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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.

55 CommentsRefresh
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Avatar image for mittensthescat
Edited By mittensthescat

In the battle where Captain America gets thrown into the buss, and then the buss gets flipped over, a Thor Comic book can be seen amongst the debris.

I’ll wait for the Blu-Ray to find out the issue number.

Avatar image for bystander
Posted By Bystander

Precisely sir! Winter Soldier blew me away completely.

Avatar image for amazing_webhead
Posted By amazing_webhead

I wasn't expecting Stephen Strange to get name-dropped.

So, now Baron Strucker has an Infinity Gem, and two bargaining chips against one of the most powerful supervillains on Earth, one of who is basically "Crisis on Infinite Earths" personified. And S.H.I.E.L.D. is disbanded. We're f*cked.

Avatar image for the_tree
Posted By the_tree

I absolutely loved this movie. Can't wait for Cap 3 already.

Avatar image for daywalker
Edited By Daywalker

Avatar image for nova_prime_
Posted By Nova`Prime`

Saw the movie yesterday and my friend put it best, "Best Bond film in 30 years."

Avatar image for lvenger
Edited By lvenger

God this film was so good! After two barely decent Marvel films, we get a cracker of a good film in the form of The Winter Soldier! Cannot wait for the sequel given that these two are directing it! :D

Avatar image for wmwadeii
Edited By wmwadeii

@g_man: Anyone have a list of the people mentioned as potential targets when they are talking to the scientist (cant recall his name). I think there are some Easter Eggs there. I know the mention Banner and Strange, but was thinking when they said high school valedictorian and the others might be hints at other Marvel heroes.

Avatar image for bob808
Edited By bob808

I loved the liberty undertone in the movie.

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Avatar image for theblueangel93
Edited By TheBlueAngel93

Those guys did an excellent job, they should be very proud of this film.

They really should.

After seeing this movie and learning that they'll be working on the next one...all I can say is that 2016 is going to be a good year for Cap (and Winter Soldier) fans. ^__^

Avatar image for SnakeEyes327
Posted By SnakeEyes327

I like how they adapted a D-list character like Batroc the Leaper. In the MCU now he's a terrorist played by George St-Pierre and is an expert in Savate and parkour. They turned him into David Belle from District B-13.

Avatar image for tommythehitman
Posted By TommytheHitman

@iaconpoint: Movie Cap was like a tank! Movie Batman doesn't have the use of his legs... well kind of.

Avatar image for iaconpoint
Posted By iaconpoint

@jonny_anonymous said:

Those guys did an excellent job, they should be very proud of this film.

Although Batman stomps Captain America in a fight.

yeah, any one who thinks movie Batman would last two seconds against movie Cap didn't actually watch all of these movies.

Avatar image for ultrastarkiller
Posted By ULTRAstarkiller

Loved this movie. My second favorite Marvel movie after Avengers.

Avatar image for hillbillymorangie
Posted By HillbillyMorangie

@artisticneedham: Avengers tower, Original Tron line said by Jeff Bridges (maybe a link to his role in iron man?), pulp fiction quote, loads of McU Easter eggs that you won't miss if you have seen the films... Also watch the Peggy carter one shot

Avatar image for SnakeEyes327
Posted By SnakeEyes327

The only film in phase two that's actually good.

I disagree. I think all three of the Phase 2 movies have been really good. And instead of trying to wow the audience by squeezing out a "first time" experience with the characters, each movie has been a great character piece. Iron Man 3 focused a lot on Tony's insecurity of who he is in a post Avengers world where he now fights side by side with super soldiers, assassins and demi gods, and how his over reliance on his armor has made him forget about his own actual brilliance. Thor 2 focused on Loki and Thor's brotherly ties, and the price of family and loved ones. Where do Thor's responsibilities lay now. Defending Asgard and the nine realms are his responsibility but his place is now on Earth.

Yeah, there are aspects you can nit-pick. I know a lot of people still have a stick up their ass about the"Mandarin" in Iron Man 3. I am not among those people. But after seeing "All Hail the King", the Marvel short that came with Dark World, I think that character is in a very interesting place.

Avatar image for cobramorph

The only problem with the movie was BlackWidow. I mean, she was with IronMan, now she's with Cap, but I have no interest in a movie for her, & Hawkeye barely said anything in Avengers or Thor1, Falcon has had a bigger role in just this one film, so why even have bothered with Hawkeye? Also, everything that BW did, Sharon Carter could have done, so he role was pointless as well. & also, why has BW been given Avenger founder status over the Wasp?

