The superhero movies which tell the story of the Marvel Cinematic Universe have proven to be huge successes at the box office; rom the first Iron Man movie in 2008 to the record-breaking Avengers Endgame, which is now the highest-grossing film of all time.
Marvel has managed to recruit some of the biggest names in Hollywood to their film franchise, including Robert Downey Jr, Natalie Portman, Scarlett Johansson, and Chris Hemsworth, who has appeared as Thor in eight of the MCU movies.
Part of the reason for the franchise’s success has been the behind-the-scenes work of producer Kevin Feige who has made the Marvel Cinematic Universe his own personal project – and who has imposed some pretty strict rules on the casts of his films.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe is a big enough franchise to attract some of the most famous names in show business, but Kevin Feige has made it clear from the start that no-one is too big to get fired from one of his movies. Edward Norton, who played the Hulk in 2008, was replaced by Mark Ruffalo after Norton and Feige failed to gel.
Being a member of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is a pretty full-on job. As well as appearing in your own movies, and the ensemble films like The Avengers and Avengers Endgame you can also be asked to make cameo appearances in other characters’ movies, too. Although, the most famous Marvel cameo star was the late Stan Lee, who created many of the original comics.
And the hard work doesn’t start when the filming is finished. Stars of the Marvel Cinematic Universe films are also contractually obliged to travel the world promoting the latest films to fans in every corner of the globe, making public appearances as well as answering thousands of media questions every day.
Marvel movies rake in billions of dollars at the box office, but the franchise also makes a lot of money from its merchandise; everything from official t-shirts to action figures. Marvel Cinematic Universe actors can also be asked to turn up to merchandise launch events if Kevin Feige needs them to be there.
Feige has some pretty strict rules about how he expects his actors to behave when they aren’t on set, with no scandals allowed. Which makes hiring Robert Downey Jr a rather strange choice, given his checkered past! Many of the Marvel stars are involved in political activism, which seems to get the thumbs of from Feige, as they haven’t been told to stop!
CGI may have made it easier to make big-budget action movies, but not all the effects can be created by computers. Some of the Marvel stars have to spend hours in the make-up chair at the start and end of every day on set, especially Karen Gillan (Nebula) and Zoe Saldana (Gamora), who are both almost unrecognizable on the big screen.
The number one rule in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is no spoilers! There have been some close shaves in the past when actors have nearly let slip some important fact about an upcoming film, and Tom Holland (who now plays Spiderman) has such a bad reputation for spilling the beans that he rarely gives any interviews alone!
In fact, Tom Holland rarely even gets to see the full script of the films he works on; just his lines and then blacked out sections so he doesn’t even know what the spoilers might be! In fact, he is far from the only Marvel star who doesn’t see the full script before filming. This is standard practice in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to keep things quiet.
Naturally, when it comes to the first read-through of the script, all actors are banned from having their cell phones with them – even those who have been with Marvel since day one. The same goes for days on the set, when the stars are strongly discouraged from taking photographs which might give away spoilers to eagle-eyed fans.
A lot of the Marvel movies are filmed on location in cities around the world, and die-hard fans will often wait around to try and get a glimpse of their favorite stars – as well as to try and figure out what the plot in the next movie might be! To get around that, and to avoid the paparazzi photographers, Kevin Feige has the stars smuggled onto the set in unmarked vans.
Even though CGI does a lot of the heavy lifting for modern movie stars, Marvel actors have to keep themselves in shape. Modern computers are not yet good enough to make Chris Hemsworth look like Thor without the assistance of his fitness regime – and then there are the poor women who have to wear figure-hugging costumes which leave little to the imagination.
Filming on Marvel Cinematic Universe sets sounds like it would be a tough workout all by itself, as all the actors are expected to undergo extensive fight training and choreography before filming starts and throughout the shoot, to ensure that any action scenes they film look as realistic as possible.
Unlike some of the great Hollywood heroes, however, none of the Marvel actors are allowed to do their own stunts, as Kevin Feige knows that the insurance costs would be way too high if he ended up injuring Robert Downey Jr or Brie Larson. Instead, all the big stars have at least one stunt double to take on the tough action moves.
Given that merchandising is such a big part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, one of the quirkier rules that Kevin Feige makes his stars follow is that they have to sign away the rights to their likeness so that Marvel Studios and Disney can make action figures that look like the characters without the actors getting a cut of the profits.
While the biggest stars in the Marvel Cinematic Universe get to walk into their roles, there are dozens of smaller roles and even extras who have to audition and work hard to get their big break. Feige likes to keep a tight leash on his actors, and that includes carrying out detailed background checks into anyone who gets a part in a Marvel movie.
While a director may have overall control of the way a movie is made, in most films actors have the chance to influence the way they portray their character on screen. However, the Marvel characters have a long and detailed history, and the actors in the franchise have to respect that and accept that they have to stick to the comic book portrayal.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe contracts are pretty watertight, and not only are the actors tied to their rigorous shooting schedule when their movie is being made, but they have to be ready to go back to the studio and take part in any re-shoots that are necessary, at any time that the director needs them.
Marvel comic books have been around for decades, which means that the characters also have a long and colorful history. Actors who are cast in the franchise will be given a crash course in the back story of their character, but it does seem that it pays dividends to do your own research, as Brie Larson found out when she did her own research into Captain Marvel.
For all the Marvel movies are quite violent, with lots of futuristic weapons and plenty of on-screen injuries and deaths, Kevin Feige does like to keep things as family-friendly as possible to ensure that kids of all ages can enjoy the films. This was why he banned Nick Fury’s trademark cigar from the screen, following the same decision by Marvel Comics.
The rivalry between Marvel and DC goes back to the days of the comic books, and it is still going on today in Hollywood. While there have been some crossover comic books throughout the years, Kevin Feige has banned any of his Marvel Cinematic Universe stars from making any appearances, no matter how small, in a DC movie.
Sources: CNBC, Looper, Insider, The Wrap, Variety