The screenwriting team of Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely have been crafting screenplays together for 14 years. Avengers: Infinity War is the 5th Marvel Cinematic Universe film developed by the duo and when Avengers 4 debuts next year, they’ll have written over one quarter of the 22 films that comprise the first three phases of the MCU. The two architects of the MCU sat down with Screen Rant ahead of the world premiere of Avengers: Infinity War to discuss cracking the script for the film as a Thanos biopic, trying to work the Marvel Netflix characters into their project and more.
SR: So how did you know when you cracked the approach to Infinity War? Because it's a pretty big story.
McFeely We won't really know until tomorrow night! (Laughs)
SR: Good point.
McFeely: We spent four months cracking it. We did like five months earlier, just sort of blue sky and trying to figure out all the many ways we could go. Is there a moment where you decided we cracked it?
Markus: I mean, I sort of remember him saying in the conference room one day something like, are we talking about Thanos biopic? And everybody kind of going, yeah, "we are." Don't expect, you know, a purple baby being born at the beginning of the movie. (laughs)
McFeely:But it is, it's a lot on his shoulders.
SR: You guys have shaped Captain America's Arc since Winter Soldier. How was it approaching Infinity War when he's not necessarily the focus and are these upcoming Avengers appearances epilogue to his personal journey as the character moves forward?
Ahh, you use the word "epilogue" like you think he's going somewhere...
SR: I hope not.
Markus: I think no, I wouldn't call them epilogue and say this is the, this is the hardest fight he's ever had and he might be facing some truths he isn't preparing for.
McFeely: That'd be the case for almost everybody on the roster.
SR: Speaking of which, it began with Iron Man, Tony Stark, and now we're here 10 years later, In these 10 years we've seen Tony kind of accomplish a lot of his goals, but also at the same time, some of his worst nightmare come true. So where is Tony Stark's mindset now and what would you want audiences to take away without giving any spoilers?
McFeely: Yeah, no. I'm with you. He's the canary in the coal mine and it turns out the canary's right. You know? He's been saying there's a threat coming and we've got to prepare ourselves and he's done all these various things to try to prepare, like take himself out of it, and he built Ultron, all this stuff, and now it's here. So there's guilt to that. There's, I told you so to that. There's all sorts of responsibility,
Markus: Just very satisfying for this, you know, the guy who started out as you know, swelling cocktails in the back of the Humvee. Who didn't give a fuck about anything, suddenly having the fate of the universe on his shoulders and him being the one who's going, "the sky's falling." Whether by design or natural evolution it worked out very nicely to put him in a painful position. You became a hero. There's a consequence.
SR: Now, yesterday I asked both Russo's which team ups they liked or had the most fun with. They liked Thor and and Chris Pratt, Star Lord, and they like the facial hair bros. So what about what, who were your favorite a team ups throughout the course of this film?
McFeely: It's not a new team up, but I love Vision and Wanda together. I think they work really well together in a weird way. Thor, Rocket and Groot, is a nice little triumvirate. Yeah, there's some lovely scenes with them. Hemsworth, off-record will steal the movie was great. Really good.
Markus: There's some from the second movie but I'm trying not to leak.
SR: We've seen everything's leading up to this point. How much did you go back on some of the other movies like Iron Man 2. I feel like because I watched all the movies back in the last 17 days. So ironman 2 feels like it has so much significance in it. Like I feel like Tony Stark created synthetic vibranium...do the Infinity Gems have an effect on vibranium?
Markus: I think if you have the right one, you could turn that vibranium into chocolate cake.
McFeely: I don't think Vibranium is a get out of jail free card.
SR: That was pretty much the question. Okay. Now The Winter Soldier was grounded in the MCU as a real world that felt different than all the other previous Marvel films. How do you keep this one grounded yet so elaborate as well?
Markus: Stakes, the looming threat of failure. You know, if you have people zooming through space going, "we're going to have a great space battle" and there isn't a really good chance they might lose. You know, you're just watching special effects. But again, all these people had been through a lot and they're tired and that's another. like whether or not they're acting tired, they are. They've all been through a lot and you've been through it with them and this thing has been coming and now it's here and it has weight that grounds it in a way that if you wrote this exact same movie but change everybody's name and just try to say, I just wrote a space epic, like it'd be ridiculous and it was a no go.
