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Interview: Joe and Anthony Russo talk 'Captain America: The Winter Soldier,' Inspirations, and Easter Eggs

We talk to the directors to find out what went into making this Captain America sequel.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier opens in the U.S. on April 4. Many overseas have seen the movie and the buzz is good. We had the chance to watch the movie a couple weeks ago and attend a press conference along with some one-on-one interviews.

You can check out our review of the movie HERE, our interview with Anthony Mackie HERE, and press conference answers from Chris Evans and Scarlett Johansson HERE and HERE.

Here's our interview with directors Joe and Anthony Russo. There might be a tiny spoiler or two.

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COMIC VINE: What was it like directing such a highly anticipated film?

JOE RUSSO: Interesting because there could be a lot of pressure with that, especially because there’s a lot of scrutiny on these movies. Because we had such a strong point of view about it, there’s a double whammy creatively on this movie for us. One, it was a comic book film. I told you I was collecting comics since I was ten-years-old. The first comics I ever got my hands on were the Captain America/Falcon team-ups. So this is a dream, thirty years in the making. It really is a movie truly made by fanboys—cherry-picking our favorite moments from comics and trying to put them in.

Two, they wanted to draw an influence from 70s thrillers. We grew up on 70s thrillers. It was something we used to do with our father. We’d sit in the living room and watch the late show. It was just a litany of 70s thrillers. Those were his favorite movies. We’ve seen The French Connection a hundred times, Black Friday, Three Days of the Condor, All the President’s Men, The Parallax View, and the list goes on and on. Both creative touchdowns for the film were very emotional. They came from a very emotional place for us and a fanboy place. We were ecstatic to get the opportunity to work on it.

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CV: What were the biggest obstacles?

JR: The only way you can make a movie like this is based on what you want to see, right? Because if you’re listening to everyone else, you’re going to make a shitty movie. If you try to anticipate how the audience is going to react, you’re going to make a shitty movie. All we could rely upon was our own taste and what we wanted to see in a Captain America film. That’s what we put to the movie and you hope everyone else responds to it.

We didn’t feel like there were a lot of challenges, from a pressure standpoint or from a scrutiny standpoint. We just didn’t pay attention to that. Physical challenges? Yes. Shooting a complex film, a very large film requires a lot of organization and management. It really helped that there were two of us.

CV: In the past, people have said Cap was too much of a boy scout. Was it difficult finding where to draw the line to what he would or wouldn’t do like throwing a knife through someone’s hand?

JR: We were pushing for that. The problem I had with Cap when I was a kid, and I started collecting in the 80s when Frank Miller wrote THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS and people started deconstructing comic book heroes, and I liked that. I like a post modern approach where you take a hero from the Silver Age and shove him into this reality and see what happens to the character. You exploit his mythology and themes that he stood for.

For us, when I was a kid, I would imagine Steve McQueen as the character. I always wanted a little more bite to him or an edge so he didn’t go boy scout-y on me. That’s what we tried to put into this movie. Cap has a code but he’s also a soldier. He’s a very principled guy. He will always put the greater good in front of himself. He’s a very selfless character. But if lives are at stake and bad people are involved, those bad people are in a lot of trouble. That’s where we drew the line with him. We felt, listen, if that guy reaches that alarm [in the movie], the lives of those hostages are over. So the stakes are, ‘I either throw this knife through his hand or those people die.’ Cap doesn’t have a problem throwing a knife through the guy’s hand. That’s how we sort of examined every choice that he makes.

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CV: How much did you guys talk to Ed Brubaker?

JR: A lot. We had dinner with Ed. That run is one of our favorite runs. Again because I love Cap and it deconstructed Cap for me. Brubaker is like a hero of ours. One of the first things we did when we got the project was set up a dinner with him to get his blessing. We picked his brain about the origin of the Winter Soldier and where it came from and what he was feeling when he created the character. We asked what he feels about Cap and what works and doesn’t work in the Cap Universe. He also has a cameo.

CV: Yeah. It was great.

ANTHONY RUSSO: Giving him that cameo was a real thrill for us because he was the Winter Soldier’s keeper.

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CV: Was it easy to set up a different feel of vibe compared to the other Marvel Studios films? You said you wanted to make the movie you wanted to make. Was there pressure to fit it into this big Cinematic Universe?

AR: Here’s the thing, part of the brilliance of Marvel and Kevin Feige is the fact they want you to surprise them. They don’t want your version of the movie to be what they were thinking. They want it to be something they weren’t thinking. That’s what they need in order to keep the franchise fresh. The fact that we were off the reservation a bit, so to speak, was exciting to them. We were always supported, right from the get-go. It was a lengthy audition process. Like two or three months of meetings very specific with what we wanted to do with the movie. It was an awesome process for us to go through because it really helped us figure the movie out. But they were extremely supportive. Once they realized, “Yeah, these guys have a vision for the movie that we’re inspired by,” it was nothing but support from that point on.

CV: Word is you two are directing Captain America 3?

AR: Yeah, the support continues.

JR: We’re really excited about that. When you see the movie, you can tell it’s a two-parter. The Winter Soldier’s story is not complete in this film.

AR: Neither is Cap’s mission…

JR:…to reach him. So it begs for another movie.

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CV: What was your favorite scene in The Winter Soldier?

JR: Favorite scene? Wow. I don’t know. It’s interesting. One of my favorite scenes in the film is a scene between Cap and Natasha, in a truck on a way up to a military base. They have a very personal conversation with each other. You really get his point of view and you get her point of view. You get to see them as people interacting with one another. It’s a very human level. I love that scene because it’s one of those scenes that grounds the movie and pulls you into a superhero universe from a very human point of view.

AR: I love that scene very much too. If I had to add another one, I keep going back to the scene with Cap and Robert Redford in Fury’s office. Where he has to go talk to him after Fury’s been killed. The think I love about that scene is that we put Captain America in a place where he had to lie to his commanding officer basically. I just think that’s a great moment for Cap to break the boy scout.

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CV: Are there any other Marvel characters you’d want to direct?

JR: Oh boy, I think there’s a lot. When I was a kid I collected almost exclusively Marvel Comics so name it, I’d love to do the Doctor Strange movie.

CV: Loved that little mention in the movie.

JR: Right. That was our Easter Egg. We pushed for that. I remember saying to Kevin, “How can we talk about Stephen Strange if he hasn’t even been introduced yet?” He goes, “We don’t know the timeline for when Stephen Strange gets introduced to this universe.” That’s the way he’s always thinking. It’s a fascinating mosaic. So I don’t know if I could pick a specific character but yeah, I like Strange.

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CV: What was it like setting up all the fight scenes?

AR: That was an extremely involved process. Basically what we did was we started with movies that excited us stylistically. We loved the sort of visceral intensity of the bank robbery in Heat. We loved The Raid, it was a big influence on us. We love that kinetic fighting style.

JR: We could really track the action and see what was happening.

AR: The camera work in The Raid too. We got everybody flushed with all the kind of stuff we were vibing. Then we went through a very lengthy process with our stunt team, which was amazing. They would stage choreographed fights and then shoot it and show it to us. We would say what we liked or didn’t like. They would go back and re-work it according to that. It was something that evolved over many many months. It was a very fun process in trying to get every single sequence right, making sure every sequence was unique.

CV: Captain America vs Batman?

Both: ha ha ha.

JR: [matter of factly] Captain America.

AR: Right.

JR: No question.

AR: For sure, now.

Make sure you fulfill your patriotic duty and watch Captain America: The Winter Soldier this weekend.