introduce a big problem that’s solved in 30 minutes — in a usually less than believable away, but it still was a comfort. And at the same time having been told about the opportunity of Disney+, and that they want us to think about shows for it, which led quickly to a desire to see much more innovation.
We just scratched the surface in that relationship and those stories in the movies, and [Elizabeth Olsen] and Paul [Bettany] are such amazing actors we wanted to see more of them. And all during that time, there was a series called “Vision” [by Tom King and Mike Del Mundo] that was on my desk, which was not about Wanda and Vision, it was about Vision moving to the suburbs having a family. And the covers, in particular, were quite interesting almost these Norman Rockwell meets Leave it to Beaver covers — white picket fences and mailboxes with Vision standing in the middle of it — and all of that sort of came together into what became WandaVision. It mainly came together because I shared just these initial concepts with our executive producer Mary Livanos, and then our head writer Jac Schaeffer, who then figured out how to make an amazing show. And then when you add our director Matt Shakman to the mix, who I think was born — between being in sitcoms as a kid and directing gigantic episodes of Game of Thrones and other things — was born to bring the series to life.
So you spoke of the “Vision” comic as being a particularly strong influence on the style and the genre of WandaVision. Are there any other comic runs that you referenced, or drew inspiration from, for WandaVision? Like it’s been widely speculated that for example, “House of M” was one such comic that Olsen was given as reference first for her character, and that you may have suggested would also lead into WandaVision.
There was a big packet, I think it was put together for the press, as we often did, that included both of those things mentioned as inspiration. As with many of the characters that had been around as long as Wanda and Vision has, some of the inspiration goes back 40 years, 50 years. And then more recently, with the two that you named. As with the best of our of our stories, we pull inspiration from various storylines and eras of the characters to build something new.
Because of circumstance, WandaVision has become our introduction to Phase 4 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But by that happy accident, would you consider WandaVision a good sign of things to come in Marvel’s Phase 4?
For sure. I think the happy accident part is…[that] Marvel Studios’ first foray into longform narrative storytelling TV is an homage to TV, [and] is something that could not have been done as a movie. It only works in this medium. So that was great. And I think, as I hope, all of the shows we’re doing currently for Disney+, and all the movies we’ve ever made, try to showcase an advancement and a progression in storytelling, to the types of stories that we can tell with these characters in Marvel Studios. A black and white, 4×3 aspect ratio sitcom is the boldest, sort of most obvious version of the different tone. But all of the shows we’re working on, and the many movies we’re making now, I think are all exploring different styles and genre. And I want to keep expanding what the definition of a Marvel Studios show or movie is, and can be.
So we know that classic sitcoms influence WandaVision. Are there any shows or other titles that influence or are used as reference points for other upcoming Disney+ Marvel titles like Falcon and the Winter Soldier and Loki?
I don’t know about other series in particular, but genres, for sure. The buddy genre, the action genre. We said that Loki can qualify and has some aspects of a crime thriller. That’s what’s fun about about all of these projects, but particularly Disney+ ones, that we have the liberty of keep expanding the type of storytelling. And I’m also excited about how unique all of our upcoming films are, and all of the upcoming Disney plus series between WandaVision, Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Loki, What If, to Ms. Marvel and Hawkeye. Those are six very different shows that all happened to have characters that originated in the Marvel movies.
Can you tell me a little bit about Marvel’s plan for television? Is the plan to approach the series like movies told over a season like miniseries, or is there a plan for multiple seasons of any of the upcoming titles that you just mentioned?
It’s a combination. I won’t say which is which right now, but it’s a combination of both of those things just based on where the story is taking us. We’ve already announced that Wanda’s story will take us into the next Doctor Strange movie, and Monica Rambeau’s character story will take us into the second Captain Marvel film.
That leads me to my next question. Can you tell me how WandaVision will connect to the wider MCU like Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness in which Elizabeth Olsen’s Wanda is confirmed to appear? Is there anything that you can say about how it leads into it?
Not without spoiling everything. Not without spoiling the fun. But the fact is that yes, Wanda is in it. And as I just said, Teyonah Parris‘ Monica Rambeau, we meet as a little girl in Captain Marvel, we will meet as Teyonah Parris in WandaVision, which also then goes into Captain Marvel 2.
Fair. So, one thing we noticed is that the first few Marvel series on Disney+ have one director for all the episodes like Matt Shakman for WandaVision, while later announced shows like Hawkeye and Miss Marvel have several directors across the episodes. Why was it important for shows like WandaVision, Falcon and the Winter Soldier, and Loki to have single directors, while others do not? Or is that just coincidence?
It’s a combination of the logistics of all those particular shows and just the way the stories unfold. And also our own our own internal learnings of making longform television, which Marvel Studios hadn’t done before. So I think…it will continue to vary as we keep making — hopefully keep making — more shows.
We’ve spoken a bit about future projects that you are involved with under the Disney umbrella, and I wanted to ask — I don’t know if you’ll be able to answer this — but can you tell us anything about the Star Wars movie that you were reported to be developing?
No. No, everything that’s been heard about so far are all rumors and leaks. Disney’s very very good about official announcements, as you saw on our Disney investor day, Disney’s not shy about making things official when there are things to be made official. And there were a lot of things made official then.
The first two episodes of WandaVision will premiere on Disney+ on January 15, 2021.
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