Comic book legend Stan Lee gave a press conference at the opening of the London Film Comic Con 2014. Stan spoke about leaving Marvel, his movie cameos, gave advice for aspiring comic artists and teased rivals DC comics. The even marked Stan lee’s final European fan convention appearance and possible one of his last public engagements.
Video and full transcript below of the sensational interview with the creative force behind Spider-Man, X-Men, Iron Man, Thor, The Hulk and many more.
How does it feel to be here at the London Film & Comic Con?
I didn’t know it was a big deal like this, oh man what if I do or say something wrong. Will you be kind to me… Well first of all, Rule Britannia! That gets us off to a good start.
When you left Marvel what was it like to give your babies over to someone else?
Oh it wasn’t fun. They made me the publisher so I wasn’t the editor and head writer any more. So I had to watch other guys do things. And they were good. We had the best staff in the world but I missed being with the artists and the colourists, the people who make the books go. I missed being with the other writers. Being a publisher wasn’t as much fun. What I did mainly, because I’m not a business man, was I travelled around the country and came to London lots of times. Just talking about Marvel and promoting the books. So they called me publisher, but I was really more of a glorified press agent. That was more fun than sitting in an office figuring out if we’re making money or not.
Of all the stories you’ve written are here any that have meant something particularly special to you?
Any of my stories? Every one of them. They were classics! There are so many books. I mean I had favourite stories with Fantastic Four, Daredevil, The Hulk and Spider-Man. With all of them I guess. There was one story I remember even though it wasn’t with our top characters. I did one where Daredevil fought the Submariner. They were both our heroes and I had to not make it look as if one could really beat the other. So they practically fought to a draw. In the end the Submariner went back to the ocean and he left daredevil lying exhausted on the sand and he said something like “You were a noble competitor”. I enjoyed the way I made them both seem heroic even though they were fighting each other. I had so many stories. The problem is I’m my biggest fan so I loved every story I wrote. So they were all my favourites.
How do you think the new wave of Marvel movies like Ant-Man & Doctor Strange will change the Marvel Universe on screen?
The movies have been great. We got so lucky we got the best directors. The best special effects people. The best actors. People wo had not been especially big stars before. Like Chris Hemsworth who plays Thor, he’s wonderful. I was with him filming yesterday. I did my cameo of course. Chris Evans as well who plays Captain America. It’s funny you may remember that he played the Human Torch in the Fantastic Four. It’s so unusual to take a guy from one part and give him another role in the same series. But it worked out beautifully though, he’s great.
So how do I think it will change, all it can really do is make it better for Marvel if we do these movies and they’re successful. There are people now reading Marvel comics that would never have thought to read a comic book before. So it helps the comic book business. The movie business has been unbelievably incredible. The Marvel movies are about the biggest money making movies of all.
You know it’s funny. I keep thinking that DC could probably make a lot more money with Superman & Batman if they announced that I’d have a cameo in them. People wouldn’t believe it. They’d have to go to the movies to see it!
Do you have a favourite Marvel movie cameo?
My cameos are like my characters I like all of them. The one I did where I was the librarian and I was playing music while Spider-Man was having a life and death battle with the Lizard. The time they wouldn’t let me into the Fantastic Four wedding because they didn’t believe I was who I was. I thought about a few this morning I’d forgotten all about, but I loved them. I love all of them, but the one I did yesterday I can’t tell you what it is but I can’t wait for you to see it. It was for the Avengers Age of Ultron but it really was good. Don’t miss the Avengers just because of me!
Thank you so much for Spider-Man we think he’s the best character ever
Oh I wouldn’t disagree with that!
What do you think is more important for a great comic the artwork or the story?
Impossible to say. It’s like saying what make a great song hit the music or the lyrics. You can’t have a great comic without a great script, but a bad artist could ruin the script. If it’s drawn badly you’ll think the script is bad. There’s nothing in art that is as close to being a 50:50 value as comics, where the artist is 50% as valuable as the writer and vice versa. When they are both doing a great job then you have a product that’s really great. If one of them doesn’t do such a good job the whole product suffers.
Do you have any advice for aspiring comic artists or authors?
