Russo Brothers Talk About Captain America
After screening Captain America Civil War, all I kept thinking about was how the whole tone of the movie seemed to pull the viewer in different directions, making it hard to choose a definite side. Anthony and Joe Russo directed the film, and they were second on our list of interviews on press day, and we were all excited to talk to them about the movie.
The brothers walked in the room, introduced themselves, asked us how we were doing, asked if we’d seem the movie, and then asked us which side we were on. Then asked us to do our response again, and proclaimed “that’s exactly what we were hoping for.” Meaning when they directed the film they wanted people to feel torn between two characters we had grown to love each in a different way. Now we’re being told to pick one side, but honestly once you see the movie, you’ll understand that picking a side is hard.
That was the intent with the film was to hopefully when you’re done watching the movie you leave the theater and you argue with your family and friends. We didn’t want to make a declarative statement one way or the other. We just want to represent both as accurately and emotionally as we could. It’s not the kind of story that the directors need to be too firm with their point of view and because I think it would close off the opportunity to have a conversation after the movie. – Joe Russo
With brothers you always worry about rivalry and so of course the question was asked to the brothers about any rivalry while directing the film.
No, I don’t think there was rivalry just because we both love both characters. Our process has always been, very layered storytelling so often times when we’re breaking the story or prepping a movie we’ll sort of step through the story from different characters points of view. We’ll take a pass where it’ll just be all about this character. And then we’ll take a pass where it’ll be all about that character. We work with ensembles a lot in our work. And so it’s become part of our process to really have moments where the whole movie belongs to somebody else, just one particular character for a moment as we’re thinking about the film from beginning to end.
So, I think that’s the process we went through on this movie as well with the writers, Markus and McFeely and the producer, Nate Moore from Marvel and Kevin Feige. They’re both very near and dear to our hearts. We love them both. Another thing about Joe and I is that we love characters who are exciting and fun and cool at all that but also are very human and vulnerable. We always look for that side of the character. So for us it was very important to find where’s Steve Rogers vulnerable? Where is Tony Stark vulnerable? And sort of play to those in this movie in a way that would put them in conflict with one another. – Anthony Russo
The appearance of Spider-Man in the movie was a treat for us, he was hilarious, genuine, and added a whole new layer to an already great movie. We asked the brothers about the character and our hopes to see him again.
There was a really exhaustive audition process for that role. And you know we saw him for the first time in our office in Atlanta, it was Anthony and I. We were doing work sessions with all the actors. And he came in and, Spider-Man was a very important character to me as a kid. I was a big comic book collector. I still have my collection in my closet to my wife’s dismay. And you know, that character was my favorite character growing up. So to be able to interpret him on screen was like a dream come true.
The things that I loved about him as a character when I was a kid were his vulnerability, his insecurity, his sense of humor. But I loved that his sense of humor in the books. He was a smart ass kid but he was a kid. And we felt that with our interpretation of the character, we wanted to have an actor very close in age to Peter Parker. And Tom’s a young actor. And we also wanted to make sure that the actor had both the vulnerability and a confidence at the same time.
It made him accessible. But also would allow him to stand in contrast to all these other really experienced superheroes who are running around dealing with a very adult problem. And then you insert into that a kid who’s trying to improvise his way through the situation but doesn’t really understand the stakes and couldn’t understand the stakes because he’s a kid. And Tom Holland just embodied all of that. He brought a real authenticity. That was the other thing too is that we really wanted him to feel like he was of New York today, right now and not about comic book New York. – Joe Russo
Anthony and Joe had a vision for this movie, and I have to say they did a great job bringing it to life for us to enjoy.
You can’t do a movie called Captain America without sort of having political, thinking about the politics of it, okay? It’s at the center of the character, who the character is from as inception and obviously in his name. So while there is still elements of the political thriller that carries us forward and kind of maybe even launches us into this movie, we always thought about this movie as a psychological thriller. And that shift was very important to us because the heart of this movie for us is the relationship and the conflict between Captain America you know Bucky Barnes and Tony Stark.
