Never mind the thrilling and intense action scenes, the story’s well-rounded characters or the “Iron Man,” “Thor,” “Captain America” and “Avengers” films that came before it: When it came to making “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” the brother directing team of Anthony and Joe Russo said it was the cameo by Marvel Comics legend Stan Lee that had them fretting the most.
“Directing Stan was totally surreal, especially as comic book fans. It was mind-blowing,” Joe Russo, accompanied by Anthony Russo, told me in an interview Tuesday. “We grew up with him with comic books and cartoons, and suddenly, here we are in a room with him. It’s always impactful when you meet people who had an influence you as a child, and you couldn’t ask for a bigger influence here. Of all the things we pressured ourselves on because Marvel has raised the bar so high with the other films, the Stan Lee cameo was up there.”
New on Blu-ray and DVD (Walt Disney Home Entertainment), “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” finds the World War II-bred Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) after the events of “The Avengers,” still trying to adjust to the modern world. Trying to live a quiet life in Washington, D.C., Rogers suddenly finds himself on the wrong side of S.H.I.E.L.D. after the organization has been greatly compromised by unknown forces — and millions of lives, including his own, are at stake because of it.
With little time and few people he can trust, Captain America embarks on a perilous trek with Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Sam Wilson/The Falcon (Anthony Mackie) in an effort to ferret out the mystery, even if it means destroying the very organization that the Avengers were built upon. Worse yet he’s forced to face off against an old friend, who has been molded into the villain dubbed “The Winter Soldier.”
The interesting thing about the Russos’ experience in the business is that it’s mainly in the comedy genre, whether it be films like “You, Me and Dupree” or comedy series like “Community” and “Arrested Development.” And while the brothers adapted to the high-octane action genre quite well with “Captain America: The Winter Solider,” it’s clearly their sense of being storytellers first that landed them the highly-regarded Marvel gig.
“We were known for a very strong sense of story and character in our comedic work, mainly because it’s the sort of storytelling we most enjoy,” Anthony Russo said. “We like to laugh, but we also like something else going on at the same time that audiences can feel. So, we brought that same work ethic to making an action film. Every beat of the action has to be imbued with very strong storytelling and very strong character moments, otherwise the action gets boring.”
Both in their early 40s, the Russos say they want to maintain childlike sensibilities making films like “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” because they vividly remember how similar, fantastical films impacted them as youths. Ultimately, the brothers want to do the same for today’s kids.
“As a kid, when I went to ‘The Empire Strikes Back,’ I got to the theater at 11 in the morning and left at 11 at night after seeing the film six times in a row in the front row,” Joe Russo recalled. “Whether it’s in a theater or in a living room, we want to pass that experience on to other kids. We want to have a cultural impact, otherwise why do it? It takes two years of your life to make a movie like this, we wanted to reach people in a way that they could have an emotional experience and that they remember it for a long time.”
The Russos, of course, will have a chance to create more lasting memories for moviegoers for the yet-untitled sequel “Captain America 3,” which is due out in May 2016. And while rumors are running rampant over which “Avengers” members will assemble for the film, the Russos hint at least that there will be more of the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan), who in his earlier life before the evil forces of Hydra got hold of him, was Rogers’ best friend, Bucky Barnes.
“As storytellers, we always felt that the relationship between Steve and Bucky was not resolved by the end of ‘The Winter Soldier.’ We love that relationship. It’s so complicated and tragic,” Anthony Russo explained. “The relationship is so important to who Cap is, especially since he’s feeling so isolated in the modern world. It’s his connection to the past. The relationship with Bucky now isn’t exactly reliable and trustworthy, but it’s something that Cap has faith in nonetheless. That’s definitely something we want to continue dealing with in the next film, because their relationship remains critical, important and rich.”
While he couldn’t name anyone specifically, Anthony Russo added, “There are other characters very specific to the world of Cap that will also have a big role in the coming film.”