'Captain America: The Winter Soldier' Directors Discuss the Impact Their Movie Will Have on the Marvel Universe

'Captain America: The Winter Soldier' Directors Discuss the Impact Their Movie Will Have on the Marvel Universe

Sep 09, 2014

Director siblings Anthony and Joe Russo have had a Marvel-ous year. Not only was their movie Captain America: The Winter Soldier one of the biggest box office success stories of 2014, it received rave reviews for its gritty, more grounded take on characters from the Marvel universe. Captain America: The Winter Soldier comes out on Blu-ray 3D, Blu-ray and DVD on September 9.

We sat down the affable brothers from Cleveland, Ohio and picked their brains about what to expect in Captain America 3 and how the events of The Winter Soldier will affect the entire Marvel universe, including future movies as well as TV's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Movies.com: Captain America: The Winter Soldier has a grittier feel than some of the fantastical Marvel movies like Thor and Guardians of the Galaxy. Did you take inspiration from any '70s conspiracy thrillers?

Joe Russo: Oh yeah, hard-core. We joke sometimes that you could refer to this movie as Three Days of Captain America because it owes such a debt to Three Days of the Condor. There are so many movies from that period that we reference, whether it be Marathon Man or Parallax View. We also borrowed from De Palma movies like Blow Out and Dressed to Kill. We love how De Palm knows how to create a tension sequence, where he will take five to 10 minutes of a film and play out a single conflict or tension moment and draw it out as long as he can. We applied that in a couple sequences, one being the elevator scene with Cap and the other being where Fury is trapped in his car. It's just putting characters in impossible situations and seeing how high you can ratchet the tension and how long you can sustain it.

Movies.com: With two brothers doing the directing, how is that divvied up scene to scene? Are you both there working together on every shot, or are some scenes handles by Anthony while others are handled exclusively by Joe?

J.R.: I sleep most of the day and show up at the end. [Laughs] We really don't split things up. We try to have a singular point of view presented to the actors and to the crew. We're big fans of the hive-mind concept: two brains are not definitely better than one brain, they're exponentially better. We're brothers, so we've spent a long time together, and we have commonality with respect to taste and tone. That makes it easier for us to make decisions.

What was the most difficult scene in Captain America: The Winter Soldier to shoot and why?

J.R.: Anything that involved Anthony Mackie was difficult! [Laughs]

Anthony Russo: Just because Mackie is so damn funny, that it takes a while to pull yourself together. Marvel has such a terrific team of people that Joe and I kept remarking about how not hard it was. But the sequence where the Winter Soldier fights Cap for the first time—where they fight on the freeway and then the fight spills out into the streets—that sequence was challenging primarily because we had to shut down a freeway in Cleveland, where we're from, for two weeks to shoot that sequence. It was controversial to shut the freeway down and there was no way we were getting an extension on it, so there was a lot of pressure on us to achieve everything we needed to achieve in that time period. We had two units running all the time and we worked nonstop every day. There were high stakes and we had such high ambitions about what that sequence could be or should be.

Movies.com: Was scoring Robert Redford in the role of S.H.I.E.L.D. senior leader Alexander Pierce a key ingredient to getting the tone of the movie you wanted to make?

J.R.: Absolutely. We knew the cultural impact it would have if we're going to have the star of some of the greatest political thrillers ever made to come play a villain in our film. We knew there would be an irony to that. It's like Henry Fonda playing a villain in Once Upon a Time in the West, which is one of our favorite films. We you can have that kind of cultural impact with casting, it's unquestionably a coup. On top of that, Robert's one of the nicest guys to ever work with. He's a true Renaissance man and a spectacular catch for us.

Movies.com: At the end of The Winter Soldier, S.H.I.E.L.D. is left in shambles. Will this have repercussions in future Marvel movies or the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. TV show? Was that discussed?

A.R.: Yes, that is now a narrative element in the Marvel universe moving forward. So anything that ties into the universe on a narrative level, everyone is moving forward from that event.

