Beginning with Captain America: The Winter Soldier in 2014, Anthony and Joe Russo have been playing a game of chess with Earth’s Mightiest Heroes as their game pieces, moving things into place for the inevitable clash with Thanos, the Mad Titan which begins in Avengers: Infinity War. The brothers Russo sat down with Screen Rant ahead of the film’s debut to talk about the film’s inspiration, the very real stakes of having a villain like Thanos come to collect and possible future MCU plans!
SR: How did you know that you cracked the story for Infinity War? ...Because obviously the comic is very dense and has a lot to it. Marvel does such a great job of, like civil war is a great, is a great way they take it. You guys take a great job of, of putting the comic elements in it, but making it your own story.
Joe Russo: We're telling the story of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, not the Marvel Comic Book Universe. Like growing up I'm a huge comic book fan. I still have my entire collection, in my closet. For me, I'm not interested as a director, or as a comic book fan, in any literal interpretation of a book. I know that story. I've read it. I'm not going to go to the theater and be surprised by it, We're interested in surprising you. Borrowing elements and the mojo from it but in completing this giant mosaic of the story that's being told in these movies, not in those books, which is why Death [the character] is not in this film.
Anthony Russo: The moment I felt like we had cracked the movie creatively, was when we started to think about Thanos as the lead character of the movie. And I think that there was a tipping point there for all, for Joe and I and Markus and McFeely where the movie all of a sudden started to feel like we knew we had a great angle into the story. We knew that was a fresh way, perspective to tell the story, but also felt organic and right to what the story was because Thanos is the only figure that unites all of these wild disparate corners of the MCU. I mean they're all unrelated from each other, except for the fact of Thanos and the fact he's after these stones. Everything just started to line up. It made sense for our plot, but it also felt creatively adventurous, and challenging, and fresh. I think that's when the movie really started to take on the life of what it became.
SR: Interesting. Now, I had a theory, just a theory, how much of the MCU have you went back and watched because there's... So for the last 16 days, I've watched every single movie and tonight I'm gonna watch Black Panther and then tomorrow Infinity War. So I'm trying to do it in timeline order as well. In Iron Man 2, Tony Stark creates a new form of like palladium. But does he synthesize vibranium? And if he does, does vibranium cancel out the effect of Infinity Stones?
Joe Russo: Interesting question.
Anthony Russo: This one will have to let ya [inaudible].
SR: Now, how do you structure the film so it didn't feel like an anthology, but a complete movie, a complete story?
Joe Russo: Well, you have to tell a story with a beginning middle and an end. You know? And it was important to us that these two movies didn't feel like we've made one long film got out a scissor and cut it in half. Obviously they continue with the story of each other because it's serialized storytelling of the Marvel Universe. The impact of whatever happens in this movie is going to impact the next movie in the way that Civil War impacted this film uh, but you know, our job is to make there be closure and I think that this film, this film has closure.
SR: Right before or right after Captain America: The First Avenger, we get a kind of a trailer of the Avengers movie and it says "The Avengers will return." Will we get the title for Avengers 4 at the end of this movie and like a cut or a kind of a trailer, since you've already shot it?
Joe Russo: No we will not.
SR: Okay, fair answer.
Joe Russo: We are going to hang on to that title for awhile. We want people to, that just soak in the events of this movie. Before thinking about what the next story is.
SR: Speaking of that, will this movie have like a specific water cooler moment that people are going to be talking about for awhile leading up to the next year?
Russos: There may be several...I I don't know what they are, but I think there might be quite a few moments.
SR: The tone and genres constantly shift with the elements of action, thriller, heist, and horror movies. What did you use as a template for such an ambitious project?
Joe Russo: Well, again, it came back to this idea of Thanos being the connective tissue in his quest for the Infinity Stones. And so we began to think about...we knew we wanted to activate the story because we have a lot of characters and we needed to compress things in order to cover as much ground as you progress. So we started thinking about heist movies, we started to think about Out of Sight. Two Days in the Valley, movies where there is sort of an electric chain of events. And the villain is always one step ahead of the heroes and they're trying to catch up and there's sort of a chain reaction [that] leads to like an interconnected universe of characters being drawn in and that served as our vehicle into the story, into this film.
