Making a movie as massive as Captain America: Civil War is no easy prospect. You basically have pressure being exerted on you from the fans, the studio, the corporation that owns the studio, even the shareholders who are invested in said corporation. Imagine facing all of that pressure and delivering not just a satisfactory movie, but a legitimately great one.
That’s what Joe and Anthony Russo have done twice now for Marvel Studios. And it’s what they’re expected to do two more times with the next pair of Avengers films. Marvel (and audiences) clearly trusts them to deliver the goods. A lot of that trust comes from the Russo’s ability to remain laser focused on the story at hand. They don’t waste time shooting stuff that has no chance of being the movie.
When we spoke to the brothers ahead of the Civil War home video release, we asked about how they find story amid all of that pressure, and how and when they know to cut a scene from the movie.
Movies.com: What was the one moment where you realized you know how to make Civil War live up to the pressure all around you?
Anthony Russo: It would be that moment where we stumbled onto the very personal concept between Cap and Tony and understanding how we could pull that into the third act climax of the film. It was knowing that we could go small and intimate with the ending of the film, and keeping it a very tragic character conflict between the two leaders of the Avengers. I think that’s when we knew that it was a story, and that it was a story we really wanted to tell.
Movies.com: When it comes to designing action scenes, do you break out the action figures and stage fights, is it all pre-vis? Where do your ideas come from?
Joe Russo: It’s a combination of everything. A lot of it is locking ourselves in a room with Markus and McFeely and making sure we understand the story beats. Then we get in a room together and just let our imaginations run wild. Then we get with the stunt team, the previs guys, and we break out action figures, and then storyboard artists will come in and they contribute ideas. It’s a big, collaborative process. We like taking ideas from everywhere and then using the story as guide posts to carry us through the action sequence. It really is all about the characters and they choices they make and how they’re advancing the story. Part of our favorite process on working on these movies is that big, collaborative soup of all these really smart, really talented people sitting around talking about what they want to see in an action scene.
Movies.com: Earlier this summer a set of storyboards leaked online claiming to be from a Black Widow vs Captain America fight. Were they real? Did you guys film it?
Joe Russo: We didn’t film it. It was an idea that we had. We thought it would be fun since Cap and Black Widow were so tight in Winter Soldier, they have a close relationship in this movie, but that airport sequence was such a difficult sequence and we wanted to make sure every moment was necessary. So as much as we wanted to see that fight between the characters, we felt like we could advance the story without it. That was cut.
There was another trim that is on the deleted scenes with Cap, Bucky, Falcon and War Machine that got cut out of the movie. That sequence was difficult because we had to maintain momentum with that sequence and we couldn’t find an area where we could isolate those characters, especially after Cap has his moment with Spider-Man.
Movies.com: What scene was most difficult for you guys to cut out of the movie?
Joe Russo: We’ve been fortunate, I think. We put so much time into the script process with Markus and McFeely, so we have an innate sense of how long we want the movie to be so we know when sections are feeling too long. We tend to make most of our trims in the script. Resources are incredibly valuable on movies like this, scenes can be very expensive, so you don’t want to put your resources and your money toward things that aren’t going to make it on the screen. There’s usually a very small amount of deleted scenes. For Civil War, while there are a few scenes on there that, as fans we would have wanted to see, but there’s nothing that we cut out that we felt emotionally we should have left it.
Movies.com: Now that we’re a few months beyond its first release and fandom has gone crazy for it, has seeing the world’s reaction changed your own reaction to the movie at all?
Anthony Russo: We were very happy with the movie. The whole process, we’ve been given so much support and we have such great collaborators here at Marvel. We take every step of the process very seriously and we don’t go into production until we are extremely happy with the script. While we’re in production, we’re constantly recalibrating and rethinking what the movie is and how we’re executing it. And then all the way through post process, which is a very involved experience for us. That’s where the movie evolves and grows, we’re testing it and trying to beat it and improve it. We’re so well supported that we knew we were happy with the film. Having said all that, it is always a surprise when it’s well received because you never really know. We’re still very fond of the film ourselves.
Movies.com: The director of Pete’s Dragon recently gave a list of the three things Disney contractually wouldn’t let him put in the movie. Is there a similar list for Marvel movies?
Anthony Russo: Smoking is a thing everyone generally adheres to now. There’s nothing that’s prohibited in a Marvel film. I think we’ve probably gotten away with some aggressive choices in Winter Soldier and Civil War. We do go into the process understanding we’re not going to make an R-rated film, but contractually there’s nothing we can’t do.
Movies.com: Now that fans will soon be freeze framing every step of this movie, are you expecting them to find a bunch of Easter eggs they didn’t in theaters?
Joe Russo: I’m sure there are. A lot of our ideas come up on set or a few days before we shoot a scene, and then we try to pack that stuff in there, so I’m sure there’s a few things that even we’ve forgotten about that are in there. That’s part of the fun of making these movies. Making them dense and packing them with little clues and Easter eggs for the fans.
Movies.com: What non-Avengers projects are you working on these days?
Joe Russo: We’ve got a couple in development we’re working on, one of which is Warriors at Hulu. But we are focused 100% right now on Infinity War. These are big megillahs and they are going to take all of our time and energy.
Captain America: Civil War hits Digital HD on September 2 and Blu-ray on September 13.
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