Exclusive Interview with Marvel Directors: Anthony & Joe Russo


Marvel Directors Russo Brothers Interview

I am a total Marvel Fan Girl, and if you haven’t figure that out yet, then you haven’t been paying a lot of attention to my site. So when I found out that one of my exclusive interviews in LA would be Anthony & Joe Russo, the directors of Captain America: Civil War (and Captain America: The Winter Soldier) I was beyond excited! These brothers will also be directing Avengers: Infinity War Parts I & II – which are movies I cannot wait for.

Joe Russo

Photo Credit: Coralie Seright / LoveBugsAndPostcards.com

Veering Away From the Comic Books

I was lucky enough to see the movie the night before talking with them so my mind was filled with questions. As a comic book reader, I was very happy with how the film was done. As much as I love the story lines, I don’t want to go and see the movie follow exactly the same story. Don’t get me wrong, I want to see it done well and for the film to stay true to the characters, but I like to be surprised. I was happy to hear that Joe Russo feels exactly the same way,

I’m the first guy to line up to see the midnight showing of a movie I’m excited about. 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. [I] want to be part of the cultural conversation about that movie.”

Russo Brothers

Photo Credit: Coralie Seright / LoveBugsAndPostcards.com

“As a diehard 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? The Marvel Cinematic Universe is building its characters in a very specific way that is very different than the comic books. Film is a very different medium then comic books. We have 2 to 2 ½ hours to tell a story and we can only put out one of those movies once a year to move these characters forward. So we have to make choices that are servicing the storytelling that is built up in the MCU. 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. So 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.

Directing Captain America Civil War

Marvel’s Captain America: Civil War
L to R: Director Anthony Russo, Chadwick Boseman (Black Panther), Sebastian Stan (Winter Soldier) and Director Joe Russo filming a scene on set.
Photo Credit: Zade Rosenthal
© Marvel 2016

Captain America or Iron Man?

Anthony and Joe asked us what team we were all on and we were pretty evenly split. We asked them if there was any rivalry between them when writing the script and planning out the film between Captain America and Iron Man. The answer was as I expected – they love both characters equally. Anthony explained:

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 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. They’re both very near and dear to our hearts. Joe and I love characters who are exciting and fun and cool 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.

Conflict Creating Discussion

I must say, the conflict was done extremely well. I felt for both characters are different points throughout the film and I honestly left a little bit Team Iron Man and a little bit Team Cap. That is hard to admit guys, because I am totally Team Iron Man…the movie is done that well. I just cannot wait for you all to see it so we can talk about it!

Captain America: Civil War L to R: Chris Evans (Captain America) on set w/ Director Joe Russo Ph: Zade Rosenthal ©Marvel 2016

Captain America: Civil War L to R: Chris Evans (Captain America) on set w/ Director Joe Russo Ph: Zade Rosenthal ©Marvel 2016

And that really is what the directors had in mind while writing and making the film.

The intent with the film was hopefully when you’re done watching you leave the theater and you argue with your family and friends about [whose side you are on]. 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.” Joe explained.

Captain America: Civil War Director Joe Russo on set. Ph: Zade Rosenthal ©Marvel 2016

Captain America: Civil War Director Joe Russo on set. Ph: Zade Rosenthal ©Marvel 2016

The Politics of Captain America

You may or may not have known, but the Russos’ vision for Captain America: The Winter Soldier was a 1970s spy movie type film. Someone asked them what their vision was for Civil War and Anthony answered,

You can’t do a movie called Captain America without 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 maybe even launches us into this movie, we always thought about this movie as a psychological thriller.”

“That shift was very important to us because the heart of this movie for us is the relationship and the conflict between Captain America, Bucky Barnes, and Tony Stark. It’s 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.

No spoilers from me guys but I will say WOW, that reveal is pretty amazing – you have to go see Captain America: Civil War this weekend, you won’t regret it.

Anthony Russo

Photo Credit: Coralie Seright / LoveBugsAndPostcards.com

Filming Intense Scenes

There are some pretty amazing and intense scenes in the film and so we asked what the hardest part about filming was. Anthony explained that

There’s different things [so]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 getting the emotional stuff, the performance stuff out of them is easy. The execution of action though is very, very hard. We are action fetishists we always say, so we love action. We use action very specifically to find ways to express character and express narrative through action.”

“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. 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 back lot outside our studio in Atlanta where we just put down an enormous slab of concrete and 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 and some of those characters are entirely CGI.”

Captain America: Civil War L to R: Director Joe Russo, Director Anthony Russo, and Frank Grillo (Crossbones/Brock Rumlow) on set. Ph: Zade Rosenthal ©Marvel 2016

Captain America: Civil War
L to R: Director Joe Russo, Director Anthony Russo, and Frank Grillo (Crossbones/Brock Rumlow) on set.
Ph: Zade Rosenthal
©Marvel 2016

Filming in Atlanta

Joe added in that the Atlanta heat made filming hard for the actors as well. 

“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 one day where he was hanging on wires out there in full Vision outfit and he moved his arm in a way that his sleeve opened up and sweat just squirt[ed out]. That’s true.

Captain America: Civil War L to R: Directors Joe Russo and Anthony Russo, w/ D.P. Trent Opaloch and crew on set. Ph: Zade Rosenthal ©Marvel 2016

Captain America: Civil War
L to R: Directors Joe Russo and Anthony Russo, w/ D.P. Trent Opaloch and crew on set.
Ph: Zade Rosenthal
©Marvel 2016

Tom Holland as Spider-Man

I personally love that airport scene – it is one of my favorites from the entire film. As you know from the trailer, Spider-man shows up and WOW – that kid (Tom Holland) is a great actor! He is the perfect Spider-man, and I wasn’t the only one who saw the film that thought that – we all did! Someone actually asked the Russos where they found him and if they plan to hold on to him. Joe expressed the same enthusiasm we did immediately.

Oh my God, we are doing everything we can to hang onto him. 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 the actors. 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. 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 [comic]books was a very self-aware. He was a smart ass kid but he was a kid. We felt that we wanted to have an actor very close in age to Peter Parker – and Tom’s a young actor. We also wanted to make sure that the actor had both 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. 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 comic book New York.

Russo Brothers Group Photo

Avengers: Infinity War

What can we look forward to with the Infinity War movies? Well I can tell you one thing, I don’t think the Russo brothers will disappoint us. “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 face the greatest threat that they’re ever going to face. Can they pull together? Can they forgive each other? Will they forgive each other? Should they forgive each other? Can they ever work together again? And so I think you’ll see some fracturing as we move forward – this Civil War is not over – and it’s certainly going to carry forward. In the fracturing you will see camps of characters dealing with each other and moving forward.” I cannot wait to see what the Russos have in store for us over the next few years, I know it is going to be amazing!

Captain America: Civil War hits theaters on May 6th, 2016
Be sure to see it (at least once) opening weekend – I will be!

About Captain America: Civil War

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.

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