Russo Brothers talk as Directors of Captain America: The Winter Soldier
During my Captain America: The Winter Soldier interviews, not only did I get to talk to the actors and producer Kevin Feige but also the directors Anthony & Joe Russo. They let us know how it is working together as brothers on one of the most amazing Marvel movies to date. Joe Russo even had a cameo in the film as Nicky Fury’s doctor.
Anthony & Joe Russo won a Primetime Emmy Award as outstanding directing for a comedy series, Arrested Development in 2004. The duo is also known for producing and directing the movie You, Me and Dupree (2006) and the popular tv series Community (2009-2011).
Watch below as directors Anthony and Joe Russo talk with AMC’s John Campea for Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
Without question, there wouldn’t be a great partnership unless we compensated for each other, helped mitigated each other’s weaknesses and complement each other’s strengths. We’ve been doing it for a long time now, about 15 years, there’s a real shorthand that we have. It’s not a very formal relationship, like the Cohen Brothers, divvy up producing and directing. It’s very specific.
Ours is less defined than that. We always say that if you’ve asked one of us a question and you get an answer then you got an answer from both of us. We share a lot of the same influences, obviously, we grew up together, we’ve read the same comics, we read the same books, we watched the same movies, watched the same television shows, so all of our influences are very similar. So when we look at material we tend to look at it in the same way and it seems to make it very easy for everybody.
Q: You are primarily known for comedies. What was it about this, did you want to start something new or really interested in getting into the Marvel?
Well once our comedy career got up and running we–– we always used to say, if you had asked us before we got started if we would ever be known as comedy directors we would have never guessed that. We didn’t start off our directing career wanting, necessarily intending to be comedy directors. We loved comedy and started down that road because we wrote a comedy called Welcome to Collinwood that we ended up directing. We shoot all kinds of things. We shoot TV, we shoot films, we shoot commercials, we shoot TV pilots… Our tastes run all over the map and we like to explore everything as filmmakers. The action genre is something that’s been on our agenda for a long, long time.
Well, it was a double whammy for us. When Marlo came to us and said, “Listen, are you interested in making Captain America: The Winter Soldier?” I started collected comic books when I was 10 years old and one of the first books I ever got was a Captain America Falcon Team Up so that’s like a 30-year dream come true for me to be able to make a comic book movie. Two, when we grew up with our father in the ’70s we used to watch The Late Show, ’70s thrillers. We’ve seen The French Connection 100 times. So when they said, “it’s a comic book movie inspired by ’70s thrillers” we went out of our minds with excitement.
Q: What were your favorite scenes to work on, and the hardest scenes to work on?
I love the relationship between Chris and Scarlett in the movie, I think that’s the real heart of the film. They were extremely integral in the interpretation of those scenes, both Chris and Scarlett. They wrote some of their own dialogue. They’ve been working together for so long, I think this is their fourth film together and they’ve been really good friends for years. And so they brought all that energy and chemistry to the movie and I think it really is like the spark of life in this film. So those are the easiest and funnest scenes to work on, where it was anytime we had the two of them together.
I would also add the scene in with Robert Redford, when he and Chris Evans are in Nick Fury’s office. Working with Robert Redford was certainly a career high. That’s such a great scene to just watch those two play chess with each other through that scene and watch Captain America be put in a position where he has to lie to somebody who’s basically his commanding officer. It was a really exciting interesting scene and I’ll just never forget that experience.
And the hardest scenes are the action scenes, obviously. There was a scene near the end of the second act where The Winter Soldier attacks Captain America, Natasha and Sam in a car on the freeway. We had to shut down a freeway in Cleveland for two weeks to shoot that scene. If you could imagine in your own town if a filmmaker came in and said, “Hey we’re gonna shut down one of your major freeways for two weeks, what do you guys think?” Have fun getting to work, right? There was a lot of pressure on us ’cause there was no room for error. It was a very complicated sequence, you’ve seen the scene. We had to get all that work from the time he lands on their car till his mask comes off. All that work has to be done in a two-week period. So he and I worked around the clocks, 14-days straight…
We had multiple units going to make sure we got it. That was probably the toughest thing we did in the movie.
Q: Most of the Marvel films there is heavy C-G-I but in this one I felt like there wasn’t as much CGI, it was more grounded. Can you explain why?
