Captain America: Civil War Interview – The Russo Brothers On The Management Of All The Different Tones In The MCU


Last week, I got to do a bunch of roundtable interviews with the cast of Captain America: Civil War. There were a whole bunch of interesting points with the cast that I will certainly share with you.

However, Today I bring a talk with perhaps the most important pieces of this enitre puzzle. The Russos have taken over the reigns of Joss Whedon as one of, if not the the key creative force in the MCU. Civil War is their second foray into the universe, and the step before they take on the Infinity War.

You can read the highlights of our discussion here, which do get really quite interesting. From the discussion of managing all the tones in the MCU right now, to why connected universes are so important to film, take a look.

On the management of tone with all of the characters in Civil War:

Joe Russo: In respect to tone, look at all the character voices that are in this film, look at the tones. Drama, comedy, action. We sit in a room with them [writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeelyfor months and discuss the characters, how we want to see them executed and how they end the film in a different place to where they started even if it's just incremental. Everybody has to have some kind of movement.

Then once they have a script, we sat for a couple of days at a time and read it from each character's perspective. Then we pool through and go, 'we're missing a moment here. We're not tracking Scarlett Witch, let's add a scene with her and Vision.' That's how we slowly weave a tapestry with 12 characters in it.

Anthony Russo: It's important to remember, though, it's not the amount of screen time they have, it's what they do in that screen time. That's one of the pleasures of Civil War for us, discovering that some of the characters with the least amount of screen time can have the most fun.

JR: Ant-Man came out while we were working on the film and we thought, 'that's a whole new tone we can bring to the Universe'. If we bring Paul Rudd into this, how is it going to affect the storytelling? It's as much as the heavy lifting we're doing, as the Universe does for us, because you are predisposed to understand that tone. When that character interacts with someone who has a different tone – like Black Panther – you get both tones merged together.

On working with the actors, in particular Robert Downey Jr.:
We're very open to the actors interpreting the characters, because they know them better than we ever will. Some have been playing the characters for seven or eight years. When you have a scene and you feel it's good, by the time you sit down with Robert Downey Jr., it's twice as good because of what he brings to the table in terms of dialogue, what he likes to play and what he explores.

JR: We really did push Robert to take risks in the movie, because the character can be potentially unlikeable. He's playing the antagonist to the title character, but Robert's incredible. He has a system where he prepares really well, and then throws the plan out. He will write lines for himself based on what the writers have written, and then he will try a different line every take.

On the use of improv with the actors:

JR: Any time you say to Paul Rudd, 'give us a great line', he gives us a great line. Chris Evans does a lot of his work beforehand with the writers, where he will read the script and circle lines that he feels are off tone for the character. Then he gets to the set and he's got everything already memorised.


On their favorite character and who they'd like to add next:

JR: I started collecting comics when I was 10. Spider-Man was my favourite . This interpretation is based on how I felt about the character as a child. There was a relatability to the fact he was 16 dealing with girls, acne and high-school problems while he was also this incredibly powerful Marvel superhero. Our intent was to cast an actor much closer in age.

Another favourite character of mine growing up was Wolverine, which obviously is a character we don't have the rights to, but if we were to have an opportunity to interpret that character, it would be equally as inspiring to me as Spider-Man.

On other studios creating cinematic universes, and the ever changing way we consume media:

AR: You see a lot of studios now trying it now because Marvel's been so successful. It's an unprecedented way to present films and interconnected narrative. We have not seen Batman v Superman yet. We will see it, we've just been delivering the movie then right into the press tour. There's a big difference between making a big, interconnected Universe work and not, so it remains to be seen whether the model can be used by other studios.

JR: There's a reason why you're seeing Cinematic Universes and that's because branded content moving forward is what's going to get people out of their houses. At the end of the day, with Netflix and Amazon you can pay $14 a month to sit at home and watch a whole season of House of Cards, that can fill up my whole weekend. I've got Friday to Sunday covered. I can do three episodes a day, or I can drop $100 going to the theatre, having dinner and buying popcorn. What's going to get you out of the house now?

When television was released from the shackles of the Nielsen ratings with these rich corporations, like Netflix and Amazon, who've zero metric for their content other than whether it incites a cultural conversation or not… now they're going to be doing incredible risky, adventurous and interesting storytelling. The problem, I think, that studios are facing is 'what are we offering that'll get you out of the house in an environment where so much media in your home is competing for your attention?' I think that's why you see everyone attempting to create Universes. They're trying to brand their content so they can buy a piece of the calendar moving forward.

Look at Deadpool. It made $800 million, and now Deadpool owns February. They're going to branch that off into X-Force and other characters. Star Wars owns Christmas for the next 20 years. Marvel owns May and November, so that's really what it's about now.

AR: Is that too much? I don't know. It's evolving. We all know movies to be two hour closed experiences.

Our children have a much different understanding of narrative that's informed by YouTube and Vine. The traditional content they watch is an average of about four minutes. So are they going to be interested in two hours stories moving forward or do they want interconnected Universes where they spend 20 years of their lives investing in one character? Who knows where it's going? When VR shows up, it could change everything, but it's an interesting and exciting time.

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About Patrick Dane

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