As we dive into part 2 of our interview with the Russo Bros, we’ve now learned that Avengers: Infinity War will have its own unique tone compared to the other Avengers and Marvel films. Also that movies like 2 Days In The Valley inspired the story and genre of this narrative and that each of these characters will bring in their own energy to the movie. Let’s check out part 2 of our interview with Joe and Anthony Russo.
Seeing the evolution of you guys as action directors, Civil War was another notch up. What is the action in this film going to be?
Joe: Sure. Everything’s always got to be character based. I think you really can’t … We know we can’t. We’re sitting in the edit room, I’ll watch a sequence for more than 20 seconds without a character having a point of view or moving the action forward, my brain shuts down or I start thinking about my laundry. It’s always character based.
Anthony: What I was going to say in Winter Soldier in terms of character base, Winter Soldier was so specifically for us. Everything in that movie was designed around that version of Captain America that we wanted to see, that we wanted to explore. Everything in that film, all the stylistic choices flowed from that. Then Civil War was a bit of an evolution, because even though it was a Captain America movie, we were bringing so many other characters into it, characters that had powers, that were different from the range of characters we were using in Winter Soldier. Now it’s even more so. As the characters change, as their particular powers change, and the nature of who they are –
Joe: The chemistry changes.
Anthony: The chemistry, the style of our action evolves with that, because it again, it has to be specific to the character.
Joe: It’s dictated by [the following] who’s in the sequence? What is the sequence about? What do the characters want in the sequence? Are we trying to create a sense of urgency? Are we trying to slow it down? Is it about tension or is it about aggression? I think you’ll see several different styles employed in the movie, because the chemistry is different in each sequence and the needs of each sequence are different.
Despite being a follow up of Captain America’s story you guys are working on, you’re also now [working on] the third and fourth Avengers movies. How much do you have to look at the work and do you have to escalate that?
Joe: We look in the way that you would look at writers in comic books. People pick up different runs and they go with it. If there are things from mythology that you are inspired by or you find thematic relevance in, you go with that. If there are things in mythology that you want to see differently, then you explore ways to execute it differently. There is a list of movies that have preceded this, but those movies have been directed by a lot of different directors with a lot of different styles and a lot of different things to say. I have found repeatedly for the best and only way for us to move forward is to receive that information and keep what we like and explore what we like and exploit what we like, and tell the story that we want to tell. I think the audience goes with you when you make those changes or there’s things that you discard, or same whether you do in a comic run or when you’re reading it. You go, “I want to see someone else’s point of view on this.” That was an awesome point of view and I had a lot of fun with that.
And that’s what I think Marvel’s done really well by bringing in a lot of different voices to execute their films.
I understand James Gunn working on this film. Can you tell us a little bit outside of obviously him working on the Guardian stuff, what other aspects of the stories he collaborating with you on and what’s your experience been like with him?
Joe: It’s been very similar I think too, again, it’s very much of a piece of how we’ve interacted with all the voices in the MCU, whether it be Taika or James or…I would say collectively everyone in the Marvel universe has been involved in this movie. We’re very close with all the directors. We love them all. We have a lot of conversations with people constantly. We had a lot of talking with Taika — because that movie isn’t finished and he had executed things on set that we needed real information about tonally about the direction that he was going in. The Guardians two movies existed. We had seen both so we have an understanding of how those characters behave. I think James’ function in the way that everyone has been functioning, I think it’s a nod to James, the EP credit that he really helped recreate those characters. As far as how we’re working, we’re working in a real collaborative, united artist approach to the movie with respect to hearing peoples, where people are taking their characters and two, it’s about to start shooting, so we need to keep in communication with Peyton constantly about story elements in that that may affect this.
Coogler, I’m sorry, we didn’t mention. Ryan was in the middle of shooting Black Panther and he was here and we had several conversations, met with him many times, met with the crew many times with him, his production design department. We had a lot of interaction with Nate Moore, the producer, many text messages back and forth with Ryan. It’s really trying to do the job of managing the universe as it’s progressing.
Anthony: I think here’s really where it becomes relevant, most relevant is that if a movie has been completed, there’s really nothing else to talk about. The movie exists. It’s like everything you need to know is in that movie, is on the screen. That’s the expression, that’s the story, that’s the experience that we all had of it, and that’s what you need to know to carry that story forward and those characters forward. For the movies that haven’t been completed, that’s where it gets into a tricky spot for us, because we want to make sure that we’re being sensitive to what’s happening during the execution of those films, what’s the process of discovery that they will go through and the execution that’s different from what was on the page in the scripts, which we, of course, we read all the scripts. That’s really where it becomes critical that we communicate with other people to understand how things are evolving while we’re executing, while they’re executing, concurring the execution.
Joe: And what we need from their storytelling to help move us forward. I think in particular on this one, that was Ryan, because he was shooting while we were shooting, and there’s a lot of cross-collaboration there. He’s done an amazing job with the level of detail that he’s brought to the [Black Panther] universe, and it’s incredible. We’ve seen the trailer. It’s mind-blowing.
I wanted to ask about Thanos. We’ve only seen him a couple times. He was sitting down, talking to people, or putting on his glove. You guys are really bringing him to the screen, assumingly doing things. Talkl about the process of bringing that character to life and working with Josh.
