One of our interviews at the #CaptainAmerica event was with Anthony & Joe Russo – the directors of Captain America: Civil War. It was so nice to have them both in the room and to chat about their time directing this awesome movie which is in theaters TOMORROW!!
As soon as they walked in, they knew right away that we were a divided group – Team Cap and Team Iron Man. Joe opened this interview sharing that the intent of the film “was to hopefully when you’re done watching the movie you leave the theaters and you argue with your family friends about whether to be Team Cap or Team Iron Man. We didn’t want to make the declarative statement one way or the other. We just wanted to represent both as accurately and as emotionally as we could.”
Was there any rivalry between you guys writing the script and thinking out the process of the movie between Captain and Iron Man?
Anthony: No, I don’t think there was rivalry just because we love both characters. Our process has always been a 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 one character. Then, we’ll take a pass where it will be all about another character. We work with ensembles a lot in our work. It’s become part of our process to really have moments where the whole movie belongs to someone else, just one particular character for a moment as we’re thinking about the film from beginning to end.
That’s the process we went through with 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! Joe and I love the characters who are exciting and fun and cool but are also very human and vulnerable. We always look for that side of the character. It was very important to find where Steve Rogers was vulnerable? Where Tony Stark was vulnerable? Then sort of play that into this movie in a way that would put them in conflict with one another.
Spider-Man in the movie — where did you find him and are you going to hold onto that kid?
Joe: Oh my gosh! Yes, we are doing everything we can to hang onto him.
Anthony: We’re more in love with him than anybody.
Joe: There was a really exhaustive audition process for that role. We saw him for the first time in our office in Atlanta, it was Anthony and I. We were doing work sessions with all of the actors. Spider-Man was a very important character to me as a kid. I was a big comic book collector and I still have my collection in my closet to my wife’s dismay. That character was my favorite 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. I loved that his sense of humor in the books was a very self-aware one. He was a smart kid but he was a kid and we felt that in our interpretation of the character. We wanted to have an actor very close in age to Peter Parker. Tom’s a young actor and we also wanted to make sure the actor had both the vulnerability and a confidence at the same time. It made him accessible. Also, it would allow him to stand in contracts to all these other really experienced superheros who are running around dealing with a very adult problem. Then you insert that 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. Tom Holland just embodied all of that, he brought real authenticity. We really wanted him to feel like he was of New York today, right now and now about comic book New York. He was a kid living in Queens who had a certain energy to him and a certain feeling…. the feeling you get when the shift in your personality just happens when you live in New York City. So that was everything we were looking for and that kid just embodied it all so well. He was amazing in the film.
With your last film, you guys had wanted to do more like a 70’s spy thriller. Was that your vision? What was your vision going into this one?
Anthony: You can’t do a movie called Captain America without sort of having political, thinking about the politics of it. 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 the movie, we always thought about this movie as a psychological thriller. That shift was very important to us because you know 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 between those three characters in the climax of the film that we’re driving to, as storytellers, for the whole movie. We are setting up that sort of awful reveal and that awful tension that plays 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. We were thinking about movies in that vain. Like one of the movies we talked a lot about was David Fincher’s seven. We talked about Brian de Palma’s blowout a lot. These are movies that have had this similar trajectory where the characters are on this sort of road to something very awful. So what is going to happen to them when they get there? How are they going to react as characters? How are they going to weather it as characters? That was the heart of the film for us this time around.
When you guys are taking stories that are from the comic books and there are so many fans loyal to those comic books, how are you able to translate part of that story in keeping with the comic books and then deciding to kind of go away from that? What’s involved with deciding what you’re doing with that?
Joe: Well, as comic book fans ourselves — I was a HUGE comic book fan, I don’t have a lot of interest in seeing a straight interpretation of the book. I’m the first guy to line up to see the midnight showing of a movie. I’ll drag my son out with me and sit there until like 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. I want to be part of the cultural conversation about that movie. I already know the story so why would I go see the movie? You know, in the Marvel cinematic universe the characters are being built in a specific way that is very different than a comic book. Film is a very different medium than comic books. We have 2-2 1/2 hours to tell a story. We can only put out one of those movies once a year, once every 2 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. So, Civil War in this universe is very different than the Civil War in the comic books. We don’t have the same characters, we don’t have the same storytelling. For us, 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 we were really committed to making sure that when he got to the end he had a VERY difficult time deciding who was right.
What was the hardest scene to shoot and what was the best scene to shoot?
Anthony: Oh, that’s a good question! It’s hard to answer! There’s different things and it depends on what you’re focusing on at any given moment. These actors are good right, they’re very easy to direct. Getting the emotional stuff like the performance stuff out of them is easy. The execution of action, though, is very hard. We are action fetishists, we always say. We love action and we use action very specifically to find ways to express character 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 to prepare that sequence. It took us an extremely long time to execute that sequence. 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 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. Then some of those characters are entirely CG so they’re interacting in the fight.
Joe: Plus, 110 degrees in Atlanta! We would take the temperature of the asphalt we were standing on and it was close to 125. Guys like Chris Evans and Chadwick Boseman in full costumes standing out there. Poor Paul Bettany, I remember a day where he was hanging on wires out there in full Vision outfit. He moved in arm and his sleeve opened up and sweat just poured out!
Anthony: They’re just dissolving in front of your eyes!
Joe: So, certainly uncomfortable circumstances but they’re very difficult sequences to shoot.
Anthony: The best scene to shoot was the Romania sequence. It was very thrilling to be in that tunnel. We love cars, we love vehicle chases. The moment where Winter Soldier grabs the motorcycle!! We like hand-t0-hand fighting which is what we really focused on in the Winter Soldier with Captain America. So, to bring him forward and have a fight with him and Bucky Barnes fighting their way out of the apartment through the stairwell, that was another thing that’s awesome for us!
Joe: Natasha’s Fights!
Anthony: Yes! Natasha is amazing. Scarlett is an amazing actor. There’s a wonderful stunt woman who works with her and we call her Heidi moneymaker.
Joe: She really embodies that character and allows us to do some of those really awesome Natasha sequences.
The love story with Captain America and Agent 13 — are you looking forward to furthering that and sharing more of that with the audience?
Joe: Yea, we’re sitting down and breaking into new war stories now and might be the next time that you see a lot of these characters on screen. Where do these characters go? Where do we want them to be? The interesting thing about Civil War for us is the fact that we knew we were going to be doing the infinity war films and there’s really a connection between the Winter Soldier, Civil War and the infinity war films. It’s an arch and that arch is a part of this family. What we thought would be most interesting heading into infinity war would be putting these characters in the most complicated position they could possibly be in to the face of the greatest threat that they’re ever going to face. Can they pull together? Can they forgive each other? Can they ever work together again? So, I think you’ll see some fracturing as we move forward. In the fracturing, you will see camps of characters dealing with each other and moving forward. Certainly Captain America and Agent 13 will be a part of that.
What an awesome interview we had with the directors. Captain America: Civil War hits theaters tomorrow (5/6)! Stay tuned for a movie review and more tomorrow!!! I cannot wait for you to see it.