You know that’s the toughest question to answer when people say I want to writer or draw comics, what would you recommend? I don’t know what to tell you. I have been away from the comic books for so long. But if you want to draw comics I’d imagine there’s always room for another great artist. But you’ve got to understand you have to be as good s the people ho are already drawing the scrits. Otherwise they don’t particularly need you and they’ve already got the artist. Make sure before you submit anything to a comic company or an editor, that what you’re submitting is at least as good as what they’re already using. Now that’s easier said than done because those artists are superb. But if you want to be a comic book artist you have to be superb also. Years ago you just had to be able to tell a good story with pictures. You didn’t have to be that great an artist as long as you could depict the story. But now every great artist wants to be in comics and the competition is really very keen. So just be sure the material you send to the editor I knockout artwork and good luck to you!!!
Given their popularity do you think we might see stand-alone movies for The Hulk and even Loki?
I’d like to see a stand-alone movie for all our characters and we will eventually. They’re working on a Doctor Strange, Black Panther and Ant-Man. Everything. But as far as would I like to see what you said, sure I love stand-alones. But the audience loves when we team them up. That’s why Avengers is so big, They love to see all or at least many of the characters together rin one movie
Do you think we might see more TV series based on Marvel characters?
I think any one of them would work in TV. Some of them unfortunately require expensive special effects in order to get the most out of them. Some of those special effects would be too expensive for TV. The Hulk a million years ago was one of the most popular TV series if you remember and I think Spider-Man on TV would be sensational. But they’re spending so much time and money on the movies that they just don’t have time. But sooner or later they’ll probably find a way to have them on TV too. Marvel is very greedy and if there’s a way to make an extra buck believe me they’ll follow through.
Do you think we’ll ever get to see Kevin Smith take on a Marvel project?
Kevin would do a great job. If you’re familiar with him he’s the fellow who did the movie Mallrats all those years ago, which was my first starring vehicle. Kevin knows the comics as well as anybody. I don’t know why Marvel doesn’t hire him to do one. But maybe they will.
Do you feel you still have anything left to achieve?
If my mother was still with us she’d be disappointed because she was sure I’d be president of the United States. I just couldn’t make it. Oh… wait a minute I have something for you to do! Am I glad I thought of this. I want to bring back a present for my wife. My wife is English and I was thinking what I could get her. Are any of you friendly with the Queen? If you are I think it would be nice if I was made a knight of the British Empire, because then I could go home to my wife and say you’re now a Dame. Imagine how happy she’ll be. So right after this interview call her highness, get together and work it out!
Marvel executive producer Kevin Feige talks about the future of the Marvel movie universe and the much anticipated Guardians of the Galaxy during an in-depth interview in London shortly after the screening of 17 minutes of awesome preview footage form the new film. Here’s what he had to say:
How was it seeing Guardians on an IMAX screen?
It was pretty great seeing it in IMAX. I’ve seen the movie about 57,000 times and I can’t wait to see the entire thing. James Gunn our writer, our director, our fearless Guardians leader; really put a lot of effort into the IMAX and 3D format. I think it’s the best and the biggest 3D film that we’ve ever done. I think there’s always added value when you go and see a film in 3D, but with the Winter Soldier for example, the way the Russo brothers did that film 3D added some but it was still a visceral experience whether you saw it in 2D or 3D. This movie I think is actually better in 3D. You are more immersed into the worlds of this film in 3D. To accommodate the IMAX screen we’re actually changing the aspect ratio for IMAX. You’ll get the same width as in 2D, but you’ll also get the information that’s on top of that and below that. James went through and chose the particular scenes and sequences where when you’re watching IMAX it will actually go to the full size of the screen. It’s an added element to immerse you into this film.
Where did the idea come from for a Guardians movie? Was it always there on the big Marvel wall chart for future projects?
I don’t know if we actually have a wall chart, but for many years we have this awesome gigantic Marvel universe poster. It was a consumer poster from the 80s or early 90s. That had hundreds of our characters up there. We used to go up to it and go who’s the smallest character, the most obscure character on here. Then when people would come in for meetings we’d quiz them. I don’t think the Guardians were even on that poster frankly. But Guardians came about when the new incarnation of the Guardian comics came out in 2008, we just thought it was very very cool. We always loved the idea of doing a big space epic. We loved the idea of taking the Marvel universe and pushing it to the other side of that Universe. In the comics the characters are traversing the broader Marvel universe all the time. So we were thinking wouldn’t it be fun someday to be able to do a big space movie.