Anthony: Josh is an amazing actor, obviously. One of the things about Thanos that we’re most excited about is, look, one of the great things about these movies, visual effects is that the technology is always evolving. Every couple of years you’re able to make a leap forward in some respect and bring something to the screen in an execution level that you haven’t quite seen before. That’s what’s so exciting about it, whether it be something like Skinny Steve or whatever the case may be. Well, as that technology evolves, we are able to bring more and more of what Josh Brolin can do as a performer into the fabric and the texture of what Thanos is in a way that we are extremely excited about. Our visual effects team is very excited about it. I think one thing is figuring out, again, having such a cursory view of the character in the past, it’s almost like now we get to do the flip side of that, where you’re going to see every little vein in his face and every little twitch that Josh does. It’s a very, very intimate portrayal and performance.
We saw in the movie you give us something that no one in the MCU has done before, and that’s shooting two movies, essentially at the same time. There’s been a lot of miscommunication about how they interact. Can you talk about how you’re approaching that now and why you’re shooting them back to back. Is it really for schedule purposes?
Anthony: Yeah. It’s like we look at the process, as do Marcus and McFeely. It’s simply the same thing in the way that the Winter Soldier relates to Civil War and the way that Civil War relates to Infinity War. There’s a narrative thread that is connecting these films, but at the same time there’s an independence in terms of what the experience is or where the story goes. It isn’t a true two-parter. I think maybe the two-parter concept came back when Marvel decided when they were going to culminate the MCU it was going to be a two movie deal. As we developed the movie in execution, it ended up being more of a singular, two singular expressions. I think that’s what happened there.
You were saying earlier that every character is someone’s favorite character. Is there anyone in particular that you guys are excited for the audience to react?
Anthony: Anthony Mackie.
Joe: I think between Ragnarok and this film, I think Thor has a really compelling arc. I think he’s a pretty fascinating character and I think he’s going to jump to the forefront of people’s minds as a pivotal Marvel character after Ragnarok and this.
You guys fought to make sure that Spider-Man was going to be in Civil War. Are there any characters where you guys really had to, “We want these guys?”
Joe: Everybody. Every character. Everybody, all the deals are hard. Everybody’s expensive. It’s very complicated to put together a movie of this scale. Sometimes it’s easier to say, “Maybe we should not do it with these guys.”
Anthony: They truly are, these movies are a producing wonder. There are very few producing entities and producers, like Kevin Feige that can pull together something like this.
I’m curious what your thoughts are on the Academy and their opinion of superheros and when you think that tipping point for superhero movies might be?
Anthony: Here’s the thing, it’s a hard question, because we’re film makers. All we do is think these stories are very important. We love them. We find them as exciting and as complex and inspiring and heartbreaking and we believe that there are real stakes in them, real, emotional stakes. For us, yeah, these are exactly the kind of movies we aspire to and exactly the kind of movies we look for as film goers in the movie theater. I think you find that in the vast majority of the audiences. The Academy sometimes plays a role of protecting films that need more support. The Academy’s been very effective in promoting movies and getting eyeballs on movies that don’t necessarily get large audiences. I think that’s been one mission of the Academy and one very effective mission that they play in terms of pulling attention to movies that can use it.
Is there a shift in focus on who the main characters may be or a shift in style, even, with movie two?
Joe: We always try to make each film different so they don’t get repetitive. This kind of serialized story telling again, outside of the Bond franchise or Harry Potter, which was a distinctive story that was told. Harry Potter was a distinctive story that was told. Over that set of movies you have to keep evolving and you have to keep evolving who’s at the forefront and who you’re laying the story on, because I think rigamortis would set in really quickly. For us, we absolutely are a very, very particular about who carried the ball in this movie and now who will carry it in this film. Each character represents a different theme. Each character has different wants and that can shape and color and re-tone an entire film depending on who you’re following, especially in stories this big.
I know there’s a ton of comic books with Thanos and the infinity gems, but were there any particular ones that were influential to you guys when making this?
Joe: Certainly the starting book was our jumping off point. The ideas behind it are so large, it’s what pushed us to go for the scale that we’re going for on these movies. We also draw from, Anthony and I love the post-modern comics. We’re also drawing from Infinity, new stuff, and we’re combining it all into, again, what’s our favorite stuff and how do we see elements from each helping our story and the story we want to tell.
You mentioned that you read or you guys were reading a bunch of the scripts for the other Marvel movies. Is there one before Infinity War that has the biggest lead-in that we should be accepting?
Joe: They all lead in, in their own way, I think. As far as plot elements that actually drive towards the story, again, I think Marvel does a great job of segmenting the movie so that you can have your own experience in each film. I think from a plot standpoint, if there’s any corollary, Ant Man 2 probably has some elements that stitch in.
Anthony: But we can’t talk about what.
This interview was edited and condensed for clarity.
Avengers: Infinity War will be released in theaters nationwide on April 27th.
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Jamie Broadnax is the creator of the online community for Black women called Black Girl Nerds. Jamie has appeared on MSNBC's The Melissa Harris-Perry Show and The Grio's Top 100. Her Twitter personality has been recognized by Shonda Rhimes as one of her favorites to follow. She's the primary film critic for BGN and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critic Association