Anthony Russo Finally Talks 'Captain America: The Winter Soldier'
Though the excitement for Captain America: The Winter Soldier is high (the title alone gets comic book fans all tingly), there's certainly been some skepticism amongst fans about hiring sibling TV directing duo Anthony and Joe Russo (best known for their work on "Community") taking the reins from Captain America: The First Avenger helmer Joe Johnston. Thankfully, an intrepid reporter caught up with Anthony at the Television Critics Association panel and, at great length, talked about how he and his brother landed the job, what they intend to bring to the film (without giving anything away), and much more. Read on!
The Huffington Post (in addition to some other reporters in the vicinity) talked to Anthony about the Marvel sequel, and he was very forthcoming with the approach he and his brother Joe are taking with the film, not to mention reassuring fans who might be skeptical that they're suddenly going to make a goofy comic book movie, not unlike what Joel Schumacher did when he inherited the Batman franchise after Tim Burton. So how did the directing duo, predominantly known for comedy, land a high profile comic book action flick like this as their second feature film ever?
"Well, first of all, Marvel's this incredible company that has shown in the past that they think outside the box with directors. I mean, it's shocking the people they've hired, over and over again, and they've had great success as a result. They like character, and they like storytelling and they like fun. We were surprised, but they were big fans of "Community" and you can sort of draw a line between some things we did on "Community" and a Marvel movie. I think if you look at some of the big genre episodes, the paintball episodes, etc. -- there's a cinematic sensibility being explored there that is in the language of [various kinds of] films."
Fair enough. But the duo had to work a little harder in order to prove they weren't just good directors, but also fans of the rich history that Captain America has in the long line of Marvel comics. Russo says:
"We were comic book geeks from a young age and big fantasy geeks. We got to talk to them in detail about that history. They knew that we understood the brand really well and the characters really well. It was a long process, actually, of talking to them over and over again, through a series of meetings over a long period of time. And I think they just -- we were really passionate about the movie, incredibly passionate about the movie. They felt that, and they felt like it was the right match."
But again, without a plethora of action experience, how will two comedy directors fare with something as huge as Captain America, one of the characters who assembled for ass-kicking action in The Avengers. Russo has some information everyone should know:
"There's a little-known side to my brother and I, which is, we didn't start out as comedy directors. We started out in the mid-'90s -- we made this credit card movie that made the festival circuit in '97, that Steven Soderbergh saw at the same time he [was showing] 'Schizopolis' on the festival circuit. He loved our movie and offered to produce something for us, so we went into a cycle of writing -- we wrote three scripts, only one of which was a comedy. That was 'Welcome to Collinwood,' and when he formed his company with George Clooney, he wanted to make something with us, so we showed him these three scripts and he picked 'Collinwood,' and from that point forward, we were comedy directors. And we've loved doing it, but we've always had another side to ourselves.
People in the industry know that, because they've seen scripts that we've done, they've seen things that the public at large hasn't seen. So I think it is more surprising to people on the outside, but people on the inside get it a little more, because it is in our wheelhouse."
In addition, Russo has some thoughts on why TV directors have been stepping up to take on feature films with such a rich history like Captain America: The Winter Soldier, not to mention "Game of Thrones" director Alan Taylor taking on Thor: The Dark World:
"One reason why people coming from the television world work particularly well at Marvel is connected to one thing you were saying earlier: Marvel is a big company and they've made a lot of movies and these movies are connected to each other. That's not typical for a feature film. A lot of people who work in feature films, that whole concept is a little foreign, in the sense that you have to be thinking about predecessors in a very specific way. They aren't just prequels, there's a whole mythology that has preceded you. Television people are used to that because there's seasons and seasons of a show and this history is very important.
Also, it's a big company and you're dealing with people from the comic book side and the feature side and so there's a lot of people to work with, as in television -- there's a lot of people to collaborate with. People who have done well in television have a gift for being able to work with a large number of people."
Of course, taking on a feature film of this magnitude for the first time in years is daunting enough, but what about stepping into the world of special effects heavy comic book tentpoles with fans who will rip you apart if the Captain America's wings don't look right on his helmet? That can't be easy, but Russo doesn't sounds all that worried, mostly because of the security blanket Marvel provides:
"Well, two things. It has been something my brother and I have been working on for many years, behind the scenes, sort of preparing. We've had this great run in television comedy, and maybe 'You, Me and Dupree' was an extension of that on a feature level. But we've spent a lot of years now researching that craft.
The other side of that equation is, Marvel is this incredible machine with all these amazing people who work there. That's part of their confidence and why they can go outside the box [in choosing] directors, because they have people there who know everything. They said to us early on in the interview process, 'We don't expect you to know anything [about special effects and so forth] -- you don't have to know everything about this stuff, because we're here for that.' They're very respectful of directors. They're an amazing company to work with."
HuffPo really tried to dig into story details, but as with all Marvel projects, Russo has been sworn to secrecy and fears getting shot. Therefore we have no answers about whether or not any other members of The Avengers will show up in the Captain America sequel, the extent of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s involvement, or whether we'll get Hayley Atwell back as Sharon Carter, younger sister of Peggy Carter, the love interest and solider from the first film, but she was later changed to being Peggy's niece. It would be a nice way to bring Atwell back to the scene, but part of me would rather see how Cap interacts with a new love interest as well.
For now the only solid details we have come in the form of Russo saying that, "there's sort of a darker, edgier sensibility at work there that we found appealing, and that is going find its way into Captain [America] in the modern day." But the modern setting doesn't mean we won't head back to World War II at some point in the form of flashbacks as Russo says, "We're making the movie for first-time viewers, not just for fans, so, because Cap does have this complicated history -- he was this skinny guy who became a super-soldier, he was born back then and he's living [now] -- in the storytelling, you need to convey that to an audience who doesn't know Cap's story."
In addition, you can expect the Russo brothers to attempt to bring some of the magic from The Avengers to Winter Soldier. Russo says, "For me, what I loved about [The Avengers], which is what many if not most people loved about the movie, were the character interactions, those great character moments. You have people rubbing up against each other in a way that's exciting and combustible. While all the special effects and the adventure, the thrill and the danger [are] fun, it was those character-to-character interactions are the heart of the film." With additions like Anthony Mackie as Falcon, that's exactly what Russo says he and his brother will try to bring to this. Stay tuned.