Movies.com: The Winter Soldier was postconverted to 3D? What are your feelings about the future of 3D and its value?

J.R.: That's a tough question to answer. I'm not the biggest fan of 3D. I have a hard time watching it sometimes—it's a little dizzying for me. I grew up watching movies in 2D and I enjoy them in 2D. If we can advance the technology a little bit to where it's more seamless and people start paying attention much more to the execution of 3D, I might revise that. But from my standpoint as a moviegoer—not even as a filmmaker—I think we both prefer the 2D format.

Movies.com: After the critical and commercial success of The Winter Soldier, you two have signed for Captain America 3, which is set for release on May 6, 2016. How involved are you two right now in the planning stages and what is being discussed? Will Black Widow return or will another Avenger join Cap on-screen? Jeremy Renner hinted Hawkeye could be a part of it.

A.R.: We're in the development phase and have been working on it since February or March. We just got another incredible draft from the writers and are very excited about the film. Marvel has got a very strict policy about divulging any of the elements of the movies, and it's a healthy policy because it keeps anything from being spoiled. I can't divulge who is going to be in the film, but I think the fans are going to freak out when they hear about  it.

The relationship between Cap and the Winter Soldier was never resolved at the end of the last movie. Thinking about where that relationship can go is a piece of the puzzle for us for sure. That character is a wonderfully, beautifully tragic figure in the sense of is he the world's most feared assassin or is he the world's longest serving POW. Is he innocent by reason of insanity or the equivalent of it because he's been mind controlled or is he irredeemable? Is he ever going to be acceptable to Cap again as the friend that he used to be before he was the Winter Soldier? These are very philosophical, emotional questions that pique our interest and definitely form one layer of the next movie.

As far as where else we want to take the character, we just want to keep moving Cap forward. We wanted to push the character forward into the modern age with The Winter Soldier, and we want to keep pushing the character forward. We don’t have the great narrative crutch, "oh, he's going to fall asleep for 70 years and wake up in a different time period." We have to find subtle ways to move him forward in this next movie, but we're trying to be very inventive with what we do with the character and where we take him. We always want to be true to who Captain America is, but we want to surprise people about where he can go and what he's capable of. That's about as specific as I can get about where we might take him.

Movies.com: Is Captain America your favorite superhero?

A.R.: He was one of them. Look, my brother was a big comic book collector. I was a comic book fan growing up, but not to the same degree. I sort of loved the art but wasn't as into reading them as he was. One of the first comics he ever got was the Captain America and Falcon team-up, so this character was definitely around when we were kids and we spent a lot of time thinking about him. It was a dream come true or a fantasy to actually be able to be a storyteller who had Cap as a central character in a narrative.

Movies.com: You financed your first film, Pieces, with student loans and credit cards. If crowd-sourcing had existed back then, would that have been a game changer for you guys?

J.R.: Even though it wasn't that long ago—it was the late '90s—things were so different. We shot that on Super 16 film. This was just after the industry started to convert to Avid, so we actually edited the movie on an old flatbed. We really made that movie in another era in terms of technology. Whenever we talk to young filmmakers, we get excited about all these new possibilities that are out there in terms of realizing your vision as an independent filmmaker without breaking the bank. We're always excited about what's the new best thing, so even though we don't need to use things like crowd-sourcing because we work in the more commercial end of the business now, we spend a lot of time watching work that is made that way. We discover a lot of new talent through short films that are made in that manner.

Movies.com: You're both directing and cowriting The Gray Man. What can you tell readers about this movie?

J.R.: It's based on a novel and about a very complex lead character who is the most renowned black-ops hit man in the world. It's a relentless roller-coaster ride of a film from start to finish, so it's like a freight train of action. It's a really contemporary movie that touches on a lot of political issues.

A.R.: One of the most exciting things about it is that it's a spy thriller set in the modern world of corporate espionage and the writer really researched this thoroughly in the book. It's fascinating how that world works and what kinds of things can happen in it. It's kind of fresh territory to push the spy thriller into.

Follow Robert B. DeSalvo @zuulboy




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