Ahoy, squirts! Quint here. I'm a big fan of Guardians of the Galaxy, have watched it three times already and will revisit it many, many, many times on Blu-Ray. But for my money it's not the best Marvel movie released this year. I loved everything about The Winter Soldier, be it the 70s-ish thriller backdrop, the ricocheting shield badass action scenes, the awesome chemistry between Cap and Falcon, the complete destruction of SHIELD and all the beats in-between.
The Russos and their creative team really made it feel like everything was being stripped away from Captain America without taking all the fun out of the movie. It's a pretty amazing balancing act and one that I'm impressed with every time I revisit the movie.
Thanks to the impending Blu-Ray release, I was able to carve out some time with Joe and Anthony Russo to talk about the film, how development is going on Cap 3 and stress to them how important it is to give Jenny Agutter a for-reals-this-time fight scene in a future Marvel movie.
It was a short chat, but the only regret I have about it is that I didn't get to ask them whose brilliant idea it was to throw a jar of Newman's Own spaghetti sauce into Robert Redford's refrigerator. Butch and Sundance reunited for a split second!
Quint: Congrats on the huge success of the movie. I couldn't have been happier with the movie. I know post-Avengers the thought was “You go so big with the group, how are the stand alone films going to feel like they matter,” but you guys pulled it off and you made it one of the most cinematic of the Marvel films to date while you were at it.
Joe Russo: We appreciate that, man. Really. Thanks for saying that.
Quint: One of the central purposes of the movie is to break SHIELD down, which is a fantastic idea. One of my concerns after The Avengers was that we now have the most powerful beings on this planet not only working together, but with the most powerful spy organization. I love that Winter Solider got to put some deep cracks in that power alliance. Was that part of the mandate when you guys came on board or was that something you pushed for?
Joe Russo: Yeah, that was part of the grand plan. Kevin Feige's had a plan cooking in his head for about 10 years now. One of the most impressive things about Kevin is that he's a risk-taker and he really likes executing surprising narrative choices, which puts the Marvel Universe in a position where you're not sure what's going to happen next. I think that's very smart of him.
Anth and I always say the best writing is when you write yourself into a corner and you're not sure what the next scene's going to be. It is going to take quite a while to think about where you just wrote yourself into and how you're going to get the character out of that situation. That means you made a strong dramatic choice and we appreciate those kinds of choices. That's the thing that excites us the most as filmmakers.
Quint: That's dangerous, too. A lot of people will write themselves into a corner and not figure a way out that doesn't betray what they did before.
Joe Russo: That's true.
Anthony Russo: That's a good point.
Joe Russo: Not everybody can write themselves out of the corner. I guess that's what separates the men from the boys.
Quint: I listened to the commentary track on the Blu-Ray and was very happy to find out I wasn't the only one who was momentarily upset with you guys for not having Jenny Agutter's character actually being the one kicking everybody's ass.
Joe & Anthony Russo: (laughs)
Quint: I was thinking about it, though... Redford kind of takes out the entire World Council in that scene except for her, because she's not actually there. I'm hoping that means she plays into the MCU in a significant way in future films. I want a Jenny Agutter kicking ass scene for real is all I'm saying.
Anthony Russo: I'm glad you weighed in on that right now.
Joe Russo: That's definitely something... I'm trying to remember what we said on the commentary about it, but I do remember sitting in a screening, watching it at a premiere, and saying “Fuck! We should have just made that Jenny.” But the problem you're dealing with, obviously, is there are movie stars and they have to participate in the film and people are looking for Black Widow being engaged in the story. If it really was Jenny it would be stealing something from Widow's character... Again, write yourself into a corner. Make a strong choice and figure out how to solve it from there. Weirdly it never crossed our minds until we watched the finished movie and said, “Fuck, it should have really been her!”
Quint: Well, you have your chance now. You're making Cap 3 and the real Jenny Agutter is probably tied up in some closet somewhere. She's around. I'm just saying, that seed is still out and available for planting.
Anthony Russo: We've been thinking about her and talking about her. We're going to see Markus and McFeely in about an hour or so and it'll come up again.