What has to play out between those three characters in the climax of the film that we are driving towards as storytellers for the whole movie. We are setting up that sort of awful reveal and that awful tension that plays out between those characters in that moment. So that’s why we always thought of it as a psychological thriller in terms of what happens to these characters on a psychological and emotional level when this horrible revelation comes through at the end of the film. – Anthony Russo
Comic book fans can be hard to please, they love the characters they know and read from their comics, since Marvel changes some of those aspects we wanted to know from the brothers how they decide what to keep and what to change.
Well, as comic book fans ourselves and I was you know a huge comic book fan, I don’t have a lot of interest, I’m the first guy to line up to see the midnight showing of a movie I’m excited about. And I’ll drag my son out with me and sit there till 2:30 in the morning and watch the film just because I want to have that immediate response to the movie the same way that everybody does want to be part of the cultural conversation about that movie. As a die-hard comic book fan I’m not interested in seeing a straight interpretation of a comic book.
I already know the story, so why would I go see the movie? You know in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is also in building its characters in a very specific way that is very different than a comic books. Film is a very different medium then comic books. You know, we have two hours, 2 ½ hours to tell a story in. And we can only put out one of those movies once a year, every two years to move these characters forward. So we have to make choices that are servicing the storytelling that is built up in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
And so Civil War in the MCU is very different than Civil War in the comic books. We don’t have the same characters, we don’t have the same storytelling. We borrowed the concept and applied it to our characters. But we also needed what we felt was a very emotional reason that would drive the story on both sides because again we were really committed to making sure that when he got to the end he had a very difficult time deciding who was right. – Joe Russo
Seeing the finished product of Civil War, it looked amazing, the brothers made it seem like it was easy to create this blockbuster, we really wanted to know what portion was hard to film or the most amazing scene to film.
Yeah, well a little bit, there’s different things that you know it depends on what you’re focusing on at any given moment. These actors are all so good, right? They’re easy to direct, their amazing actors. So like getting the emotional stuff like the performance stuff out of them is easy. Yeah, the execution of action though is very, very hard. And we are action fetishists we always say. So we love action. And we use action very specifically to find ways to express characters and express narrative through action. So, that airport scene was about the biggest thing we’ve ever attempted to do.
It was almost like a mini movie within the movie. It took months and months and months to prepare that sequence. It took us an extremely long time to execute that sequence. And that sequence was built in many different ways. There’s some practical shooting we did at a location in Germany called Leipzig at an actual airport there. We had to build a huge what they call a back lot outside our studio in Atlanta where we just put down an enormous slab of concrete, surrounded it with green screen. Some of those characters are really physically there and are highly trained to do very difficult stunts with the stunt team as well. And then some of those characters are entirely CG. So they’re interacting in the fight. – Anthony Russo
Joe also chimed in because he felt like this was an important question, he wanted to share what he felt like the most bad-ass scene to shoot, but Anthony ended up sharing what was bad-ass to him. If you’ve watched television lately you’ve probably seen a portion of that scene.
The Romania sequence was really thrilling to be in that tunnel. You know, we love cars, like we love vehicle chases, car chases. The moment where Winter Soldier grabs the motorcycle. Also we’re big, we love fighting. We like hand-to-hand fighting which is what we you know really what we focused on in the Winter Soldier with Captain America. – Anthony Russo
Marvel’s “Captain America: Civil War” finds Steve Rogers leading the newly formed team of Avengers in their continued efforts to safeguard humanity. But after another incident involving the Avengers results in collateral damage, political pressure mounts to install a system of accountability, headed by a governing body to oversee and direct the team. The new status quo fractures the Avengers, resulting in two camps—one led by Steve Rogers and his desire for the Avengers to remain free to defend humanity without government interference, and the other following Tony Stark’s surprising decision to support government oversight and accountability. Get ready to pick a side and join the nonstop action playing out on two fronts when Marvel’s “Captain America: Civil War” opens in U.S. theaters on May 6, 2016.
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Disclosure: I attended an all expenses paid press trip with Disney/Marvel, any opinions expressed are my own. Photos used in this post were provided by Disney and Coralie S. of LoveBugs and Postcards.