In almost any endeavor, being right enough times provides you sufficient capital to take on bigger risks in spite of the higher stakes that come with them. Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige — the guy who shepherded the most successful movie franchise in the world into existence and who’s been a producer attached to every MCU movie all the way back to the beginning — put that principle to the test early on. Back around the time of the first Avengers movie, in fact, which came out in 2012.
The MCU was starting to establish a solid base of fans for the movies about comic book heroes at the same time it was starting to attract a knock that showed no signs of going away anytime soon: The stars seemed to be all white guys. In a little-known behind-the-scenes moment, however, Feige was already laying the groundwork for that to change. Paving the way, as a matter of fact, for future heroes like Black Panther and Captain Marvel to get their time to shine in movies of their own.
This news was revealed by actor Mark Ruffalo, who portrays the Hulk in the MCU and who told UK newspaper The Independent, somewhat provocatively, that white supremacy has pervaded Hollywood “for 100 years.”
While making the press rounds to talk about his new movie Dark Waters, Ruffalo also shared a revealing moment that saw Feige go to the mat to bring more diversity and inclusion into Marvel’s constantly expanding cast of characters. “When we did the first Avengers, Kevin Feige told me, ‘Listen, I might not be here tomorrow,’” Ruffalo recalls, referencing an upcoming meeting between Feige and Isaac “Ike” Perlmutter, Disney’s then-largest shareholder. Feige was planning to demand that a focus on female superheroes be given the okay.
Continues Ruffalo: “And he’s like, ‘Ike does not believe that anyone will go to a female-starring superhero movie. So if I am still here tomorrow, you will know that I won that battle.’”
Feige did indeed win that battle, because the rest, as we all now know, is history. It’s not clear if Feige was intimating that he thought he’d be fired or that he’d have to voluntarily leave if he lost his battle, but he nevertheless not only pushed for women but also for black and LGBT superheroes to populate the MCU. This makes him single-handledly responsible, according to Ruffalo, for changing the MCU for the better.
“We now have a gay superhero on the way, we have black superheroes, we have female superheroes — Scarlett Johansson has her movie coming out, we have Captain Marvel, (and) they are doing She-Hulk next. No other studio is being that inclusive on that level. They have to, though. This is the f***ing world.”