Joe and Anthony Russo weren't exactly an obvious choice to direct Captain America: The Winter Soldier - since their biggest feature film credit beforehand was the Owen Wilson comedy You, Me and Dupree - but I think we can all agree that it worked out for the best. The Captain America sequel is one of the biggest and most critically acclaimed blockbusters of 2014, so with the film now available on DVD and Blu-ray we thought it was the perfect time to get them on the phone and talk about the production of The Winter Soldier and the build up to Captain America 3, which the Russo Brothers already have in development.
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What's coming up in Captain America 3? Why doesn't the Captain America: The Winter Soldier Blu-ray have more deleted scenes? Will we see more Falcon action in the third installment? Why is it so important for The Russo Brothers to provide the Blu-ray with an exceptional commentary track? How many employees at Disneyland are secretly Hydra agents? And what do they think of Chris Evans' plans to quit acting and direct movies himself?
Find out... now.
CraveOnline: Guys, first question… What the hell are you doing talking to me? Get back to work on Captain America 3!
Anthony Russo: That’s excellent advice, yeah.
Joe Russo: By the way we need a break. We’ve been working on Captain America 3 since February. We’re exhausted. So we’re hard at work on it and hopefully we’re going to announce soon and hopefully people are going to be excited as hell when they hear what we’re up to.
I’m excited just in principle. We know the movie is coming out, so what are you going to announce? A plot? A title?
Joe Russo: Yeah, we’d like to announce the title soon.
Has the title been in place for a while?
Joe Russo: If you’ve been talking to Kevin [Feige, President of Marvel Studios] the title has been in place probably for ten years in his brain. It’s all part of the road map that he’s laid out, and it’s all part of the bigger plan.
So as with the continuation of the Captain America story in The Winter Soldier, the third one has been all part of a plan from the beginning? Were you building to Captain America 3 in the second movie?
Joe Russo: Yeah, I think the way Kevin does it is there are big pieces that he knows he wants to build towards, but the way that you get there is open to interpretation and improv a little bit. That’s defined by who gets involved with the project, the writers and directors involved in the project. The big thing we knew we had to deal with in Cap 2 was the fall of Hydra. Similarly there is a very, very big idea at the center of Cap 3. But how we get there is all up to us. And I think why Marvel has been so successful is because it’s been such a clear plan, that everything is interconnected and they’re building emotional capital with each movie that you can then trade off of in the next film.
What sort of pieces aren’t in place? The villain, the main cast members involved, or Cap’s emotional journey, or is all of that part of the major plan?
Joe Russo: No, all that stuff is open for interpretation. Usually it’s just one big idea that alters the universe as a whole in some way, that has interconnectedness that he’s grabbed on to. That’s the case with Cap 3, but as far as villain and story arc and tone, all that stuff is left up to us.
Well how can you possible screw with the universe more than you did in Captain America: The Winter Soldier? You WRECKED the universe in that one.
Anthony Russo: Who knows? It’s a surprising universe.
I was able to listen to the commentary track for Captain America: The Winter Soldier. You guys give great commentary track.
Joe Russo: Well, we try to. That was an important thing for us growing up as filmmakers, is getting real insight. I really liked when I would sit down to listen to a commentary track and the director was telling me very insightful things that were truthful about the process, good or bad, because you learn from commentaries. That’s why you listen to it. You want to understand the finer details of the execution of the film. So we try to be as honest as we can and informative as we can, so usually we try to do a little prep before we get into the room and just try to remind ourselves what was going on in our brains at the time when we shot certain scenes, or why we included things and didn’t include others.
There aren’t a lot of deleted scenes on the Blu-ray, and most of them are just exposition or scene extensions. Did you just use everything or is there a lot more out there?
Anthony Russo: No, fortunately we had a nice long prep time on this and Winter Soldier, and we worked closely with [Christopher] Markus and [Stephen] McFeely, so by the time we got to shooting the script was extremely tight. We wanted to make sure we were spending our money where we really needed to, so we didn’t want to shoot anything extraneous. So we had a very tight script going into shooting and the final edit is remarkably similar to the shooting script.
Are you having that much prep time on Cap 3? It sounds like you guys just jumped right into it.
Anthony Russo: Yeah, I think because it went so well on the last one we really wanted to. You know, again, the thing about Marvel is that the bar keeps getting raised higher and higher, so you have to go to work earlier because you have to keep striving for something that’s hopefully better than what you’ve already done. Yeah, we got to work right away because we feel the heat.
Have you got a draft you’re comfortable with now or is that still in flux?
Joe Russo: Yeah, we have an outstanding draft. We were lucky enough to work again with Markus and McFeely. They’re the best in the business at what they do. They have a really sensitive understanding of character and story, but also brains that really wrap themselves around the high concepts, big superhero concepts. We just got a draft in our hands that we’re ecstatic with.
Do they just try to sneak M.O.D.O.K. into these movies?
I think Christopher Markus in particular is really obsessed.
Joe Russo: Markus is obsessed with M.O.D.O.K.
Anthony Russo: [Laughs.]
Joe Russo: But I can’t tell if it’s that Markus has a very twisted sense of humor. So I can’t tell if it’s part of his sense of humor or if he really, really wants M.O.D.O.K. in one of the films.
We heard that Jeremy Renner has heard rumblings that Hawkeye might be coming back in Captain America 3. Can you speak to that at all? Is that just a rumbling?
Joe Russo: We can’t. That’s part of our cone of silence. My head would explode. You saw Scanners, right?
