Captain America: The Winter Soldier

The Russos Direct Captain America Into the Modern World

Directors Joe & Anthony Russo talk about Cap's place in the world in Marvel's 'Captain America: The Winter Soldier'!

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How does Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans) fit into the modern world in a post-“Marvel’s The Avengers” world?

That’s the central theme veteran directors Anthony and Joe Russo sought to answer in Marvel's “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” in theaters April 4. The duo has made their rounds in Hollywood since the 1990s as writers, producers, actors, and most notably, directors, and felt Marvel Studios handed them a gem by allowing them to bring the “Winter Solder” storyline to life.

"Cap's coming from a very difficult place in this movie. It's a guy who's lost everybody. It's a very severe emotional and psychological place to be."

“It’s a great piece of material,” Joe said. “You have great actors who understand their characters…[and] we got to reboot a little bit on the tone, which was great. Almost everything, all the ideas that came to the table, are in the movie. That so rarely happens that way. So creatively it’s been a very rewarding film for us.”

Anthony added, “Cap's coming from a very difficult place in this movie. It's a guy who's lost everybody. It's a very severe emotional and psychological place to be.”

Joe and Anthony Russo direct Chris Evans

While it may seem counterintuitive to have two people calling the shots, the lack of sibling rivalry between Anthony and Joe allowed things to work smoothly and loosely on set. And that’s typical for them. In the past their collaboration has helped create critical successes like the Emmy-wining series “Arrested Development” as well as the cult hit “Community.” 

“There’s no formal division of labor with us,” Joe explained. “We’ve been doing it a real long time together, since 1994, so almost twenty years. It’s a little bit like a Vulcan mind-meld. If somebody shows [Anthony] a set plan, it’s as good as both of us seeing it. If he signs off on it, it’s as good as both of us seeing it because then he’ll explain to me what we were doing and vice versa.”

Crossing the “Winter Soldier” storyline from the comic book page to the big screen dealt with a lot of moving parts. While doing what they could to stay true to the source material, the writers and directors also had to tweak things to translate to the big screen while staying within the existing structure of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The goal, according to the directors, was to infuse a 1970s-style political thriller into a super hero movie.  

This involved introducing new characters, changing the tone and feel of the film, providing previous characters meatier roles, and finding ways to display just how difficult the life of Steve Rogers had become in dealing with both emotional and political turmoil.

Anthony Mackie (Falcon) on set

“[Cap] drives the movie, clearly, it’s his film,” Joe said. “But there is sort of a dual storyline that’s playing out within S.H.I.E.L.D. and the earlier parts of the film are sort of moving back and forth between those two storylines until they intersect and then Cap takes over the movie.”

As it happens, despite being on the same team, Cap’s relationship with S.H.I.E.L.D. is more volatile than one might expect.

“The heart of the movie is how does a guy with a code, like Cap, work for a clandestine organization which has a very subversive agenda,” Anthony said. “Can they coexist together? [Nick] Fury represents the organization and Cap is Cap. With it being a political thriller, you want to turn the gas up on that as high as you can because that’s where you’re going to get your political thriller component, that’s where you’re going to get the conflict in the movie.”

He continued, “The relationship between Cap and Nick Fury in this movie is really rich and complicated. It’s sort of these guys who are very different animals and the plot sets them up in a way that they have to confront their differences and sort it out. It’s a messy process but it’s sort of all wrapped up with, 'What is S.H.I.E.L.D., and what is Cap fighting for in the first place?' What that organization is and what that sort of mission [is] evolved through several different incarnations in S.H.I.E.L.D.”

"The heart of the movie is how does a guy with a code, like Cap, work for a clandestine organization which has a very subversive agenda."

Other notable alterations in the film include overhauls to Cap’s shield and suit, which are two aspects fans of the series are always fixing a keen eye on.

“We wanted a suit that would reflect the reality of him being an operative on [a high] level for this organization,” Joe said. “Obviously, it’s also thematic for us because it’s not his traditional suit. It’s the Steve Rogers suit, but for us, the reason that we went in that direction was the tonality of the suit worked for the secret missions. We didn’t want him in any kind of fabrics. The suit to us is bulletproof. It’s Kevlar. It does its job. It’s supposed to keep him from getting shot. It’s supposed to have a real functionality. That’s all we kept saying to everybody is if there’s a design element on it that’s not functional, take it off. It has to be functional. If I was going to design this for real world combat, that’s what it needs to be.”

Filming a stunt on set

With Evans making his third appearance as Steve Rogers/Captain America, his firm grasp of the character allowed him to provide invaluable input to the directors.

“We talked to [Chris] a lot, [and] he understands the character really well,” Anthony said. “He doesn’t think only from an actor’s point of view, he sort of likes approaching things from a [producer’s] point of view or directorial point of view. So it’s nice to talk to him about this stuff, he’s been really helpful in crafting the movie and the character.”

“We relied on him a lot,” Anthony continued. “We pitched him the idea of how we saw Cap transforming in this movie and how he had been spending these past couple of years, in terms of throwing himself into the modern world, training extremely hard. That was all stuff that really excited him and he ran with it.”

Added Joe, “[Chris] is a very clever actor and really embraced the concept and direction we were going in. He really worked his ass off in training. He trained for months and was in great shape for this film and he executes a lot of the fighting on his own.” 

Get your tickets now for "Captain America: The Winter Soldier," in theaters April 4, and for the latest news and updates on Cap stay tuned to Marvel.com, follow @CaptainAmerica on Twitter and like Captain America on Facebook!

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