This movie was pretty awesome. Surpass by a longgggggggggg way, the first part that was a little bit lame and boring. By the way, stay after the end credits because they showed two extra scenes

Mid-credit yeah, but the second scene at the end was pointless.

Avatar image for artisticneedham
Posted By ArtisticNeedham

I skimmed, avoided reading it for fear of spoilers. But what are some of the easter eggs I should look out for when I see the film?

Avatar image for lukehero
Posted By lukehero

The H2H fighting in this movie was so good, I now find the fights in the Nolan Batman movies down right embarrassing. Sorry Batman ;( .

Avatar image for thewalkingdeadpool18
Edited By thewalkingdeadpool18

Captain America 2 is a masterpiece.

Avatar image for amaltheias
Posted By amaltheias

Faaaaantastic movie. Still processing how awesome it was. Love this interview too, they seem like really conscientious guys!

Avatar image for longbowhunter
Posted By longbowhunter

Good interview, great movie! The Brubaker cameo caught me by surprise.

Avatar image for fallschirmjager
Posted By Fallschirmjager

I mean, they made Falcon not-suck. That alone says it all.

Avatar image for hillbillymorangie
Edited By HillbillyMorangie

Missed the pulp fiction one, my favourite was the Tron one... Anyway amazing film, hurry up everyone who hasn't seen it I'm fed up of keeping mum... Also please bring in spider woman and crossbones for captain America 3 they would be an awesome duo...

Avatar image for knightrise
Posted By KnightRise

The fact that Fury's tombstone said "The path of the righteous man. -Ezekial 25:17" just about made my life complete.

Best. Easter egg. EVER!!!!

Avatar image for war_of_light_2814
Edited By war of light_2814

The only film in phase two that's actually good.

Avatar image for feargalr
Posted By feargalr

Great movie!

Avatar image for greeneagle
Posted By greeneagle

@g_leno: I am so glad someone else noticed that. This tops the original winter soldier story.

Avatar image for greeneagle
Posted By greeneagle

@g_man: All movie Batman incarnations wouldn't stand a chance against movie Cap.

Avatar image for timotheus316
Edited By Timotheus316

Just back fresh from the movie and I have to say: WOW! It was awesome. I think I still like Avengers better but only by a smidge. Really, really, loved this movie. So well balanced between action, character moments, and even emotion. Great, great film. Marvel's done it again!

Avatar image for cuboid
Posted By Cuboid

Just got back from it and loved it. Glad these 2 are back for the sequel, and if they want to do Dr. Strange, I'd be all for it.

During Nick Fury's chase scene there was a logo on the back of the bus that I kept noticing quite prominently - it kind of looked like wings. Anyone catch if it was an Easter Egg for something or just product placement? Or nothing at all?

Avatar image for allstarsuperman
Posted By AllStarSuperman

Amazing movie, they did great

Avatar image for korghano
Posted By korghano

@g_man: Absolutely, Cap was unstoppoably in this movie, like a walking tank. That said, I love that there was a physical effort involved in his superheroics.

Avatar image for fernandogrey
Edited By FernandoGrey

This movie was pretty awesome. Surpass by a longgggggggggg way, the first part that was a little bit lame and boring. By the way, stay after the end credits because they showed two extra scenes

Avatar image for lone_wolf_and_cub
Posted By Lone_Wolf_and_Cub

This movie was awesome!

Avatar image for risingbean
Posted By RisingBean

@jonny_anonymous said:

Those guys did an excellent job, they should be very proud of this film.

Although Batman stomps Captain America in a fight.

Lies! Well on Cap losing to Batman. However Johnny is right about being proud of this movie.

Avatar image for scouts1998
Edited By scouts1998

I have seen the film and the Winter Soldier's send off was obliviously setting up Cap 3 and i love that.

So now that i have cap 2 i will be going to see this before Superman/Batman even though i am more of a DC fanboy.

Avatar image for dondave
Posted By dondave

This film was pretty good. I liked how they combined the plot from Secret Warriors into the film.

Avatar image for g_leno
Edited By G_leno

just got back from seeing this film. It blew me away, its just so much better than his first film.

Avatar image for fenderxx
Edited By Fenderxx

Cant wait for this film tonight !!

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