In 2014 Marvel Studios broke the mold with Captain America: The Winter Soldier. While the studio had achieved much financial success and acclaim beforehand, this film – which was directed by Anthony and Joe Russo – was the first one that blew everyone's mind. It was much more than a comic book movie, and shared more in common with spy thrillers of the past. Speaking to Hero Complex, Anthony Russo explained what attracted him to the project: "The relationship between Cap and Winter Soldier's fascinating to me. The idea of a friend who's been lost and can that friend ever be regained? I always think about movies like The Searchers, the stories of kidnappings where settlers were taken by Indians, lived with Indians for a long time and lost their relationship to the original families they were with and had this identity crisis… Where they would belong. For me, Winter Soldier very much lives in that world."
Since then, their work has become the centerpiece of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). They helmed Captain America: Civil War and the record-shattering Avengers: Infinity War. In fact, it's safe to say that they're steering the MCU ship right now. Nonetheless, it's important to acknowledge and revisit the impact that Captain America: The Winter Soldier had on all of this. It's the first movie that showed us that Marvel films can be more than one-liners, inflated team-ups, and fan service.
With that said, let's take a look at 20 Crazy Details Behind The Making Of Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
20 Anthony Mackie Begged Marvel For A Role
It's hard to imagine anyone else besides Anthony Mackie as Sam Wilson/Falcon, but that wasn't the role that he campaigned for. After appearing in 2009's The Hurt Locker, Mackie wrote to Marvel Studios. "I was initially writing them because I wanted to be Black Panther," Mackie said at the 2015 Emerald City Comicon (via CBR). The studio eventually got back to him, but it didn't specify for which part.
Though he didn't get the T'Challa gig, Mackie still pushed for the character's introduction in the MCU. "When we were shooting [Captain America: The Winter Solider] I would always have conversations with them about Black Panther because I wanted to stress the importance of that character to the movie-going populous," he said to I Am Rogue.
19 Samuel L. Jackson's Grandfather Was Really An Elevator Operator
There's a part in the film where Samuel L. Jackson's Nick Fury recalls a story about his grandfather being an elevator operator to Chris Evans' Steve Rogers. For many, it sounded like a clever piece of dialogue for Fury to get across his message – but it's also true. "He actually ran an elevator in a hotel in Chattanooga, Tenn. That was his job. I used to go down there and sit in the elevator with him while he took people up and down. He got tipped that way and had money in his pocket or in a bag," Jackson told Hero Complex. Jackson doesn't know if the writers read about him talking about his grandfather, because he never improvised his lines.
18 Hawkeye Was Supposed To Appear
Hawkeye is often the forgotten Avenger and it seems like he was discarded in Captain America: The Winter Soldier too. As it turns out, that isn't the truth as the Russos mentioned in the film commentary. Speaking to SR in 2014, Joe Russo elaborated: "If Hawkeye got a call from S.H.I.E.L.D saying Captain America is a fugitive, would he listen to that call or not listen to that call? That sequence actually was heartbreaking for us to cut it. I think it ultimately might have been a conflict with [Jeremy] Renner's schedule. But there was a great sequence where Hawkeye was chasing Cap through Washington D.C."
So, in this case, Hawkeye only has himself to blame for this absence.
17 The Winter Soldier Wasn't In The Original Title
It's difficult to film a blockbuster nowadays, as there are spies everywhere, tracking down your every move. While the movie was filming in Cleveland, it operated under the name of Freezerburn, to deter roaming eyes and snooping journalists. Perhaps even more interesting is how 'The Winter Soldier' part was almost omitted from the final title. The fear was that it gave away too much of what was about to happen in the film. "At first 'The Winter Soldier' wasn't in the title of the film and we were really passionate about calling it Captain America: The Winter Soldier. There was concern at the time, but you just have to rip that band-aid off," Anthony Russo told Hero Complex.
16 The Russos' Work On Community And Arrested Development Convinced Kevin Feige
When the Russo brothers were confirmed for the film, there were a few eyebrows raised. Why would Marvel Studios hire the guys who did comedy shows like Community and Arrested Development for an action flick? "It's always fun to be a fan of something. As I am a fan of many movies and TV shows and all sorts of things. And you start to go, 'Who did that? That was amazing. Who did that episode of Arrested Development. Oh, Joe and Anthony Russo. That's interesting.' Cut to years later and I'm watching a show called Community and I'm thinking [this show is better than any sitcom should be]," Kevin Feige revealed to Uproxx. Now, the Russos are entrusted with all of Marvel Studios' biggest films.
