The Russo brothers are promising to take Captain America seriously.
Anthony Russo and his brother Joe made have built a reputation as a pairing of two of the sharpest comedy minds in show biz thanks to their work on projects like “Community,” “Happy Endings” and “Arrested Development. Thus, their recent appointment as co-directors of the sequel to “Captain America: The First Avenger” – now doubly anticipated in the wake of the success of “Marvel’s The Avengers” – raised eyebrows.
When Anthony made a stop at the Television Critics Association’s press tour to help promote “Animal Practice,” the upcoming NBC sitcom he and his brother are producing, PopcornBiz spoke with him about the Star-Spangled Avenger's next adventure, “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.”
How did you sell yourselves – and Marvel – on this film?
Well, my brother and I were comic book geeks from a young age, and big fantasy geeks. They knew that we understood the brand really well and the characters really well. It was a long process, actually, of talking to them over and over again through a series of meetings over a long period of time. We were really passionate about the movie – incredibly passionate about the movie. They felt that and then they felt that it was the right match.
Any flashbacks possible to World War II, simply because that era was so interesting?
Certainly Cap has this complicated history. We're making the movie for first-time viewers, not just for fans, and so because Cap does have a sort of complicated history, a skinny guy who became a super soldier, who was born back then – in the story telling you need to convey that to an audience who doesn't know Cap's story.
This is a film with tons of FX, a big extravaganza, and that’s not been on your resume yet. Is that at all intimidating, taking on a tent-pole kind of movie?
Two things: While you haven't seen it in our resume, it has been something that my brother and I have been working on for many years, behind the scenes – sort of preparing. We've had this great run in television comedy, been running with that and maybe 'You, Me and Dupree' was an extension of that on the feature level. But we've spent a lot of years now researching that craft, and the other side of that equation is that Marvel is just this incredible machine that has all these amazing people that work there.
That's part of their confidence in why they can go outside the box and choose directors, because they have people there that know everything. They said to us early on in the interview process, actually, 'We don't expect you to know everything about this stuff’ – about what you're asking about, special FX – ‘because we're here for that. We're here as resources for that.' And they're very respectful to directors. It's an amazing company to work with.
What appeals to you about Chris Evans' interpretation of this character, as we've seen it thus far?
I love his integrity and his sort of toughness. I think that's what's at the heart of Captain America's appeal: that sort of indomitable spirit and faith in the ideal. I think that Chris really takes that mantle really well.
Marvel has a great clockwork approach about what to seed in their movies for the other properties. Have you already started having those discussions?
Yes, but they're very balanced in that approach. First and foremost is the movie itself, and then that's a little lighter layer of dressing. In terms of the hardcore mechanics of the movie, it's basically contained within the movie itself.
Where are you at in pre-production? Do you have a start date?
We have a release date, which is in April of 2014, and we are going to go in to production early next year.
People have been saying it's smart of Marvel to bring in television directors because they're used to coming in on time and budget, but also that there's a real sense of TV directors being involved with story and can help shape the tone.
I think one reason why people coming from the television world work particularly well at Marvel is sort of connected to one thing said earlier: Marvel is a big company and it's made a lot of movies and these narratives are connected to each other. That's not typical for a feature film, and so a lot of people that work in feature film, that whole concept can be a little foreign in the sense that you have to be thinking about predecessors in a very specific way that aren't just a prequel, but that there's a whole mythology that's preceded you. Television people are used to that, because there are seasons and seasons of a show where the history is very important.
Also, it's a big company and you're dealing with people from the comic book side as well as the feature side at Marvel, and so there's a lot of people to work with, as in television. There's a lot of people to collaborate with. I think people who have worked in television and have done well in television have a gift for being able to work with a large amount of people like that.
What's part of the lightning in a bottle from 'Avengers' that you hope to grab for 'Captain America,' an element that you'd like to get close to?
For me, what I loved most about the movie, which is what many, if not most, people loved about the movie, is the character interaction. There are those great character moments where you have people rubbing up against each other in a way that's really exciting and combustible. While there's all the special FX and the adventure and the thrill and the dangerous fun, those character-to-character interactions are the heart of the film. That's what we're focusing on.
Will there be any Avengers in 'Winter Soldier'?
That's something that Marvel would shoot for me saying!