If Marvel Studios had followed the story closer for its adaption of the Civil War comic book story, there would have been little need for Captain America: Civil War to feature Zemo at all. Instead of having the conflict between the heroes rise completely on their own, Zemo was brought in to pull some strings that continued to divide the Avengers. While there could have been a way to tell the story without him, he was able to be a scheming villain with potential for future appearances.
Marvel was able to snag Daniel Brühl to play the iconic character, without his signature purple mask however, and he took a backseat approach to dividing the team. Thanks to his knowledge of Hydra's history, he was able to get his hands on the red book that resets Bucky into his Winter Soldier mindset. As it turns out, the writers and directors of Civil War at one time considered a much different introduction.
Civil War is currently out on Digital HD and has an audio commentary from directors Joe and Anthony Russo and writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely. CinemaBlend has been able to reveal a portion of the commentary from Zemo's introduction to find out what happened on December 16, 1991. Instead of breaking into an old man's home to get the red book, they once considered a different avenue that featured him killing a multitude of people.
Joe Russo: We had an original scene where Zemo was at an auction, a black market auction. And that's how he got his hands on the book, was at this auction. He killed everybody in the auction by gassing the auction. But we just didn't get enough story out of him; it was too mysterious of an opening scene.
McFeely: It did not connect him to the opening of the movie cleanly. This one does -- you get the red book, and you literally get Karpov, which is perhaps the most important thing.
This other introduction sounds interesting and would have changed the way audiences reacted to Zemo moving forward. In the final version, he is a man driven by revenge that has killed one former Hydra member to get what he wanted. If this would have been the case, seeing Zemo kill an entire room full of people would have shown just how ruthless he would be to complete his plan. Plus, if he did gas the room, he would have needed something to cover his mouth, which could have been a great place to have the purple mask if only for a second.
That said, the opening they went with instead instantly connected him to the rest of the movie and gave him the chance to talk about his interest in Bucky's mission. This alternate opening for Zemo would have increased the villainous feel to him, but could have been a hard transition so early on in the movie. There will likely be more interesting tidbits to come out of the commentary as more people listen to it, but those interested will have to buy it themselves to hear everything.
Captain America: Civil War will be available on Digital HD on September 2nd and on Blu-ray on September 13th, 2016.
Doctor Strange opens November 4, 2016; Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 – May 5, 2017; Spider-Man: Homecoming – July 7, 2017; Thor: Ragnarok – November 3, 2017; Black Panther – February 16, 2018; Avengers: Infinity – May 4, 2018; Ant-Man and the Wasp – July 6, 2018; Captain Marvel– March 8, 2019; Untitled Avengers – May 3, 2019; and as-yet-untitled Marvel movies on July 12, 2019, and on May 1, July 10, and November 6 in 2020.