Right when the MCU started off, Marvel began making very interesting decisions with the directors they chose to helm these franchises. Some of the directors have worked out, others haven’t, but one of the more obscure hires was when they chose Joe and Anthony Russo to direct Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Their prior credits did nothing to indicate they were capabling of tackling just not an important character like Captain America, but a bige, action film. Of course, looking back now, we all know how successful that move actually was and how perfect the Russo brothers proved to be for the gig. Following their massive hit, they have since directed Captain America: Civil War, which comes out this week, and will direct both parts of Avengers: Infinity War.
They have definitely won Marvel’s trust and it looks like the MCU is in great hands for Phase 3, and hopefully beyond. The brothers recently talked to Collider about their experience working with Marvel and they discussed how creatively free Marvel allows them to be. Based on their comments, Marvel is not hindering filmmakers but instead letting them push the narrative.
Joe: Frankly, our experience has been that it’s pretty wide open. With Winter Soldier, they knew they wanted to make a political thriller, but the interpretation of the character was wide open, the story events. There was actually a very good script from Markus and McFeely, but we went in after we got the job and did a bunch of work on the script with them, brought in different characters, really worked to interpret it in the way that we wanted to interpret it.
Civil War was a wide open playing field. It was really just something that came up casually in conversations because we’re all comic book fans and [we talked about] what are the ambitious things we could do if we returned to do the third Captain America movie? And once we settled on the concept, I think we’ve done so many movies there now, we’re about to do four films for them, and we’ve worked Markus and McFeely, who have done more movies than we have done with them, we’re a little bit of a sub-studio where it’s easy for us as a group to come up with conceptually what we want to do and then we will ask questions about whether this would interfere with a storyline in another movie. Or, what’s going on in that film, can we pull some of that into this film? That’s where you start looking for the interconnectedness, but it’s very important early on that the concept be created in a bubble because you have to protect the idea, it has to be driven by storytelling. Kevin’s very good about just attacking each movie as they come and then figuring out what the movies are after that. Because if you get ahead of yourself two things can happen. One is you take your eye off the ball and you make a mess of a movie, and then the second thing that would happen is then you don’t get to make any more movies. So he’s always in the mindset of “let’s just make this movie now and worry about the next movie when it comes”.
Anthony: The most simple way I could put it is Marvel doesn’t come to the filmmakers and say, “Here’s what the next movie is.” They come to the filmmakers and say, “What is the next movie?” That’s very much the process.
This creative freedom is what helped them land their first job with Marvel. They went into great detail about the process they had to go through, which included a two month process composed of various forms of forming the story. Considering there are always those reports insisting that Marvel doesn’t allow their directors a lot of freedom creatively, it’s nice to hear the Russo brothers make comments similar to those of James Gunn, insisting that the studio makes sure to fully listen to their talent and collaborate with them on their film slate.
Joe: Well you know, we’re very passionate about our pitch. We’re passionate about the character, I’ve been collecting comics since I was a kid. We have very similar upbringing to Kevin. We’re comic book obsessed, we’re pop culture obsessed we have a lot of the same reference points, so very similar personality types.
Anthony: But it was a very long process.
Joe: It was. It was not easy.
Anthony: We went through a series of four meetings with Marvel over the course of about two months where we kept getting more and more specific about what our vision was.
Joe: Reference videos, storyboards, script pages, you name it. We did like a 30-page book that had everything that we’d do with the character, from the theme of the movie to the tone of the film to the fighting style to what we liked about the character and what we didn’t like about his characters — because frankly he was not one of my favorite characters growing up, I always found him a little square. So we wanted to add an element of deconstruction to the character and to examine him in a way that was different than the microscope Joe had used on the character. Because his was an homage to the Golden Age, and what we wanted to do was modernize Cap and to make him really flawed and human — or as flawed and human as we could.
Anthony: Yeah, it was a tough process but we feel in love with the material, we fell in love the project, we really wanted it so basically it took over our lives for two months. We were doing almost nothing but developing the movie before we had the job, but the good news was we figured the movie out before we got hired, which was very cool. But I remember — my wife likes to remind me, toward the end of the process before we got the job, she said, “I remember you said to me, ‘I have to re-examine my entire career if we don’t get this job.’” Because it felt like we were meant to do the movie and Joe and I were really excited about it.
Captain America: Civil War, which is easily Marvel’s best film to date, is scheduled to hit theaters May 6th, 2016. For those worried about whether or not the Russo brothers will be able to tackle the two-part Avengers epic Infinity Wars? Civil War should ease your concerns as the brothers have proven they’re more than capable of crafting not just great superhero films, but great films.