Anthony Russo and Joe Russo, also known as the Russo brothers, have been a part for the Marvel Cinematic Universe since 2014, when they directed Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Their unique take on the superhero genre with an added political thriller vibe was so much of a success that they were brought in to oversee Captain America: Civil War, a smaller scale ensemble that brought in other heroes together to fight amongst themselves. They eventually went on to direct the final two Avengers films, Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame, the latter of which hits theaters later this month.
Geeks of Doom was invited to participate in the global press conference for Avengers: Endgame, where the Russo brothers talked about the upcoming and possibly final Avengers film, their approach to making films, and more. Check out what they had to say below.
In the 11 years since its inception, Marvel Studios has produced and released 22 films, all of which have led up to Avengers: Endgame, the capper of sorts to the Infinity Saga. When asked if he knew he had something big on his hands, Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige says “Big is relative.” But that would not have been possible without hiring a great director and actor for the first film, which was Iron Man. “We had fun making that first movie,” Feige said. “As you would all recall. And the bar for success was pretty low, it was pretty high at the time, it was not that high. It was comparative to other Marvel films in that general area and to what we wanted to compete with.”
He added “As we were making the movie, and as we were looking at the dallies, and as we were looking at FX tests coming in, we realized that this was going to be special. And perhaps more special than we first thought. And that opening weekend. And the response to the trailer with you coming out at Comic-con, for the first time, there started to be a much bigger wind behind our back, combined with Sam Jackson’s cameo we secretly did on that Playa, and then secretly leaked the next day. And the response to that, and then people picked up that meant this is an inter-connective universe, which people knew from the books but has never done in the movies.”
The Marvel Cinematic Universe wouldn’t be where it is now without its collection of filmmakers charting its course. And while much of the Avengers‘ success can be credited to Joss Whedon, who directed The Avengers and Avengers: Age of Ultron, Anthony and Joe Russo are credited for bringing the mega-ensemble film to a close with Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame. Though both would have to credit Favreau for kicking things off with Iron Man, for it was that film that helped inspire them to want to be a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. “We had no idea that years later, that we would be,” Anthony Russo said.
The kind of impact that Avengers: Infinity War left behind certainly affected the tone of Avengers: Endgame. In their approach to that, Anthony said he and his brother would write themselves into a corner. In other words, they would put themselves in a place, on a narrative level, where “they have no idea how they could move forward from here.” He says “It forces you to come up with ways to move forward.” It is something they have practiced in all of the Marvel movies they have directed, and none more so than Avengers: Infinity War. It’s an ending that they are committed to.
“Stories lose their meaning and their relevancy and resonance unless there are real stakes,” Russo said. “For us moving into this new movie and into Endgame, the story is very much about how do these characters and these heroes deal with loss, resounding loss, devastating loss? That was a unique experience for all of them. How does a person move from that moment? How does a hero move from that moment?”
Anthony said Avengers: Endgame would explore how everyone on an individual level is dealing with that experience and how they collectively deal with it.
As for Joe Russo, he wanted audiences to experience the grand mosaic that is made up of 22 films that are tied into 11 different franchises. “A lot of people have invested a lot of their heart and soul into the characters,” Joe said. “And when we take these movies around the world, it is heartwarming to see people come up to you and say ‘hey, I started watching this with my classmates when I was ten years old. Now we’re all 21 and we are all going to see this together’ or ‘My parents have taken me to every movie’ or ‘My grandfather has taken me to every film,’ it’s a real sense of community and sharing these stories and believing in them.”
“I think with Endgame we get the opportunity to finish off one of the greatest experiments in movie history and bring it to an epic conclusion, Joe said. “What we are hoping for is that people feel satisfied with the conclusion.”
The two clearly have a love for the comics as they have displayed throughout the five years since they started working on MCU films starting with Winter Soldier. But what drives them to deliver one hit after another is their “passion” and “excitement.” But as they “conceive the film and start executing” they aren’t “second-guessing what they are doing.” The two are focused on “chasing the vision they have for it.”
“And that’s how we tell stories,” Anthony said. “You have to tell stories for yourself. You can’t be thinking about how others might receive them. So, for Joe and I, because we have such an intimate relationship with the material and because we have so many amazing collaborators like Kevin, we are able to really fashion the story around what we want to see.”
It was these things that pushed them to craft these stories which would evoke the emotions that we have with these characters. And the two are constantly pushing themselves to deliver even bigger and better hits than the one before it. “How do we surprise ourselves? How do we excite ourselves,” Anthony asked. “How do we challenge ourselves? How do we force ourselves to keep digging deeper and keep exploring these narratives and these characters in ways that we never imagined? That’s how we guide ourselves through the process.”
Anthony does admit that he has no idea how well the film will be received once the film is out there though. But they are able to gauge the reactions once the film is finally released.
And for those who are pursuing a dream in making films and want to make them in the same caliber as the Russos, Anthony encourages them to continue to do what they are doing in terms of picking up a camera and shooting the film. “You have iPhones now,” Anthony said. “Steven Soderbergh shot an entire movie on an iPhone. You have free distribution on YouTube. We discovered Donald Glover from Community on YouTube. It’s much easier for people’s voices to be heard and seen than when we first started. We had to go out and get a camera and buy really expensive film and figure out how to get it developed. Find a story that you want to tell, be really passionate about it, care about it, and go out and tell that story. That’s really the secret to being a really successful filmmaker.”
Avengers: Endgame opens in theaters on April 26, 2019. Click right here for trailers, another interview, and more.