So it was probably 2010 or 2011 when we had a young writers programme. We brought people in to just start working on scripts for projects that might turn into a movie someday or might never become movies. It was just a way to nurture and develop new talent and that programme ended up going very well for us. A lot of those writers went on to work for other movies for us. But a woman called Nicole Pearlman did a draft of what became Guardians of the Galaxy. Based on her draft we decided this isn’t just a wouldn’t it be cool if idea, this could actually be the movie.
Did the inclusion of Thanos at the end of Avengers affect that?
That also just solidified the notion of beginning to crack the door open on the cosmic side of the Marvel universe. I think both of the Thor films did that. Joss in adding the notion of Thanos as being behind Loki’s army did that. Thanos is the primary link right now between the Guardians world and the Avengers world.
Did Marvel feel nervous at all about making a film based on less well known characters?
We want to be aware of it in terms of how we market and release the film. But in terms of making the film I don’t think it felt any more or less a risk that the first Iron man or Captain America films, or the Asgardian romp of Thor. They all have their own challenges, even Avengers itself. People forget that we were in production on the first Avengers film prior to the release of either Thor or Captain America. Audiences hadn’t told us yet that they’d embraced Chris Hemsworth as Thor, Tom Hiddleston as Loki or Chris Evans as Captain America. We just were all in on the plan. The production got much more relaxed half way through when we realised people did like it. They’ve always bene a bit of the unknown; you get that with all filmmaking at every level. The minute you take that for granted and aren’t thinking that something is risky or isn’t a sure bet, is probably the time you start making bad decisions.
Can you tell us about casting Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel as Rocket and Groot?
Bardley and Vin weren’t on set but they were cast early on in production although they were announced quite late. They were on board while we were filming and recorded a number of times throughout that process and into post. It was always very important for us that Rocket who was always going to be a digital character wasn’t a cartoon in any way shape or form. We knew that the amazing artists at VFX companies Framestore and MPC would do an amazing job. It wouldn’t look like a cartoon it would look like a photo real creature. Rocket doesn’t know that he’s a racoon and he certainly doesn’t know that he’s an animated character. There were a lot of early auditions that came from voice actors, but if felt like even somewhere underneath the surface there was an acknowledgement that it was an animated character. We wanted an actor who didn’t play it like a cartoon. Not like how a Racoon should sound like.
The effects companies had a walk cycle of Rocket rigged to just walk and the camera spins around 360 degrees to see how it moves and how it effects lighting etc. In the process of making a film the walk cycle is the first time you have a near photo-realistic model of the character. While we were searching for the voice, we took great monologues form other movies and put them against the walk cycle. These were from lots of other movies where obviously people had no idea they were playing a Racoon. They had no clue we were going to put their Oscar winning monologue against a walking Racoon cycle. We did it for Bradley for his scene with Robert De Niro from Silver Linings Playbook. Something about that just clicked. We thought, well we’re not going to get Bradley Cooper but it should be that type. But e reached out and he was interested. The screenplay and James won him over. He did and amazing job.
What about Vin as Groot?
Groot is a character that is very important to James and us. Even though he’s a rather large tree like creature and he only says three words, it was very important in the way James wrote the draft that at the beginning of the movie it’s sort of ridiculous and very funny. But then as the movie progresses you start to understand there’s a different in the inflection and what he means by it. Rocket can understand him completely but even you as an audience can start to appreciate that he is a sentient creature with opinions and a point of view. By the end of the movie hopefully you are completely emotionally attached to him. Some of the things he does in the finale have people welling up and crying. That was exactly the journey we needed for this character. So again we wanted an actor, somebody who could actually do that.