15 The Film Used Minimal CGI
One of the reasons for the film's success and appeal was how it didn't rely too heavily on special effects. The Russos chose to go old school and show off some good ol' fashioned action sequences. "The Russos, what they did that was so great was, they wanted to stay with live action, which is a dying art form," Anthony Mackie said to MTV. "If they can build it, they built it. If we could do it, we did it. They wanted to do as little CGI as possible. That's why the movie looks so great." That isn't to say that the movie is absent of all visual effects, because that would be a straight-up lie.
14 Zola's Characterization Changed Numerous Times
We first met the biochemist villain Arnim Zola in Captain America: The First Avenger, as portrayed by Toby Jones. Longtime fans of Captain America will know that he ended up as a 'ghost in a machine', but he was in his physical form for that movie. So, when we saw him in the computer in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, many people were surprised Marvel Studios went in this direction. "That scene was a big problem actually. That final draft of what Zola said… It maybe changed 30 or 40 times. You’re in this grounded espionage paranoid thriller and then suddenly the movie screeches to a halt and you switch gears really quickly with this ghost in the machine," Joe Russo told Empire.
13 The Pulp Fiction Tribute
Everyone remembers Samuel L. Jackson as the unmistakable Jules Winnfield in Pulp Fiction – how can you not?! It's such a memorable and recognizable role that it would be criminal not to acknowledge its importance. Well, the Russos did one better in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, which is bursting with a plethora of movie references and cheeky throwbacks. They actually included Winnfield's famous line in the film, but you need to have sharp eyes to spot it. If you look carefully at Nick Fury's grave, it features the epitaph: "The path of the righteous man. Ezekiel 25:17." Who says that Avengers: Infinity War was the most ambitious crossover in cinematic history? Forget Star Trek; Quentin Tarantino needs to join the MCU, pronto!
12 Frank Grillo Was Rumored For The Punisher
Frank Grillo has become known for his tough guy roles. Heck, you only need to watch Kingdom to see the kind of aggression that he brings to the table. As such, fans began to eye him as the ideal candidate to bring Frank Castle/Punisher to life in the MCU. Grillo took notice and admitted that it got him a bit of attention – whether this means there was actual consideration from Marvel Studios is another story. "It's funny – this started when Cap came out. I heard a few mentions, it was very grassroots. I actually tweeted something about it the other day and so many people responded!" Grillo told HeyUGuys. "It started out as fun, but now I hear it and I raise an eyebrow."
11 Black Widow's Arrow Necklace
Fans of Captain America: The Winter Soldier would've spotted that the Black Widow wore an arrow necklace in the film. Of course, this led many to think it had something to do with Hawkeye – which Joe Russo confirmed in an interview with Empire. "Honestly, [the arrow necklace] was a choice that Scarlett [Johansson] herself made as her character. Her relationship with Hawkeye will become very clear in [Avengers: Age of Ultron]," Russo explained. Unfortunately, we didn't get to see Black Widow and Hawkeye's relationship develop much in that film. Possibly because Marvel Studios hacked and chopped that movie to pieces and it resulted in Joss Whedon packing his bags and leaving the MCU behind in his rearview mirror.
10 Emilia Clarke And Felicity Jones Were Rumored For Sharon Carter
One of the major talking points about Captain America: The Winter Soldier was the introduction of Sharon Carter, a character that plays a huge part in Steve Rogers' life in the comic books. In this iteration, Emily VanCamp portrayed the S.H.I.E.L.D. agent. It was a coveted role that numerous actresses were in talks for. Some of the names attached to it, as per our report, were Jessica Brown Findlay (Downton Abbey), Emilia Clarke (Game of Thrones), Felicity Jones (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story), and Alison Brie (Community). The castings of Clarke or Jones would've been interesting in retrospect. Naturally, both actresses aren't crying over spilled milk and have gone on to secure their own fame since then.
9 Joss Whedon's Cameo
It's crazy to think about how Joss Whedon was a messianic figure of the MCU and now no one mentions him. He brought together Phase One of this ambitious project with 2012's The Avengers and subsequently changed the landscape of comic book movies forever. When Captain America: The Winter Soldier was released, Whedon was still working on Avengers: Age of Ultron. Showing respect for the godfather of the MCU, the Russos included Whedon in their film as a cameo. Whedon appears just before Steve Rogers enters the Smithsonian, as the camera pans over the Captain America exhibit. When the escalators are shown, you can make out Whedon, wearing a Captain America shirt, making his way down the stairs with a child by his side.
8 Influenced By Three Days Of The Condor And The French Connection
There were numerous influences for Captain America: The Winter Soldier. However, the one constant was how it was labeled as a non-traditional comic book movie. Speaking to Hero Complex, Joe Russo said, "It's a political thriller." He emphasized how it addressed real-world problems in much the same way that Three Days of the Condor predicted the war for oil that plagued America for decades after. Russo added that they'd seen The French Connection countless times and studied the epic car chase scene, noting how the director would piece sound, camerawork, and the performance together to represent the struggles of the character. This assisted the brothers to showcase their characters' own turmoil in the MCU film.