SR: Out of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, as directors, as yourselves. Who is your eyes into the Marvel Cinematic Universe personally as a character, as a character?
Joe Russo: It's interesting. I mean, it shifts from movie to movie depending on what the story is and who's closest to the, 'A' story. I think obviously it was Cap in the first two films you'd ask why? Like, why is it Civil War an Avengers movie? Well...it begins and ends with Captain America. So, you know, it's, uh, it's in his point of view. This film in particular, I think, uh, both Gamora and Thor required us to get inside their heads and understand them because they both have stories that are tied to the 'A' plot of the film in a way that the other characters don't. You know, we've said this several times at this film, you can say that this film is in Thanos' point of view, he was another character that we had to get our heads inside. He is a scary character to get your head inside. But it was important because with this many characters, we knew we had to describe a certain amount of story real estate to him in order for him to fulfill people's expectations of a great MCU villain, which is ultimately why we pushed it into the movie, to his POV because we knew that that would 1) Allow the correct amount of story real estate. 2) We felt like we'd never seen that in a commercial movie before. It's told from the point of view of the villain. And so to us, it felt like something surprising and different and would feel fresh to the audience.
SR: Who are your kind of eyes into the MCU?
Anthony Russo: Like when we're not strictly executing a narrative? So I mean, it's a great question because I think that's one thing why Joe (Russo) and I are always drawn...like we love ensemble storytelling is because our favorite movies are movies you can revisit over and over again. Movies you can chew on. And oftentimes with ensemble stories, each character gives you a different access point to the story. You know what I mean? A different point of view that you can choose to look into the story. So we really enjoy the part of the process where we really spend time thinking about the story from everybody's individual point of view. At least spend a day or two on Banner, Peter Parker. you know what I mean? Just making sure we're looking at the movie from their point of view. So I sort of love the variety of sorts of views you can actually play with. If I had to like fixate on one, I, you know, I don't know that I have one divorced from narrative you just because we've been so immersed in telling the story. I haven't been able to really appreciate the MCU as a fan since before we were making movies. So I would say maybe the, you know, the original Iron Man struck me so powerfully that I was very much a queued into him for a long time before we became a part of the MCU.
SR: Now obviously this is 10 years has culminated in this and I know next year we have Avengers 4. Do you guys have any plans past that to continue on with the MCU?
Joe Russo: Not yet. We love Marvel, that amazing experience with them and Disney. We love comic books. We love telling these stories. Obviously the Fox / Disney mergers is incredibly exciting to us as comic book fans. We're just trying to get Avengers 4 done and then, you know, we'd love to work with those guys again and now we also have some personal stories that we've been working on for years and we want to tell we started our own progressive studio as a way to sort of karmic debt back to the university. Soderbergh, you know, mentored us for years, uh, and got us to where we are in our careers now. Want to do the same with our studio for other filmmakers and push up the door for them and get more interesting voices into the business. So, you know, with all of that on our plate, we'd certainly would love to find it another project that makes sense.
SR: A lot of people had been talking about the Time Stone and possibly going in the past changing things. But something that I haven't heard a lot about is the Reality Stone and Marvel used to do this comic series called "What If." Will we see any What If scenarios in Infinity War or Avengers 4?
Joe Russo: There's no What If scenarios. Everything that happens in these movies happens in these movies. There's not like, you know, some potential, a tangential reality. It doesn't affect the story. If it happens, it happens. We wanted to commit to the storytelling and the most complete way and not give ourselves any kind of, you know, potential outs, like it was all a reality dream.
Anthony Russo: I think that's because, you know, because the stakes are so high in these films and we wanted to honor that he wanted to commit to those stakes.
SR: Last question, when you guys kill people off, do you informed the directors of said franchises. Have a little talk about, "Hey, we might be killing so and so off?"
Joe Russo: Um... well we can't confirm or deny that we've killed anybody off. So, you know, we didn't kill anybody...actually we killed everybody.
Anthony Russo: One thing we know is we survived.
- Avengers: Infinity War / The Avengers 3 (2018) release date: Apr 27, 2018
- The Avengers 4 / Avengers: Endgame (2019) release date: Apr 26, 2019
- Ant-Man & The Wasp (2018) release date: Jul 06, 2018
- Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019) release date: Jul 05, 2019
- Captain Marvel (2019) release date: Mar 08, 2019