Quint: Good! Please do, so I can then take credit even though you guys were already thinking about it. Now, one of the most interesting things to me about Marvel at the moment is just how sure-footed they are as they continue to expand the cinematic universe. It's long-form storytelling, which is a perfect fit for you guys since you cut your teeth in TV. I can see where some filmmakers might have a problem coming in to tell one piece of a larger narrative, but...
Joe Russo: For sure. You're touching on something very interesting there. Track what's going on in television. Anth and I have been saying for years that the independent movie scene from the '90s transitioned to television in the early 2000s. It started with The Sopranos where people are watching a show going “This is like an independent movie.” How successful would The Sopranos have been in a two hour version released in a theatrical marketplace? Probably not incredibly successful. You don't have the amount of time to tell the story of Tony Soprano that was woven so beautifully over many seasons.
I think TV in the last 4 or 5 years, and this isn't just because we came from television, is winning the race from a narrative standpoint and an execution standpoint between features and TV right now. I'll take just about any episode of Breaking Bad over any movie I've seen in the last three years. It's just creatively what you can do with longer form storytelling when you're not restricted by language or content is pretty spectacular. Look at Game of Thrones, look at House of Cards... House of Cards is as good as any thriller I can point to in the last 20 years.
One of the things that's effective about television is the binge watching you can do with Netflix. Long form storytelling is becoming more exciting and more a part of our culture moving forward than it was when we all grew up and what we all grew up on. Back then it was a big deal to go see Star Wars. Now I think it's just as big of a deal when Season 3 of House of Cards hits and you can lock your days and stay in for the weekend and watch all 10 episodes.
I think Marvel is borrowing some of that mojo from that sort of long for storytelling and it's exciting to people because over ten or fifteen years of your life you now have a narrative playing out that is exciting you and surprising you and emotionally investing you, the same way that you did when you collected comics. In the two years of your life that you commit to waiting for the next one to come out, it creates the emotional investment that pays off when you finally see it.
Without question it helps that we understand long form storytelling and have spent many years producing and directing it in television because I think that's the trend moving forward in features without question because everybody is now building cinematic universes. I think that's going to be the future. I think my kids and your kids and everybody's kids... narrative is going to become about long form for them moreso than a two hour commitment.
Quint: On the commentary you talked about how much time you got to outline and write the script. You guys are currently working on the third Captain America movie. Is the process the same this time around?
Anthony Russo: One of the great things about doing a Marvel movie, and this was something we were aware of coming on to the last one, is that Marvel has set the bar so high that you really have to deliver something special. There's a lot of pressure to really dig deep and do your best possible work. The great thing about the process, whether it's specific to the script, like you're mentioning, or it has to do with visual development, which we spend many many months doing before we get to production, we end up exploring so many different ideas and so many different approaches to the movie that it's almost like we make the movie several times before we actually make the movie.
That's a really wonderful process to figure out what the most exciting and interesting and cool things we could be doing. I really loved that process the last time around and I'm loving it again this time around. We're right in the middle of it again. We're working with all these amazing collaborators and everybody's coming to work to figure out “What can we build on in terms of what has been done so far” and “What can we surprise ourselves with in terms of what's possible.” We're just going down different roads and playing with different things and seeing how they fit together. It's a pretty amazing process for every one of these movies
Quint: Well, as long as that process results in more Jenny Agutter kicking ass then we're good.
Joe Russo: (Laughs) We'll get you your Jenny Agutter spin-off movie.
Quint: Great! Thanks for taking the time to talk with, guys. I appreciate it.
Joe Russo: Thank you, buddy.
I've gotten to talk to these guys a couple of times now. They're real deal cinephiles and super nice to boot. If you want to meet them and you happen to live in the Los Angeles area then I can help you guys do that.
The Brothers Russo will be at Amoeba next Tuesday, September 9th at 6pm to sign copies of the Cap 2 Blu-Ray. Go, bring up The Conversation or The Sting and watch them nerd out while you get yourself a signed Blu-Ray.
Hope you enjoyed our short chat!