Basically the movie breaks down like this… The first two acts, are basically shot practically, we say. And then the third act when you get into the heli-carriers, for obvious reasons…
Obviously it had to go to CGI but it was–– was a very…
The specific reason that we did that.. it’s a thriller and it’s a grounded thriller and political thrillers need to be grounded ’cause they have to be topical and there have to be real stakes for the characters. If you don’t feel the stakes for the characters there’s no excitement in the movie, if you don’t feel like he’s really in jeopardy. Sometimes CGI can take you out of a film. And it puts you into a fantasy or a science fiction genre. In order to execute the political thriller component, and that’s really the first two acts of the movie, and then it becomes an adventure film. Or a more traditional superhero movie. But those first two acts it was really important to us to execute as much of the stunts as we could practically.
Especially because we thought that was something fresh we could bring to the table. The need to keep surprising people is so important to Marvel and it’s like we knew that was a special thing that belonged to this movie, number one because our tastes went there, and number two because it wouldn’t service the character Captain America. That one thing we love about Captain America is he doesn’t fly across the sky like Iron Man. He doesn’t turn into a green monster. He doesn’t come from another world like Thor, he’s just a guy, only more so. That led to the way we shot him in this movie with a handheld camera, trying to get very intimate with him. And that’s how we shot the action as well.
Q: Was there any certain amount of pressure knowing the Captain America’s Marvel film fab base to make sure you got it right?
There’s always pressure with the fan base. It’s an intense fan base. But something that we’ve learned in our career, that’s very important to us, is that you cannot predict what people are going to like. You can only make the movie based on how you feel and what you feel you would want to see. And then you hope everybody else likes it too. Because we’re comic book fans and film geeks, our approach to the movie was, “What if I’m finally getting the opportunity as a fan boy to make a comic book film?’ What do I want to see in a comic book movie?” And then we put all of that into the film. And you just keep your fingers crossed. But you’re never gonna make everybody happy. I know when we came out with the, we call it stealth suit, Steve Rogers suit, it’s the blue suit with the white stripe on it? You know, the Internet exploded, “How could they not have him in the red, white and blue suit?” You’ll see in a year when you see the film, it’s a very thematic use of the costume, and the movie is supposed to represent his work for the government, his work for shield and he embraces the symbol of his old suit at the end of the movie in order to fight the bad guys. So you kinda have to tune that out a little bit.
It’s important to remember, the fan base does not speak with a single voice. You find the entire spectrum of opinion. There’s people who are fans of the Golden Age version of the character –– and then everything that came–– came after. So at the end of the day you just, you have to, because we are fans, because we love the material, ultimately you just have to service yourself and hope others like it.
Q: When you said you were a huge comic book fan and you’ve been reading since Captain Falcon Team in the 1970s, what was your reaction in the comic books when Bucky came back as The Winter Soldier?
We thought it was genius. We told Kevin Feige, we’re went out on our first meeting with him we said, “You know, you have Star Wars on your hands, it’s so rare that you get a villain who has such an emotional connection to the hero and that’s a gift as a storyteller, ’cause there’s an old adage that the hero is only as good as the villain and it’s so true. And you think about your favorite hero/villain movies, the villain is always a very Seminole figure. So basically to have your doppelganger or your this sort of antithetical Captain America character, he’s got a robot arm that’s as strong as your shield and his strength is equal to your strength. He’s fighting for principles that are opposite of your principles.”
Yet he’s your best friend.
It plays into so many of the hot button areas for us and things that excite us that we couldn’t have been more excited to make this film.
Q: What was your favorite completed scene to see on the big screen?
So many of them but I would, maybe have to say there was a particular thrill to watching the climax, the battle with the heli-carriers finally completed. Because that was such a long road, because it was computer graphics, that scene didn’t really come together until the last couple months. Other scenes like the car, Fury’s car chase, or the fight on the bridge with The Winter Soldier. We had those things edited back in September. But the final climactic battle is something that came together at the very end of the process because of all the graphic work for it.
Q: How long were you working on the movie?
We were working on the movie for two years, probably a little bit more if you count the time that we spent winning the job, which was like a two- or three-month process. So it’s been a long, it’s a big chunk of your life so you better hope you like it and that you like it for yourself, because it’s something that’ll stick with you for a long time if you don’t.
And we literally just delivered the movie two weeks ago.
Go deeper into the intrigue of Marvel’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier with stars Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson and Robert Redford and producer Kevin Feige with the featurette below!
Be sure to check out other great interviews with Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan and Producer Kevin Feiger for Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
Like Captain America on Facebook: facebook.com/captainamericamovie
Follow Captain America on Twitter: https://twitter.com/CaptainAmerica
Captain America: The Winter Soldier releases in theaters everywhere on NOW!