As we continue with our multi-part interview with Joe and Anthony Russo about Avengers: Infinity War (the first parts are here and here), this is where we say upfront that if you haven’t seen the movie yet (if there are even any of you left), you probably should not read what’s below.
Okay, with that taken care of, here we go.
Two of the most shocking moments in Avengers: Infinity War come after Thanos has put together all six Infinity Stones and snapped half the universe out of existence. Then we watched as beloved characters like Black Panther (someone in my audience literally screamed) and Spider-Man flake away into oblivion. Spider-Man’s death scene alone will probably wind up haunting every young child who saw it for the rest of their lives.
As it turns out, according to the Russos, Tom Holland improvised a good amount of that scene. Ahead, Joe and Anthony Russo take us through those two scenes and break down why each one is so memorable and works the way it does.
Was there any character that there was a huge debate over if he or she should live or die?
Joe Russo: No, because typically it’s all driven by storytelling – and a lot of the debating is done by me and Anthony and [screenwriters] Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely. So, a lot of the debating is done by the four of us in a room arguing about storytelling. It’s kind of like a high school debate club if you go in there. Everyone is championing a story point and then, out of that, we find the best idea – whatever survives the argument.
I spoke to Christopher and Stephen before I saw the movie and I made an offhanded remark about there being no way they could kill Black Panther and I was met with ten seconds of silence.
Anthony Russo: [Laughs] Hey, you know, it’s part of the storytelling from Black Panther. There are ways to establish a new Black Panther. Do you want to see a fight between Okoye and Shuri?
Have you been enjoying the “I don’t feel so good” memes?
Joe Russo: They are hilarious. People keep forwarding them to me. Interestingly, I haven’t seen a Trump one yet.
Is Trump even president in the Marvel Cinematic Universe?
Anthony Russo: Oh, god, I don’t know. If he was, it would literally take over the Marvel Universe.
The scene with Peter Parker is haunting. Were you worried kids would cry?
Joe Russo: Well, you know, I cried during The Empire Strikes Back. I think there’s a power in narrative and The Empire Strikes Back was one of the more impactful movies when I was in a child. I think I was ten.
I didn’t cry but I remember being horrified, but I was five.
Anthony Russo: Well that’s because you were the wrong age for that. You had to be closer to our age because you can deal with that kind of complexity.
Joe Russo: I stayed and I watched that movie from 11 a.m. until 11 p.m. the day that movie came out. I just kept going back and back and back. And I think there’s something about catharsis and we all create catharsis in storytelling. There are things you can deal with in fantasy that you can’t deal with directly in the real world. I would argue that this movie is a reflection of its time. And that there is a level of catharsis the audience is going through collectively and globally as we march into whatever future awaits us.
Was there ever a debate on how sad to make Peter Parker’s death scene?
Joe Russo: With Peter specifically, we knew that would be a gut punch. I mean, that was my favorite character growing up.
Anthony Russo: Once we commit to a story idea, we commit to the fullest version of that. The potency of that moment is a function of us following that creative choice.
Joe Russo: We kept pushing it on set farther and farther with the emotional performance that we wanted. And part of it was improvisation on Tom Holland’s part.
What part did he improvise?
Joe Russo: I think what was scripted was, “I don’t feel so good,” and, “I’m sorry,” and everything in-between is Tom.
So, “I don’t want to go,” was his?
Joe Russo: Yeah. And the emotional level to which we pushed him to, that was really just us just saying, “You’re a child and you don’t understand.”
Anthony Russo: And the moment really expanded with Robert Downey Jr. Ever since we introduced the new Spider-Man in Civil War, Robert has been a very active mentor to him. And not just outside, but in the moment and in the scene while acting. Robert is one of the most remarkable performers on the planet and he makes everyone around him better and he brings everybody up. So, when Robert is tuned in to what you’re doing and, on a performance level, he wants to help feed you and pull you. He can do remarkable things. And he will dance with Tom on a performance level that is amazing and that was one example of it. He’s a very giving performer and he really helped us find that moment with Tom.
And I’ve never heard quite an audience reaction like when Black Panther flakes away…
Anthony Russo: What I love about that moment, Okoye, just the mission of that character to be the King’s protector and she takes that job very seriously.
Joe Russo: And for him to evaporate in her arms…
Anthony Russo: And the way she reacted to that was riveting and we couldn’t cut away from it.
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