This bombshell comes thanks to a new tell-all book, MCU: The Reign of Marvel Studios, by entertainment journalists Joanna Robinson, Dave Gonzalez, and Gavin Edwards. The book tells the story of the MCU and its rise to global cinematic dominance and all the execs who form a big part of it, including Kevin Feige, Edward Norton, and Joss Whedon. MCU: The Rise of Marvel Studios is a lengthy 528 pages, which the authors have sourced from hundreds of interviews and reporting over the years, plus doing interviews with those close to Marvel and Disney. The book delves into the past 30 years of Marvel. It explores almost every possible angle from the early days of Iron Man and everything that was happening behind the scenes making the film, as well as looking back on the heady days of the 90s when Marvel Entertainment filed for bankruptcy.
It should be no surprise when the book explores the tumultuous behind-the-scenes drama Kevin Feige had with both Edward Norton and Joss Whedon on The Incredible Hulk and Avengers: Age of Ultron, respectively. It has been alluded to in the past, but the book cements the rumours that Feige and Norton were at loggerheads over creative decisions for The Incredible Hulk. In 2008, when the film was released, it was cast in the shadow of the wildly successful first Iron Man film. The Incredible Hulk failed to live up to expectations. In interviews, Feige mentioned that the film he and his team envisioned was like a Godzilla film. The military fights Godzilla, and in the end, an enormous monster emerges, and Godzilla has to end up helping the military. This vision was used in The Incredible Hulk, but Norton was heavily involved in rewriting the script for the film.
Norton has said that at the time, he was heavily influenced by the dark, gritty take of Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins (2005). Whatever the grievances between Feige and Norton, the book clarifies that Norton is not on Kevin Feige’s list of actors to work with again in the MCU.
Robinson and her co-authors also delve into the drama with Joss Whedon. They claim that Whedon will never get a call back to work for Marvel from Feige. Reading all the book entails is necessary to find the real reason for Feige’s apparent disdain toward Whedon, but there may be clues, and those seem to be creative differences. In 2015, Forbes alluded to a communication breakdown between the MCU and Marvel’s television division. At the time, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. was being overseen by Joss Whedon.
During this era, Whedon also made an insightful comment with Buzzfeed, saying, “They didn’t want me to make [Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.] …It’s like, Úh, Joss, we wanted you to do [Age of Ultron]. Instead, you created a T.V. show, you moron. I thought you wanted me to!’ No, we just wanted you to make a movie.” In the same BuzzFeed interview, Kevin Feige told Whedon it’s great he is doing a S.H.I.E.L.D. T.V. show, but in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, S.H.I.E.L.D. will be destroyed.
It seems evident from these clues that Kevin felt Whedon was stepping on some toes by forging ahead with a television that Feige had no oversight over. Perhaps Feige was not too happy that the television division of Marvel would interfere with the MCU. Added to all this was Whedon’s dramatic fallout from grace with the public after the #MeToo movement, in which the director was accused by multiple actors of inappropriate behaviour and questionable creative decisions on his film sets that some actors felt were exploiting them.
However, which way you cut it, the MCU achieved greatness, and all companies and individuals have arguments and differences. MCU: The Reign of Marvel Studios might give us a peek behind the curtain but confirms that all major Hollywood studios and individuals have baggage, and Marvel is no exception.