7 Michael B. Jordan Auditioned For Falcon
Right now, Michael B. Jordan is on top of the world. His performance as Eric Killmonger in Black Panther won him many fans and accolades. Subsequently, he's been blessed with the luxury of cherry-picking his next roles. It wasn't always so easy for him, though. In an interview with The Daily Beast, he revealed that he'd read for the part of Harry Osborn in The Amazing Spider-Man 2, as well as for Falcon in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. In hindsight, it's a good thing that he didn't get those gigs, especially the Falcon one. If he had been cast, it's unlikely that we would've ever seen his formidable – and unforgettable – Killmonger in the MCU.
6 F. Gary Gray Almost Directed The Movie
Marvel Studios needed a specific director to make Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Feige and his people knew it was a different superhero film and would require a specialized vision to bring it to life, with the tone and character they envisioned. According to Deadline, F. Gary Gray was on the shortlist of directors, which also featured the Russos and George Nolfi. However, Gray pulled himself out of the race when he decided to direct Straight Outta Compton instead. The film might've not made as much money as Captain America: The Winter Soldier did, but it racked up an impressive list of accolades and nominations. Maybe Gray will still get the chance to helm an MCU film in the near future.
5 Ed Brubaker's Cameo
If Ed Brubaker hadn't written "The Winter Solider" arc, we would've never seen Captain America: The Winter Soldier. It was the writer who gave Bucky Barnes a new lease on life and reinvented him for a new generation of fans. Marvel Studios acknowledged Brubaker's influence by giving him a cameo in the film. If you carefully look at the scene where Bucky is being "reprogrammed", you should spot Brubaker there. Unlike Alan Moore's attitude towards adaptations of his material, Brubaker praised the work done on the film. "I read the script and I was really blown away by it. The tone of it and the Bucky stuff is so perfect and the way I'd want it to be," he said to USA Today.
4 Nikolaj Coster-Waldau Was Rumored For A Villain
As with most superhero projects, when a part is up for grabs, everyone and their mom is considered for it. In the case of Brock Rumlow, aka Crossbones, it was an all-action role that would require a believable tough guy. Before Frank Grillo was cast, Kevin Durand and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau were considered for a villainous role that we presume was Rumlow. Both Durand and Coster-Waldau are well-versed in action, so they would've been right at home had they secured the part. Looking back now, Durand and Coster-Waldau would've been excellent choices for Baron Zemo as well. Unfortunately, that role went to Daniel Brühl and we've yet to see these actors in the MCU. Still, there's another phase coming, right?
3 The Russos' Sister Played Garcia
There's a scene in Captain America: The Winter Soldier where we meet Garcia, a former member of the United States Army. She is recovering from PTSD and is part of Sam Wilson's group. It was a minor role, but fans of the film should know the scene we're talking about. Well, the actress who portrayed Garcia is Angela Russo-Otstot – the directors' sister. This wasn't the first time she'd worked with her brothers, either. Russo-Otstot doesn't really focus on the acting side of things and spends more time as a story editor and writer for TV. She's worked on the likes of The Shield, LAX, and V. Guess entertainment runs in the blood of the Russo family.
2 The WarGames Reference
The Russos have made no secret about the fact that they're entrenched in geek culture. References to other movies and franchises are embedded in nearly all their works. So, it should come as no surprise that they're fans of 1983's WarGames, which starred Matthew Broderick, and threw a reference into Captain America: The Winter Soldier. When Black Widow booted up a supercomputer, she asked Cap, "Shall we play a game?" He replied, "Love to. How about Global Thermonuclear War?" Joe Russo revealed to Empire it was, indeed, a WarGames reference. "I think we wrote that joke five minutes before we shot it. Sometimes you're shooting a scene and you get the sense that it's playing a little dry or a little straight," he said.
1 The Russos Compared It To Star Wars
Look, to compare any film to Star Wars is a low hanging fruit. It's undoubtedly one of the greatest movie franchises of all time, and is an excellent springboard for anyone looking to market their own film. "It's one of the first things we said to Kevin [Feige] when we met with him. We said, 'You know this is Star Wars.' It's an operatic conflict between two family members. This is his best friend who is essentially his brother. They're both equally matched and they have equal power sets. And they're fighting for opposite principles," Joe Russo said to Hero Complex. It's a bit of a stretch to compare Captain America: The Winter Soldier to Star Wars, but you can see the similar themes.
Do you know any other details behind the making of Captain America: The Winter Soldier? Let us know in the comments!