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Spider-Man, Thanos, and TV crossovers: Marvel Studios chief discusses Phase Three and beyond

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ALONG CAME A SPIDER This high-flying sequel entertains, even if it doesn't know when to end.

Ready for a debriefing on the latest developments in the Marvel Cinematic Universe?

With Avengers: Age of Ultron headed to home video, Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige and producer Jeremy Latcham sat for a Q&A at Hero Complex gallery and fielded a wide-ranging series of questions about their upcoming film slate. 

The pair covered everything from TV crossovers to what they plan to do with Spider-Man and how they recruit filmmakers.

Here’s what you need to know:

SPIDER-MAN

Marvel Studios struck a deal with Sony Pictures to re-introduce Tom Holland as the webslinger in a small role in an upcoming Marvel film (smart money says that’ll be next year’s Captain America: Civil War) while assisting with the Jon Watts-directed stand-alone for Sony set for release in 2017.

“On a personal level, making these movies, it means a lot because I think we can do great things with Spider-Man, and Spider-Man can serve great purpose in our universe,” Feige said (watch the full video of the Q&A, recorded by Slashfilm). “And that’s where he belongs. That’s what was unique about him in the comics. It’s not that he was the only superhero in the world, it’s that he was a totally different kind of superhero when compared against all the other ones in the Marvel universe at the time.”

The biggest challenge: “Now we better not screw it up,” Feige said.

Although we’ll see Spidey in a small role first, the solo movie is “job No. 1 for us,” Feige said. “The most important thing is relaunching Spider-man with his own stand-alone movie and a story line that fits into this universe,” he said. “The connectivity is great, but doesn’t drive the train.”

Although it led to some schedule shifting, it wasn’t hard for Marvel Studios to accommodate Spider-Man once the Sony deal was struck. “This has been a dream of ours for a long time, and we always had contingency plans – which we always do anyway: Are we going to be able to do another deal with this actor? If so we’re going to do this; if not, we’re going to do this,” Feige said. “We always operate with those alternate timelines available, and ready to shift.”

INFINITY GEMS

The culmination of Marvel’s Phase Three is the two-part Infinity War movie, set for release in 2018 and 2019. That story involves the cosmic villain Thanos securing the gems in a gauntlet that, in the comics, gave him dominion over a little thing called all of time and space.

So far, only four of the six gems have been identified in the movies: the Tesseract, the Aether, the Orb, and the Mind Stone.

“You will see the other two sometime in Phase Three, for sure,” Feige said. “There’s a gauntlet that needs to be filled.”

He said the idea to steer the connected stories toward Thanos and the Infinity gems began with Iron Man 2, which introduced the concept of the Tesseract. “I won’t say it was all perfectly planned and laid out in 2009, but that was the genesis of it,” he said.

Latcham, who produced the first two Iron Man films, Guardians of the Galaxy, and both Avengers movies, recalls trying to plant teases of what they had planned back in Tony Stark’s second run.

“We had a propmaster drawing the book Tony Stark was looking through,” he said. “I remember trying to explain to the propmaster this cube you’re drawing is really important.”

Feige pointed out that when Robert Downey Jr. is watching the movie of his father, Howard Stark, giving him instructions, the character in the film strip says “All you need to know is right in front of you” just as Tony is looking at a page in the book that details the power of the Tesseract.

Feige was also asked if the gauntlet hidden as an Easter egg in Odin’s trophy room in the Thor movies is the same one we see Thanos with at the end of Age of Ultron – or is it a different one?

He declared it the “nerdiest question,” but supplied an answer: “It’s a good question. It’s not the same one.”

NEXT PAGE: What comes after Infinity…?

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FILMMAKER RECRUITMENT

Feige also shed some light on how Marvel Studios selects directors for its projects.

“We pitch them what we think the movie could be. And then we start a discussion,” he said. “If over the course of three or four or five meetings, they make it way better than what we were initially spewing to them – they usually get the job.”

One concern now is making sure they responsibly diversify their heroic line-up, adding the first lead female hero with 2018’s Captain Marvel, and the first black superhero with Black Panther that same year.

“There’s always been pressure for ‘let’s not screw it up,” Feige said. “That would exist for Black Panther, that would exist for Captain Marvel, just as it does for Spider-Man, just as it does for Iron Man, and anybody else. Then there’s the pressure of just staying current with the times, of representing on that big screen what exists in the world around us, as the comics have done a good job of doing. We want the movies to get to the point where they’re ahead of the curve on all those issues as well.”

AFTER INFINITY?

After Infinity War parts 1 and 2 … what then? Should we expect a Marvel Studios Phase 4, or is does that complete the interconnected universe – leading to a possible reboot?

“I think it definitely is an end to some version of the team we’ve come to know as the Avengers,” Latcham said. “Who knows exactly what’s going to happen yet in that film. But this version of that team will be evolving. One thing we love from the comics is the roster is always changing. It’s not the end of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but I think it’s the end of part of it for sure. We’re still trying to sort out what parts.”

NEXT PAGE: Will Daredevil ever meet the Avengers?

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TV AND MOVIE CROSSOVER

Will the Marvel-run Netflix TV shows like Daredevil, Jessica Jones, and the upcoming Luke Cage ever crossover with the movies, as Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Agent Carter have?

“That’s inevitable at some point,” Feige said. “Going forward, as they continue to do more shows and cast them with such great actors, particularly in the Daredevil show, that [crossover] may occur.”

The biggest hurdle is timing. “By the time we start doing a movie, they’d be midway through a season, and by the time our movies comes out they’d be done with the second and starting the third season,” Feige says. “The schedules don’t always match up to make that possible. It’s easier for them. They’re more nimble and produce things faster than we do. That’s one reason you see the repercussions of Winter Soldier or Age of Ultron in the shows.”

If Spider-Man ended up tangling with Kingpin, would Feige recast the villain’s role or keep Vincent D’Onofrio from the Daredevil series? Feige said he’d keep the actor.

“That’d probably be the cool thing to do. But that particular scenario hasn’t come up,” he said.

ONE SHOTS

Marvel has ceased production on the One Shot short films that often accompanied their Phase Two films, and Feige said there’s no indication they’ll be back.

“We talk about that a lot. The universe is big and we’re moving up to three movies a year. I don’t know how much beyond that we could go,” he said. “We are a relatively small team, and we’re comfortable now doing three movies a year. So it’s just about finding the time and the place.”

Latcham said every conversation about new projects results in some short ideas. “There’s a backlog of ideas,” Feige said.