During the casting process Vin had come in for a general meeting. Vin has a gigantic fan base and on Facebook in particular. He started posting about when he was going to meet with us. I had a press visit on Captain America the Winter Soldier and people kept asking if we’d met Vin yet and how it had gone. We were and are still talking about what we could do in the future in a bigger part. But there became this odd fever especially in the online community about what Vin was going to do with Marvel. In terms of a grand plan we hadn’t found anything yet. But it occurred to me that Vin did an awesome role many years ago for The Iron Giant. I started thinking about the similarities between the Iron Giant and Groot. The Iron Giant says more than Groot des but he doesn’t say much. I don’t think most people are even aware that Vin did that role. So I spoke to James and said what if we could get Vin to do it, what if he’s interested. We reached out to Vin and thank god he totally loved the idea he was totally into it. He took it very very seriously. When you go into an AVR session you always have a cue sheet. In this case it just had I am Groot. I am Groot. I am Groot. I am Groot. But next to it James put what that really. What Groot meat when he said it at this point in the movie. James ended up doing a full few days with Vin. It was a real acting and real directing process. It shows in the movie. Every grunt and every effort it shows. It really is one of the best performances in the movie in a film full of great performances.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has tied into to other properties, will we be seeing any Guardians tie ins when the series returns?
I’m not sure. They’re working on the second season right now and they’re cracking the episodes for that right now. I’m not sure exactly what their plans are for that right now but I know everyone was very happy about the connectivity between the show and Winter Soldier. They’re aware of what we’re doing in the movies and will take the lead from the features. I think they already had a few blue aliens in the first season for things which may or may not relate to blue aliens in Guardians. I’m not being coy I’m not sure if it does or not. But there’s always that chance of connectivity.
Will the Netflix series like Daredevil & Iron Fist directly impact the MCU?
I think they’re being very smart about that. They’re approaching it the same way we’re approaching the movies. Focus on what you’re doing first and make it as great as it can be. Then look if there’s places it makes sense for some interweaving of continuity. But they’re in production on those right now and the goal is to make the best incarnation of Daredevil that has ever existed.
Can you tell us how Chris Pratt landed the lead role?
We knew the movie was going to work or fail based on the casting of Peter Quill. Peter is in a film with talking Racoons, talking trees, green women and greyish red hulking maniacs, blue, pink and yellow people on various planets and worlds. What was going to link and ground the movie for the primarily human audience was Peter. Also by extension the music and the soundtrack. What sets this movie apart and what makes this movie Marvel is that it doesn’t just take place on the other side of the universe without any connection to earth and humanity. The movie has a little bit on earth by way of our introduction to Peter Quill. He’s our entry point for humanity into this world. We needed to be entertained by him and to be moved by him. That was a long process and we auditioned a lot of people and we did quite elaborate screentests. More elaborate than we’d ever done before and more of them than ever before, in search of a star. We saw close to a dozen very good and well-known actors for this part. Chris came in and he initially didn’t want to come in. he felt a little self-conscious because his body was in Parks & recreation shape, which is closer to the shape I’m in now. We put all the actors in these long trench coats with guns and in addition to the acting scenes we had them do some posing pulling the guns out gunslinger style towards the camera. He didn’t initially want to do that and when he eventually came into do that, it wasn’t based on that move that we cast him let me put it that way. Now it’s his signature move and it’s awesome. He was by far the most dynamic and charismatic of any of the actors we saw. He was the first to give us the feeling. We have a barometer now when we’re casting. It’s Downey, Hemswoth, Ruffalo, Renner. Scarlett. So when we’re binging someone into the universe tat’s a high bar the have to match. Sometimes we find ourselves thinking well I guess this could work, but what you really want to feel is “That’s the guy! No question. Get Him”. We weren’t feeling that till Chris came in. Chris was also the reason we cast Dave Batista. James was very smart and ended up doing these chemistry tests between them and it’s what brought out Dave. When we put the two of them together it really brought the best out of them both. The fact the Lego movie did so well and Chris is getting all this heat or Jurassic World is a bonus. The best thing for us is that he’s the perfect Peter Quill and he takes his place alongside all those other great Marvel actors.
How about how Karren Gillan was brought on board?
It was again the audition process; we were looking at people in the states and over here. She had a great audition and it was a nice bonus that she had a fan base form Doctor Who. But also she was willing to shave her head! She ended up not only shaving her head. But if you may remember last year at comic con she came out in a wig and then dramatically revealed it. It was so ballsy and so awesome. She did all her behind the scenes interviews without makeup and totally bald. She’s beautiful with hair or without hair. So it was really really cool. Nebula the character she’s playing is a conflicted character and a character who needs to have a number of layers in a performance that comes through her rather striking look.