Nobody was more prepared for Avengers: Infinity War more than Charles Wood. The production designer for the back-to-back project alongside Avengers 4, Wood had previously worked in all corners of the MCU: Thor: The Dark World, Guardians of the Galaxy, Avengers: Age of Ultron, and Doctor Strange.
The culmination of his and Marvel's entire team's efforts can be seen in Infinity War, which is now available on home video. For the Blu-ray release, Screen Rant caught up with Charles to discuss the unique challenges of such a big production and how it fit in the wider MCU plan.
Screen Rant: This was your fifth Marvel project, and all of those films build up to Infinity War just as the story has. Because you had that experience with Thor and Doctor Strange and all those different types of superhero stories, what was the biggest challenge for you coming into this one?
Charles Wood: I think the scale of the project. The whole thing was... when we first looked at it, I would say the most daunting thing was the scale and probably the complexity of it and having to craft these films that were all entwined. Just the logistics of making a film like this. It was pretty challenging, I have to say. But brilliant, we were lucky to do it.
SR: On this movie, you're working with a big team who've worked on various Marvel movies before. How did those shared experiences inform the early stages of development, and how did that help the flow of the project?
CW: Well, the thing is, working with Joe and Anthony, they had done obviously Civil War, worked on Captain America which I hadn't worked, so they had their own angles, their own perspectives. And also, they're obviously very opinionated in how they wanted the film to look, but equally were very interested in how we'd put the others together that they hadn't worked on. They're very generous, seriously are really great directors to work with. Just from the get-go, just very collaborative, meaning they always wanted - they gave us a lot of free range to explore stuff that weren't necessarily thinking of etc etc. So, yeah, it was a good experience all round. And you have to, on a project of this scale, everybody has to get involved. One single person could never produce something like this, you know?
SR: As you mentioned, Joe and Anthony worked on Civil War which is a movie that has a lot of characters. That's a concern for you - when you're doing the production design, you've got to consider "how is that space going to be filled?" How does that work in your system? Were there any specific characters who posed a challenge in making sure they worked inside the sets?
CW: Well, I suppose I'd had experience with a lot of these characters' other films so you could project ahead and get a sense of what they might or might not be doing, and how they behaved on set. And what I mean by behaved is how they worked within a space. I mean, the areas where you've got to be much more careful is in the virtual world. Because these were new virtual characters and you have to do a lot of R&D into understanding how they perform in a virtual way. So those were the areas where we concentrated on it, I think.
SR: You talk about the scale of this project, and it is a big movie and it's only one half of the actual production, but there are so many other aspects that make it a big challenge. One of them is scheduling - scheduling all the actors, which had an influence on the script. How did that influence your work? Did that pose any challenges when there are some situations where you have actors who can't be in the same room?
CW: It does. You have to be malleable. You have to be able to look ahead far enough to be able to... you know, if you many soundstages and many sets already built in them, you often find yourself hopscotching from one stage to another. And if someone doesn't come available or there's some problem, you go back to another set. But you need to have a big art department, you need to have a lot of art directors who can help you navigate through all those changes that invariably happen on something like this. I mean, these films are made very often, so it was new territory for all of us I think.
SR: Infinity War is revisiting some sets and locations, which doesn't necessarily happen very often in Marvel movies, actually. You go back to the Sanctum Sanctorum and its surrounding area, and Wakanda, and you were obviously working at the same time as Black Panther. And so those two pose unique challenges because you're playing in an environment audiences are familiar with but you also need to adapt it to a new story. How do you maintain that accuracy while also making sure it's malleable to whatever the new story's throwing up?
CW: Well, I think certainly with Doctor Strange, luckily we had done the film, done Doctor Strange in its own right, so we knew that world pretty well, so you're guided by what you've done in the past. And hopefully you just then have the opportunity to better it if you can. With Wakanda, you're correct Black Panther was filming at the same time, so we could obviously see what Black Panther was doing and that helped us.
SR: One location that's really fun is Edinburgh. There's an interesting geography and an internal logic to the sequence - there was a sense of place to that fight as they were going around. How did you go about making sure that worked and convey that on screen without it distracting from the characters in the moment?
CW: Well, I think you've just said it. When Joe and Anthony, when we first went to Edinburgh, certainly Joe was very familiar with Edinburgh the city, and exactly what he wanted to do. He didn't want to just shoot all the landmarks in Edinburgh at all. He wanted to make it a much more interesting place than that and see it really from the street level as you would at night. So he had a very specific view of how that should be. And he said he wanted it to be a journey. So they stepped it out for us, it wasn't really a question of when we went there we sort of... Joe and Anthony were very influential in how that was going to happen before we even got there.
SR: Finally, I want to talk a little about the unique challenges of Avengers 4 and shooting these back-to-back. Because, as you said, that made the project twice as big. In terms of mapping it out, were there any unique challenges that came from that way of thinking?
CW: Unique challenges... yeah, obviously I can't really comment about Avengers 4 except to say obviously the creation of that film... both films lent on the other, so to speak. I can't really say too much, so I need to be careful what I'm saying.
- Captain Marvel (2019) release date: Mar 08, 2019
- The Avengers 4 / Avengers: Endgame (2019) release date: Apr 26, 2019
- Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019) release date: Jul 05, 2019