The wait is finally almost over and you will soon be able to see Captain America: Civil War, this week, at your local multiplex. But, before you do:
On Wednesday, we met directors Joe and Anthony Russo at a Midtown Manhattan hotel as part of the almost one last “victory lap” of a press tour. (When the reviews have been this good, why not?) Yesterday we published the big news from this interview that Avengers: Infinity War 1 and 2 are going to have a name change pretty soon, since both movies are two separate stories. But there’s still plenty more to learn.
Ahead, the Russos talk about scouting out the DC competition and their own relationship to the DC characters; how the tone has changed at Marvel Studios since the departure of Marvel CEO Isaac Perlmutter; and the future of the “big bad,” Thanos. When I sat down, Joe Russo asked if I was “team Cap” or “team Iron Man.”
A lot of people do side with Iron Man.
Joe Russo: You would have thought it would have easily have skewed in Cap’s favor. I think it’s a real sign of the times that we’re finding a lot of people who are for government oversight regulation.
Snowden’s leaks were interesting. Some people are fine with the spying as long as it keeps them safe.
Joe Russo: I think we’re asking questions we’ve never had to ask before. Because of the proliferation of violence and the ease of which people can attack undefended civilians, there seems to be a growing collective sociopathy that is breeding throughout the world. It’s forcing us to examine what freedom is. Freedom versus security is a critical issue moving forward and will probably be the defining issue of the next 30 or 40 years of government.
This got deep based on just you asking if I was “team Iron Man.” I only picked him because no one else really was.
Joe Russo: So you wanted to give him a little love.
He has some valid points.
Anthony Russo: He has some valid points. And he’s very emotionally vulnerable, so you can empathize with him on that level.
You two have to be pleased with the reception so far.
Joe Russo: We are. We’re fans first. I mean, that’s why we started making these movies. We grew up reading comic books, so we understand the mythology in a very deep way and we have an emotional connection to it because we were fascinated with it as children.
Were you more Marvel or DC back then?
Joe Russo: Marvel. I just found these characters more flawed and interesting.
I’ve seen people shift over time.
Joe Russo: I always had a really hard time getting into Superman as a kid. There just wasn’t a lot of vulnerability there for me. I loved Batman. He’s the one DC character I really loved.
I loved The Flash.
Joe Russo: I think, as a kid, that was a fun character to be on the playground.
Anthony Russo: A 6-year-old is taken with The Flash.
Joe Russo: I found that Martian Manhunter was the Martian Superman. Wonder Woman was the female Superman. There was repetitiveness in their characters. Aquaman is the sea Superman. Where I found that Marvel was building characters that are flawed and unique. Spider-Man was my favorite character growing up. I loved Wolverine.
Weren’t you happy you got to include Spider-Man in Civil War?
Joe Russo: Are you kidding? That was a sheer force of will to get him into the movie based on my love of the character. There’s no universe where two studios should be sharing a billion dollar piece of IP – beyond the fact that there were a lot of circumstances that lined up to allow this to happen.
Everyone is intertwined so well in this movie, I bet if you wanted to include Dupree, you could have fit him in and made it work.
Joe Russo: That’s not a bad idea for Civil War.
Anthony Russo: [Laughs.] It would have taken us a few weeks to figure that out.
It has Michael Douglas already. Please put Bill Hader or Seth Rogen in one of these movies so I can write a “The MCU all came from You, Me and Dupree” thinkpiece.
Joe Russo: We need to get Kate Hudson in there somewhere.
Do you ever check out the competition? Did you see Batman v Superman?
Anthony Russo: Of course. Absolutely.
Joe Russo: We’re fans! I’m first in line at a midnight screening with my son for a movie I’m excited about. I love these movies. I love this mythology. I grew up on it.
When you see Batman v Superman and there are some similar beats – superheroes fighting, the parents play a role, a mastermind pulling strings – then you see the reaction to that movie, do you ever worry?
Anthony Russo: The similarities that you’re talking about go back to the source material, right?
Of course. But the average Joe going to see a movie, they aren’t necessarily going to know that.
Anthony Russo: Right. But, from our point of view, as far as the choices we had to make, we had to take that as a given. And then we moved forward on the belief that the specificity of how we filter that will be very unique to us. We had to believe that, whether or not that ultimately ended up being true.
Joe Russo: We’ve learned, anytime we’ve allowed outside influences into our creative process, we’ve failed.
What’s an example of that? You have a pretty good track record.
Anthony Russo: [Laughs] That’s a good question.
Even Dupree is on cable television on a never-ending loop.
Anthony Russo: To be honest with you, before we did Winter Soldier, Dupree was by far the most commercially successful thing we’ve ever done. Almost the only commercially successful thing we’ve ever done.
Joe Russo: Also, it’s the thing we’ve felt we had the least amount of control over, with that movie than anything we’d ever done in our career. So, if we were going to go back to movies, we were going to do it in a way where we had great creative control.
It is surprising Marvel qualifies as that.
Joe Russo: There’s this misperception about the way that Marvel works. You have to remember, too, it’s a very different place than it was two years ago.
Right. Someone [CEO of Marvel entertainment Isaac Pearlmutter] who used to be there isn’t there anymore.
Joe Russo: He’s not there anymore.
So even to you, you can tell that big of a difference?
Joe Russo: Oh my God.
Anthony Russo: It is different. We obviously have to see our vision of the movie to Kevin Feige. Our job is to go, here’s the movie we want to make, and sell it to him.
And he’s a fan.
Joe Russo: But it’s no different than the process at any other studio where you’re dealing with a studio head who is writing a check for hundreds of millions of dollars.
Anthony Russo: Kevin would then have to then sell that vision to “someone else.” Now he doesn’t have to.
Joe Russo: Anytime you streamline communication, you’re doing better work.
You guys are on your “victory tour” now. Honestly, what else haven’t you answered? I think the last one is “How does Infinity War Part 2 end”?
Joe Russo: It ends with Superman. No, we don’t know yet. We’re still figuring it out.
Anthony Russo: Aside from the issues of spoilers, we are at that point with Infinity War, we can’t really say anything too specific because we’re not on solid ground yet. We’re still forming it.
You need to get Thanos going. I legitimately feel bad for him. He hasn’t had much success.
Joe Russo: Have you read that great Twitter account? What is it, Lonely Thanos?
I’m familiar with it.
Anthony Russo: It is Lonely Thanos. It’s amazing.
Joe Russo: It’s ingenious.
Anthony Russo: We have no idea who is behind it.
Joe Russo: It’s one of the funniest things we’ve ever read.
Anthony Russo: It’s just Thanos talking about how he has no Infinity Stones.
Joe Russo: We sit around with Kevin Feige and just laugh and laugh and laugh. He’s obsessed with it.
I legitimately feel bad for Thanos. He hasn’t had much success.
Joe Russo: We laugh about it all the time.
Anthony Russo: Because it’s so true.
Joe Russo: For us, as creators, we go, “Where do we go with this character? How do we fix this perception?”
He thought Ronan was his friend, but no.
Joe Russo: He has a very poor track record of choosing henchman.
Mike Ryan lives in New York City and has written for The Huffington Post, Wired, Vanity Fair and New York magazine. He is senior entertainment writer at Uproxx. You can contact him directly on Twitter.