As Marvel Studios Production President, Kevin Feige has played an instrumental role in bringing ‘The Avengers’ to big screen, continuing the epic big-screen adventures started in ‘Iron Man,‘ ‘The Incredible Hulk,‘ ‘Iron Man 2,’ ‘Thor,’ and ‘Captain America: The First Avenger.’ Feige has previously played an instrumental role in a number of blockbuster feature films adapted from the pages of Marvel comic books, including the hugely successful ‘Spider-Man’ and ‘X-Men’ trilogies. In his current role as producer and President of Marvel Studios, Feige oversees all creative aspects of the company’s feature film and home entertainment activities.

Directed by Joss Whedon, ‘The Avengers’ (‘Avengers Assemble’ in the UK) stars Chris Evans (Captain America/Steve Rogers), Jeremy Renner (Hawkeye/Clint Barton), Mark Ruffalo (Bruce Banner/Hulk), Robert Downey Jr (Iron Man/Tony Stark), Chris Hemsworth (Thor), Samuel L. Jackson (Nick Fury), Scarlett Johansson (Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow), and Tom Hiddleston (Loki). Cobie Smulders, Clark Gregg, and Stellen Skarsgard co-star. ‘The Avengers’ is released in cinemas April 26th in the UK and May 4th in the US.

The idea for ‘The Avengers’ first came about during the production of ‘Iron Man’ right, with the idea that S.H.I.E.L.D. could be part of both that movie and ‘The Incredible Hulk’?

Kevin Feige: Well, we started looking at the list of characters in the Marvel Universe that hadn’t been taken by other studios….which were the likes of Iron Man, Hulk, Captain America, Thor, Hawkeye and Black Widow. And I thought, “Isn’t that interesting, all of these characters happen to form one of the most popular comic book series – The Avengers!” (Laughs) So, when the idea of a Nick Fury cameo started coming up during the production of ‘Iron Man,’ we called Samuel L. Jackson and he thought it was a great idea, he came onboard. It was his enthusiasm about it that led us to shoot that end credit scene. And what he says to Tony Stark in the scene, “You’re part of a bigger universe, you just don’t know it yet.” The line was also Marvel telling that to the audience as well, informing the audience.

Then you done it again on ‘The Incredible Hulk’?

Kevin Feige: Yeah. Audiences loved the cameo and the buzz about Nick Fury started. We did it again two months later on ‘The Incredible Hulk,’ and the reaction once again told us ‘The Avengers’ is going to work. Our plan then was to build it one Super Hero at a time….because it was really important that we introduced all of the characters first in their own franchises before putting them together in ‘The Avengers.’ What is brilliant about it is that they were all Super Heroes in their own comics, in their own mythology, that you already knew, that you were already a fan of, and then they all come together under one title. That was so exciting for us.

Having all these unique characters, these lead characters under one title, under ‘The Avengers,’ that poses a number of challenges as well….

Kevin Feige: Sure, they’re not a unified force, they are these utter individuals that are forced to stand next to each other in order to save the world. And they should not fit like a glove, they don’t, they’re not a perfect puzzle piece that comes together. And with the previous films leading up to ‘The Avengers,‘ we had to have a lot of confidence in the direction we were heading, it was a bit of a leap of faith. A big part of the puzzle was introducing both ‘Thor’ and ‘Captain America’ in self-contained origin stories with very distinctive beginnings and endings that segued nicely into the storyline for ‘The Avengers.’

How was it having Joss Whedon on board as director and writer, how did that all come about? He adds a lot of humour and groundedness to the film that might surprise people.

Kevin Feige: Yeah. When we first put the word out that we were looking for directors for ‘The Avengers,’ Joss Whedon came in and was very interested. And I’ve known Joss since 2001, and I told him that him one of the most important things with ‘The Avengers’ is it needs to stand alone and you need to structure it in a way so that people can watch the film without having seen any of the other Marvel films and get the story start to finish.

The genius of Joss Whedon is that he can take these huge elements and find the balance, so the characters are never lost to the spectacle and visual effects. We wanted ’The Avengers’ to have amazing sets and incredible action, but we did not want the tone and humour to be trumped by the spectacular images on the screen. What’s always been the most exciting to see is Tony Stark/Iron Man and Steve Rogers/Captain America together, and how Tony Stark reacts to Thor, and seeing Nick Fury on his own turf for the first time. We wanted those relationship dynamics to be the real heart of the film and Joss Whedon was someone we felt could delve into the character development just as much as he could with the action in ‘The Avengers.’ Joss Whedon, he’s incredibly talented, and could not only direct the film but also develop a compelling story and screenplay. He was great.

With the screenplay he had to juggle all the tones of the previous movies and characters as well I guess?

Kevin Feige: The tones of all of our films are very different, but they all have those classic Marvel elements, wish fulfilment, action, adventure, escalated stakes. What I really loved about Joss Whedon’s script was all of these colourful personalities interacting together. As impressive as some of the spectacle moments are, it’s those interplay moments in the script that will resonate with audiences because sometimes they’ll all agree with each other and other times they’ll disagree and not play so friendly in the sandbox.

Also, you talk to Marvel fans, comic fans, you ask them what their favourite moment is in their favourite comic. You’d almost always get a character moment out of them. Very rarely is it a pure action splash page moment. It’s almost always a character moment. It’s the big action moments that sell the movie, that’s what perhaps gets people in the theatre, but it’s the character moments that have you go back again, that keeps you going.