Within a few minutes of speaking to Disney's PR team, I swiftly learn that - on the secrecy scale - upcoming Avengers film Infinity War fits somewhere comfortably between withheld JFK assassination documents and lost UFO files.
With the Marvel furore in overdrive following the dramatic climax of Captain America: Civil War, the critical smash which pitted two of the Marvel Cinematic Universe's (MCU) heroes - Steve Rodgers (Chris Evans) and Tony Stark AKA Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.) against one another.
Despite being promised UK exclusive interview time with both Anthony and Joe Russo, we sadly - but no less gratefully - only spoke to one-half of the directing duo who, along with Ant-Man's Peyton Reed and Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn, has helped steer Marvel back on course following the underwhelming Avengers: Age of Ultron (I'm told Joe was off having a physical - a contractual obligation for any film director, apparently).
So here it is: an interview with a Russo brother.
How do you plan to top that Civil War fight-scene?
That sequence in Civil War was very very important to us and it’s something that we spent more time and effort and energy on than any part of the movie. We had very high expectations of it ourselves so we do think about that and it is daunting when you think about where to go from that. It took a couple of years to build that sequence from the time we conceived it to the time we finished it. If we are able to bring some special things to the table in these next couple of movies, it will be a long process that we’re at the beginning of right now
At the end of Civil War, characters are split and there's a whole new generation of superheros being trained up. What is the state of the Avengers at the start of Infinity War?
There's a writing adage that says “write yourself into a corner.” My brother and I have always loved that adage. That was one of our favourite things about Civil War - that it ended in a difficult place where it’s hard to imagine what the road forward exactly is for both Tony Stark, Steve Rodgers and these two sides that have suffered the consequences of this division. On a storytelling level, it is a very difficult place and yes, that is very much the condition of the world as we move forward after Civil War. This very much sets the stage for where Infinity War begins - it’s a place of a strong divide.
Will some of the tensions have been resolved when we next meet those characters?
We believe things that are important and complex for a character to go through should be seen on camera. The divisions that happened at the end of Civil War were so deep they’re not the kind of things you can resolve or move through off camera; they’re the kind of things you have to directly deal with in the storytelling.That's our philosophical approach to how we handle those things.
There’s a hint that some stories could be coming to an end. Could Infinity War be the swan song for certain characters?
Without getting too specific with the surprises that the movies hold, we very much think of these [next two Avengers films] as a culmination of everything that's happened in the MCU. And in some respects, they’re going to be the end of some things and the beginnings of certain things. And there’s a big catharsis that happens in these movies in terms of what the MCU is and how it is formed.
Were there any characters that you wanted for Civil War that you couldn’t get?
No, the really lucky thing about Civil War is that everybody that was starting to work their way into our storytelling we got in the movie. There was a long time where we were working very closely with the writers, [Christopher] Markus and [Stephen] McFeely, where we would spend a few months revolving a certain story around characters we did not know for sure we would have access to; it was a little bit of a leap of faith on our part that things would work out and we were very fortunate that they did. It would have been a very complicated situation if it didn’t; it’s not like you can easily put characters in and pull them out - it’s a house of cards. So we were lucky we got everyone in. To be honest with you, we’re in a similar situation right now - the cast is so big for these upcoming films, we're in the midst of a leap of faith process. Hopefully, it will all turn out right again.
At what stage did you know Spider-Man was going to be in the film?
The second we started talking about doing the Civil War storyline with Marvel, we brought up Spider-Man. Right away, Kevin Feige hinted to us there might be a possibility of them being able to work that out and that's all we needed- he was in the movie the second we heard that. We knew we were going to be telling a very difficult story - a tragic story between the two leaders of the Avengers - and we knew that story was going to some dark places but we didn’t want it to be too overwhelming. So characters like Spider-Man were incredibly important to us because we knew we could balance the film with characters like him and Ant-Man, who didn’t have the emotional baggage that the rest of the characters did; they could have a bit of a lighter point of view on what’s happening because of their lighter emotional investment. So for us, he was essential to the movie from the get-go.
Personally speaking, which characters are you most excited to direct that you haven't yet had the opportunity to?
This might sound like a diplomatic or political answer but the cast is so large and there are so many amazing actors playing these characters, it’s an embarrassment of riches for storytellers and directors. Joe and I can’t believe we get to play with this level of talent all in one movie. It’s a challenge because the characters themselves and the actors that play them all deserve their own movie, but now you’re dealing with an ensemble picture where they’re only going to get a portion of the storytelling. But the trick for us is how do you have the most amount of fun with the portion a certain character gets? You can sometimes do a great deal with very little, and again to reference Spider-Man and Ant-Man who aren’t in much of Civil War, but I think leave a big impression on an audience. We have the same sort of opportunities for Infinity War - very talented actors playing really awesome characters that we love who can come in in very unexpected ways.
We bet you're excited to get to play around with Thor and Hulk in Infinity War…
Oh yeah, absolutely. We’ve been talking a lot with both Mark Ruffalo and Chris Hemsworth about what we’re doing with the characters in this movie and they’re really excited.
Why do you think DC films Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad haven't landed with audiences as successfully as Marvel films seem to?
It’s a very interesting question. I can’t speak to it directly because I haven’t seen either but all I can say is my brother and I’s tastes align with Marvel in a lot of ways: we both like very entertaining stories and very balanced movies. We like movies that are going to have a great sense of fun and thrill to them while at the same time remain very grounded in relatable human emotions and conflicts that the audiences can get behind and root for and empathise with. It’s the balance between those we strive for. When we first saw the original Iron Man movie, I remember thinking, ‘wow’ because it had that exact balance to it that we aspired to. So the fact we got to become a part of the Marvel family and find our own expression within that is a real joy for my brother and I.
Captain America: Civil War is available to own on DVD and Blu-ray on 5 September
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