Yeah, I saw Scanners.
Joe Russo: Yeah, that’s loosely based on Marvel’s policy. Their security team is now… My head will blow up. I can’t tell you.
Let me ask you about the release date. That was announced a while ago. You have to hit that. Is that a lot or pressure or do you feel like there’s definitely enough time and there’s going to be no problem whatsoever?
Anthony Russo: Oh, there’s definitely enough time. I don’t think there’s any problem, especially because we’ve been working on it for five months now. So you know, Marvel’s incredibly organized, a very efficient company. I think what they do different than other studios is they have an extremely efficient post process that’s run by a genius, and I think that makes it possible to execute their movies in a very timely fashion.
Did you always know that Warner Bros. was going to back off your release date or were you nervous at any point?
Anthony Russo: You know, look, the whole issue of release dates? Those main conversations happen in rooms we’re not in. So we’re kind of one step removed from the issue. But Kevin always seemed very confident, comfortable with us being on that release date.
What was your reaction when “Hail Hydra” went viral?
Anthony Russo: [Laughs.]
Joe Russo: That was hilarious. I was actually at Disneyland and one of the workers there told me that they had all written “Hail Hydra” on the back of their name tags, and they would flip it to each other as they walked past each other in the park. We love it. We love when people grab on to irony, coming from shows like “Arrested Development” or “Community.” When it becomes pervasive on a scale like that it’s exciting not only because people are grabbing on to the idea, but grabbing onto one of the more twisted ideas in the movie which is fun.
Was it easier to get Robert Redford for Winter Soldier because he was playing the villain? Was that part of the appeal?
Anthony Russo: I think it was part of it. Certainly it was part of the appeal for us, you know? We loved the chance to use the iconography, history, in a way that fed people’s perception of what a character was going to be, and what the role was. It was amazing, and it was so specific in this case with Redford because of his history in the genre that the movie is set in, especially. I think he liked that idea. Surprisingly Redford has not worked with a lot of green screen in his career. He’s a very traditional, old school filmmaker, so to work in a movie where a third of everything that’s happening isn’t really there was very exciting to him. And he also did say to us, he did admit that his grandkids definitely opened his eyes to the movie as well.
It was something of a sick pleasure to actually hear Robert Redford say “Hail Hydra.”
Anthony Russo: Oh yeah.
Joe Russo: That’s one of Kevin’s favorite moments in the movie, I think.
Chris Evans has been talking about how he wants to retire from acting. Have you had any conversations with him about that? He asked for any advice?
Joe Russo: We’ve talked to him quite a bit about it. I mean, you have a lot of time to sit around on set and talk through stuff. The thing about Chris is he’s probably one of the most technically gifted actors that we’ve ever worked with. He understands the process of filmmaking extremely well. We always tell a story of when we were working on “Arrested Development.” [Jason] Bateman had been in the business for 30 years by the time we worked with him on that show, and we were shooting a scene - I might have even been operating the camera - and I remember it was a great performance from him, and I was shooting over Will Arnett to Bateman and Arnett shifted his body and covered Bateman. And I remember I was about to yell “cut” because we had lost Bateman in the shot, when all of a sudden while he’s speaking Bateman leans to his left and finds the camera again. That’s an incredibly aware actor who doesn’t break performance, it just doesn’t affect him in any way and he can still find the camera.
Chris has a very similar sensibility to him, which is why I think he’s so good at fighting and so good at execution, because he knows how to sell things to which camera. He understands geography and angles. I think he’s really excited about that part of filmmaking. As to whether or not it ultimately will end up leading to him removing himself from the acting space for a while is hard to say, because he’s so successful at it. But I think he’s very committed to directing.
I just want to follow up on something. I was interviewing Anthony Mackie and complimenting him on his flying abilities, and he said that no one really explained to him how the flying was supposed to work, like how he was supposed to move in that harness. Did you just trust in his abilities, or was he overstating it?
Anthony Russo: That was one of the more challenging…
Joe Russo: [Laughs.] Mackie overstated.
Anthony Russo: Mackie exaggerates, for sure. That’s part of his charm. But that was one of the more difficult areas he had, because again, in this movie we wanted to rely on practical physical effects and action more so than computer graphics. So that was sort of the tone that we wanted for the film, so it was very challenging in terms of, how do you make a man fly? That’s one of the areas of the film where we had to rely more on special effects than physical reality. So as we were rehearsing with Mackie it was always a question of finding the line, like what can we do physically with him on wires that’s going to look exciting enough to use it in the movie and not have to rely on computer graphics for that part. So identifying where that line was was always very tricky as we went through the execution.
And frankly it’s going to be something that’s even more tricky as we’re moving forward, because we want to keep looking for possibilities in terms of how Falcon can move, how we can shoot him in cool ways doing things that only Falcon can do? A lot of that stuff you have to rely on real physical tricks for, so anyway I think what he was talking about there was just the experimental process of figuring out… we’re going to shoot him doing something now, are we going to use that in the movie or are we going to resort to a visual effect? As we went through the process we kept toggling back and forth, and indeed all through post process we toggled back and forth until we found the right balance.
Okay, well that’s it for me. Thank you for the interview, I’m really looking forward to Cap 3, and again, I really, really, REALLY hope you’re using “Cap Wolf” this time.
I’m not kidding. I will bring this up every time.
Joe Russo: That’s been a big joke in the writers room by the way for the last two years, is when we play our Cap Wolf.
Hopefully sooner than later.