Before he became the head of Marvel Studios and assembled an entire cinematic universe, Kevin Feige liked to read the credits after a movie ended and imagine himself listed on screen. “I was a big film nerd,” he recalls. “I thought, ‘Oh my God, how can I be one of these people whose names are on a movie and get to work on movies? This is so cool!’”
But when he saw Ferris Bueller’s Day Off for the first time, he saw something even cooler: a post-credits scene, in which Matthew Broderick’s titular hero poked his head back into the movie and advised the audience to go home. “It was the greatest thing in the world,” Feige says. “I thought it was hilarious. It was like a little reward for me for sitting through the credits.”
Now he doles out rewards of his own. Scenes sprinkled throughout the credits have become one of the MCU’s signature flourishes, with mid- and post-credits tags providing the connective tissue among the franchise’s various superheroes. “It occurred to us [while making Iron Man], ‘Well, we don’t have X-Men, we don’t have Fantastic Four, we don’t have Spider-Man, but we have everything else,'” Feige explains of the stingers’ conception with Nick Fury’s (Samuel L. Jackson) entrance at the end of the 2008 film. “Even though everything else hadn’t been turned into a big film before, or had the name recognition among non-comic-book readers that others ones did, we had the opportunity to start putting certain heroes in other heroes’ movies, which hadn’t been done before. It’s a bonus of what’s to come.”
And these days, practically every Marvel moviegoer stays through the credits to catch a glimpse of a future film. Below, Feige talks about crafting tags and teasers over the years as the MCU expanded, and which ones are his favorites.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Samuel L. Jackson had told you he’d be open to doing a cameo, but how did the idea to place his scene at the end of the movie come about originally?
KEVIN FEIGE: We wanted Nick Fury to be the character to intertwine characters, but we didn’t want to interrupt the movie. You know, if Sam Jackson in an eyepatch showed up in the middle, it might be jarring. I presumed the only people who would stay through the credits were people who would know who the guy in the eyepatch was. [Laughs]
Over the years, how did you decide whether scenes would work as stingers instead of something else, like a DVD extra or a One-Shot?
It varies from tag to tag, and it always just comes down to, what do we think would be a fun extra at the end of the movie? What do we think would be a fun thing slightly outside the narrative, but tied to the grander overall narrative, that would be the fun reward for people sitting through all of our names?
Sometimes, as it did with Nick Fury, it came up during production and we were able to shoot it then. The Iron Man 2 tag, which is Coulson going into the desert and finding the hammer, came about when I was reading drafts for Thor and read that little section where he pulls up and says, “Sir, we found it,” and I said, “Oh, that’s the tag! Let’s move it up in production of Thor early, so we can put it in the tag for Iron Man 2.”
And sometimes we were finishing the movie. For Avengers, we were finishing up VFX shots and we put a little shawarma shop in the background of the scene where Iron Man gets smashed into the ground, because Robert Downey Jr. ran with an ad lib about shawarma, and so it was like, “Oh, he must have seen that sign and thought about shawarma.” We were sitting in the cutting room saying, “You know what would have been great? Them sitting around eating shawarma at the end credits.” And then we started thinking, “Wait a minute, that’s so great we actually have to do it. We have to figure out a way!”
The way turned out to be the delightful press day story.
What do you remember about putting together the tags for some of the more recent films?
Well, they’re all fun. The ones on Guardians 2 came about as we were doing additional photography, and some of them were part of the actual movie and fell out, some of them were just fun ideas that James [Gunn] had. The whole Guardians ethos of excess and silliness overcame us with all those tags on that film.
The one with Captain America in Spider-Man: Homecoming was our homage to John Hughes and going back to the first Ferris Bueller one. We had Chris ad-lib that conversation to the camera when we were filming his little cameos for Spider-Man.
How do you think of endings in films now, after putting in so many post-credits scenes? Do you consider the tags the actual endings?
[The ending] is before the credits, that’s really how we look at it. That’s the conclusion of the story that we’re telling, and then if there’s a credits scene after the main one ends or the first one, it’s usually something that ties into the movie you’ve just seen that’s extra. At the very end of the credits, that’s what’s to come.
What are your favorites?
I love them all for so many different reasons. The Nick Fury one obviously because it was the first. Two things that have happened as we have continued making our MCU movies is, I remember Stan Lee cameos, there would be a couple of people in the theater who would clap, and then there would be a couple more, and now every single person in the theater knows Stan and recognizes Stan.
It was the same thing [with credits]: Sometimes there would be three people left in the theater for a tag, and now it’s like, it varies, but it could be three-quarters of a theater staying, or as people start to leave, they’ll go, “Where are you going?” which I find very entertaining. So I would say the Fury one because it was our first. We planted our flag on that. And the shawarma one just because we pulled it off. [Laughs] It felt so perfect.
Avengers: Infinity War hits theaters April 27.