IN CONVERSATION: ANTHONY RUSSO “AVENGERS: ENDGAME”
Avengers: Endgame has become the highest-grossing film of all time. It was the culmination of a 22-film journey as we saw new heroes join the group as we said goodbye to others. The film ranks in my Top 3 films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It was the fourth Marvel collaboration for directors Anthony and Joe Russo following Captain America: Winter Solider, Captain America: Civil War, and Avengers: Infinity War. To celebrate the Blu-Ray, DVD, and digital release of Avengers: Endgame, Marvel is heading out on the road for the “We Love You 3000 Tour”. Minneapolis was one of the few selected cities, and I, along with Ruth Maramis (Flix Chatter), Jared Huizenga (Man Versus Movie), and Mark McPherson (Twin Cities Geek), had the chance to interview director Anthony Russo.
Paul McGuire Grimes (PMG): Do you remember what your first thoughts were when Kevin Feige (Marvel President, producer) told that you that you and brother, Joe, would be directing these two final Avengers movies?
Anthony Russo (AR): It’s really interesting, because this wasn’t the objective when we set out to write Captain America: Civil War with Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely. That movie ended up evolving into such a seismic event in the story of the Avengers themselves that as we were telling the story we found ourselves tipping into “where do we go from here?” What happens when you divorce the Avengers and you destroy the relationship between Tony Stark and Steve Rogers? Part of it was that our brains were already moving into that story zone, so when he [Feige] did tell us, it was a thrill of course, and very appropriate for what had been happening up until that point.
Ruth Maramis (RM): Captain America is my favorite trilogy. In regards to your time in the MCU, what you makes you the proudest?
AR: My brother and I have been comic fans since our childhood. We love these characters. We love these stories. The opportunity to use them in our own filmmaking, in our own storytelling is an incredible opportunity – one that we never imagined we would have. I guess, what makes me most proud, is that we really committed to in our process what we most wanted to do with these stories, with these characters, and that ended up working with audiences. We never knew. All we could do was commit to what excited us, what motivated us, and we were just crossing our fingers that it worked. That first movie [Captain America Winter Soldier] we had no idea what would happen there. It ended up working. It ended up working again, and again, and again. On one level, you can’t will that to happen. I’m proud that we put our best work in.
Jared Huizenga (JH): Now that we’ve come to the end of the Infinity Saga, which one, maybe one that you and your brother directed, or maybe one that you didn’t, but which one is your favorite?
AR: I have to pick one that we didn’t direct. I always go back to the original Iron Man. I remember the first time I saw that in theaters. I remember looking at my brother and saying “My, God, I can’t believe they did this.” I never imagined at that moment that we would be a part of that. That movie had such a seismic effect on me. It seemed like such an original direction to take the superhero genre that those things stay seared into my memory forever.
Mark McPherson (MM): There were a lot of elements you juggled on Endgame as things were changing. Was there any one key aspect you wanted to maintain throughout Endgame?
AR: The important things for us were the characters that were going to die in that film. Making sure that we were giving Tony Stark a proper arc – the most we could do with that arc. Natasha Romanoff – the same thing. Making sure that we were really giving her a fitting end to that story that she began so many years and so many movies ago in Iron Man 2. I think those were the most important things certainly to deliver on. It’s hard to say goodbye to characters. Also Cap. Even though it wasn’t a death, it certainly was a closure on his character. We worked on that character and story arc so intimately – so making sure we did the same for Cap.
PMG: How has the technology changed since Winter Soldier into Endgame? Anything we’re seeing in Endgame that wasn’t possible before? Risks that you wanted to take with this one?
AR: That’s a great question. I would say that because we shot Infinity War and Endgame consecutively as a block, this applies to both movies. Our methodology was the same for both films. The big innovation for Infinity War, which carried into Endgame, was Thanos. Our ability to map the details of Josh Brolin’s performance onto that character, into that face. We wanted that character to have a rich inner life, especially in Infinity War. We wanted to make him, despite how awful and evil he is, we wanted to make him relatable on some level. We find that more interesting. We like when our heroes are complicated. We like when our villains are complicated. They’re not just one thing. They’re not just good or bad. Same thing for Thanos. With that technology, it allowed us to bring a human dimension to Thanos that may not have been possible.
PMG: You got a great performance out of Josh Brolin. He’s so good in it.
AR: He’s a phenomenal actor. He got it, and he had never done anything like that before. When he showed up on set for the first day for some tests, he was like “This is crazy, I feel like I’m back at acting school and I’m in a black box theater, and I love it!”
RM: As a writer myself, can you describe your working relationship with writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely. You’ve worked with the two of them across four movies. Was there any friction between all four of you? If so, how did you resolve that?
AR: My brother and I work as a team, and part of the reason why we love working together as a team is because we having opposing points of view, a point/counterpoint, Socratic dialogue all day long. We love that. Not disagreeing is part of why the creative relationship has values as it pushes you out of your comfort zone. It’s very exciting. I think the same is true for Chris and Steve. They work as a team. They’re used to the dynamic among themselves, so the four of us were just able to naturally start adapting that dynamic with each other. So yes, there are points where someone gets very passionate about something and nobody else is getting it, but at the end of the day, we all really respect each other and like that part of the process, so even though it may get passionate, it never gets unpleasant.
With such limited time, we only began to scratch the surface with talking to Anthony Russo before he greeted the massive line of fans. They waited hours for autographs, posters, and Blu-Rays, in order to tell him what this movie meant to them.
Avengers: Endgame is now available Digital in HD, 4K Ultra HD™ and Movies Anywhere, and on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray™, DVD and On-Demand