McFeely: Because you've come to love all these people.
SR: You have no idea how much I've come to love all these people.
McFeely: That's what I'm saying. Remember part of our challenge is to make sure that he's not just going through town and grabbing stones and the stones are connected to people you love. Right? So that there's one around this guy's neck, there's one in this guy's head, right? These people feel obligated to this one and this one. This guy may already have one because he's stolen off a ship. We want to make sure that there's a cost to collecting these and that they're gonna have to, you know, they may have to suffer.
SR: I know that you guys aren't working on the Black Widow solo film, but if you were...because Winter Soldier ties a lot into the Black Widow's past because she speaks about it. What would you guys like to see in that film? But with some of the stuff you guys did.
Markus: Well, I mean, I personally would hope they don't, because in the comics she's like seventy years old to like eventually not everybody can be an ageless ya know...
McFeely: World War II can't affect everyone.
Markus: I, you know, I don't know if she's fascinating and there's some really great black widow comics where she goes back in and sort of fixes, fixes people's [inaudible]..
McFeely: I'd like to see the cost of what she gave up to be who she is. There's a personal story there. How do you make it, not cloying or cheesy, but like what's a realistic thing that, I had this path, or this path, and maybe I was forced to go on a path, but undoubtedly, I have some agency culpability there. What is it?
SR: The Netflix series have have a great deal of characters as well and I've heard in the past that you guys wanted to include them but maybe weren't quite able to. Was there a character that you really, really wanted to bring in from whether it be Luke Cage or Daredevil that you really want to include in this movie or even the next one?
Markus: I mean, part of it is the like, I don't envy them when this movie comes out for one thing, because the ripple effect and consequences and they're, wow. It's hard to factor them in because that is what, five more heroes and you're trying to blend them in and trying to get them, you know, we've taken some people off to the end of the universe but again, it's a, it's a bridge too far, I think on a storytelling level.
McFeely: I mean it's always possible.
Markus: Everything is possible, but you don't want to have them drive by and be...
SR: Like a cameo.
McFeely: Would people be happy with that? I don't know.
SR: The MCU, through your eyes. Who do you think sees the MCU through your eyes?
McFeely: Oh, like who's the representative?
Markus: At times when I'm a fresh faced and excited, Peter Parker.
McFeely: When I'm exhausted...it's Steve Rogers.
Markus: The great responsibility that lies on our shoulders and other times Thanos...
SR: That's a great point because I know this film is, like you said, the Thanos biopic, but who do you feel like...because I feel like Steve Rogers has gone through the biggest transition from being in the 1940's until now. Talk to me about where you see Steve, because obviously he's a man without a country. So where do you guys see Steve?
McFeely: That's where he is now. He is sort of a guy without a country. He's, you know, he blew up his relationships in order to save his one friend from 1943. Um, but he also, because he thought that's what, that's what he thought was right. So over the course of the last couple of years he's been continuing to do that even if we don't explore it quite as much as maybe we could and when the shit comes down, he's going to be there and he'll put aside what it gets put aside in order because like, we can't have petty resentments get in the way of this kind of stuff.
Markus: And I do think he's, you know, I love thinking about how much he's been through. That's been a real sick and this guy walked up to you and now you're, you know, you're in Wakanda. You have a beard. (laughs)
McFeely: People don't get to do that kind of character work over such a span of movies. And it's been a real treat.
SR: Last question. This one, I'm more so dying to know is that if Steve Rogers were to lay down his shield. Why or why not should Bucky pick it up?
McFeely: A) Should anybody pick it up? It's a fairly open ended question. Everyone has their own identity. Why do we need to, you know, is there a world wherein we need a Captain America more than we need, whatever your identity is?
Markus: I will say, just on a fan level, I think Winter Soldier's so awesome that I'm always like, why are you wasting Winter Soldier and putting him in like Captain America outfit? You had two heroes now you got one.
- 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
- Captain Marvel (2019) release date: Mar 08, 2019
- Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019) release date: Jul 02, 2019