Joe and Anthony Russo On Developing Captain America: Civil War

Having stunned audiences with their masterful work behind the camera on Captain America: The Winter Soldier – a feat, frankly, that few saw coming – directors Anthony and Joe Russo are back with Captain America: Civil War, which puts Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) in direct conflict with Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) over whether superheroes need to be “supervised” – i.e. controlled – by the government.

Many of the other Avengers and Marvel heavyweights show up in the film, and two make spectacular debuts: Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) and – on loan from Sony Pictures – Spider-Man (Tom Holland). The events of this movie also leave the door open for the Russos’ next project: the two-part, all-in Avengers: Infinity War. We sat down with the Russos to talk about convincing Downey to do the movie, how late in the game they knew they had Spider-Man, and what their plans are for shooting Infinity War.

When you sat down to talk about Captain America 3, was it Civil War from the start?

Joe Russo: It wasn’t Civil War from the start. It was something that we were discussing and we had in the back of our minds, and we knew that if we were going to come back and do another Cap film, we wanted to do something radical and make another strong choice for the character. We were looking for storylines that would allow us to do that, and we just kept coming back to Civil War as the storyline that would give us the most juice – storytelling juice – and challenge Cap as a character more extremely than any other plot that we came up with in the exploratory phase.

Captain America: Civil War - Steve (Chris Evans) and Tony (Robert Downey Jr.)

If Robert Downey Jr. did not become available, did you have a Plan B?

Anthony Russo: As we kept developing it, as we became more certain that Civil War was the direction to go, at that point we went to go see Robert with Kevin Feige, who runs Marvel, and just talked to him about it. We told him what we were thinking, what kind of story we were thinking of, why he was important to it, and we went through a lengthy process with him of just sort of like discussing the movie and exploring it, and he bought into it in a big way and he was very excited to do it, so it worked out.

Joe Russo: We did put ourselves in the position, both with Robert and with Spider-Man, where we were hanging out there quite a bit. We committed on a storytelling level to both characters and we just, you know, willed those into existence.

How far into the process did you know that Spider-Man would be available?

Joe Russo: Very late, frankly. I mean, we were working with him in the script for a long time before we knew the deal would close and there were a lot of moments where the deal wasn’t going to close. So it was very tenuous, but as storytellers you have to commit to a story. The movie takes an incredible amount of time and energy to prepare for, and you can’t prepare for two different movies. So we made the choice, again, to prepare for a film with Spider-Man and keep our fingers crossed and we’re eternally grateful to Kevin Feige and Sony for collaborating and pulling it off.

Anthony Russo: We were told for a long time, “You know, you guys better have a Plan B because this might not work out on a deal level.” And we were like, “Okay, don’t worry about it, we’ve got a Plan B.” But the truth is, we never had a Plan B, so we were very lucky.

You have established a very gritty, realistic style of shooting on the two Cap movies. When you take things in a wider direction on Infinity War, are you going to change your style and does it necessitate changing your style?

Joe Russo: Yeah, the style services the storytelling. That editing, that handheld camera was an esthetic choice because Cap is a very human character, and we wanted to humanize him even more and take away any sort of patina, so we wanted a very gritty, Michael Mann-esque quality. Or we often refer to the Scott brothers, with longer lenses and shooting off-angle – it creates a sense of verite or a feeling that you’re actually there and you’re present for the storytelling.

Infinity War will have different requirements. It will certainly incorporate the gritty and grounded elements, but it has this huge, fantastical cosmic element as well. The key thing that I think will bind all the films together, I think – because we really do want to think of Winter Soldier, Civil War and Infinity War as one giant story arc – the thing that I think will bind it together is just the commitment to psychological realism ultimately. You know, if we can find a way to execute some of those cosmic characters with an element that you can identify with on a psychological level, that’s going to be the most important thing to us.


Captain America: Civil War will release on May 6, 2016, followed by Doctor Strange – November 4, 2016;Guardians of the Galaxy 2 – May 5, 2017; Spider-Man – July 7, 2017; Thor: Ragnarok – November 3, 2017;Black Panther – February 16, 2018; The Avengers: Infinity War Part 1 – May 4, 2018; Ant-Man and the Wasp– July 6, 2018; Captain Marvel – March 8, 2019; The Avengers: Infinity War Part 2 – May 3, 2019;Inhumans– July 12, 2019; and as-yet untitled Marvel movies on May 1, July 10 and November 6, 2020.

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