'Falcon and the Winter Soldier' Star Daniel Bruhl on Trusting Zemo: "No, Never"
When Daniel Brühl originally developed Baron Helmut Zemo for Captain America: Civil War, he did so with the comics in mind until Marvel Studios boss Kevin Feige informed him of a reimagined take on the character. So when Brühl eventually got the call to reprise his role on The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, he wasn’t too surprised by the character’s new backstory that emphasized his aristocratic family and immense wealth. Brühl was also attracted to the character’s newfound sense of humor, but says none of these additions should remotely imply that Zemo is suddenly trustworthy.
When asked if Zemo can be trusted, Brühl tells The Hollywood Reporter: “No, never. If it’s hard to read and tell what somebody is up to, that ambiguity … is always fun. So, yeah, you shouldn’t really trust him. But I guess it has become apparent that he is not an evil supervillain; there’s more to him, which we already know from [Captain America: Civil War]. So I understand if people empathize with Zemo, and I would understand if everybody joins Team Zemo by the end of the show.”
Heat Vision breakdown
Brühl is also reflecting on his powerful scene with the late Chadwick Boseman in Captain America: Civil War.
“I was surprised by how incredibly touched I was,” Brühl recalls. “I only had one scene with him, but that day really left a strong impression on me because I was blown away by this man’s talent, aura and personality. He was bold, brave, charismatic and intense. His acting was absolutely fascinating. So it’s a huge loss, not only for the MCU, but the whole cinematic realm. He was mesmerizing. He was wonderful. So it’s really sad.”
In a recent conversation with THR, Brühl also discusses a moment of improvisation that Sebastian Stan would like to forget, as well as his desire to have Zemo and Thor dance.
Since Marvel is telling a serialized story, did you have an inkling that you’d return someday?
No. I mean, it’s always a good sign when they don’t kill you. So I was always hoping and thinking that maybe one day they would come up with an idea to bring me back, but I seriously didn’t know anything about it. So it really took me by surprise. I was shooting the second season of The Alienist in Budapest when I got the call, and I was thrilled. First of all, because they decided to bring me back, but second of all, because I could tell they had something new in mind from the scripts that I received. So it gave me the opportunity to explore something else with the character, and there wasn't the danger of doing the same thing all over again and repeating myself. The sense of humor that was added to the character, in particular, attracted me and pleased me.
Whether it’s great wealth or an even longer pursuit of Hydra than we first realized, did the new additions to Zemo’s backstory align with what you previously envisioned in Civil War?
Actually, they did because, originally, I was always thinking of the comic books. But then I had this conversation with Kevin Feige back in the day before we shot Civil War, and I was impressed by the fact that he wanted to reinvent and reinterpret the character. We saw a very serious, determined, driven and grounded man in Civil War, but we didn’t see the iconic Zemo from the comic books. We also didn’t get to know about his aristocratic background and all these things that I had always envisioned when thinking of this character. So the fact that they kept the interesting background of Zemo in Civil War, but added all these layers, made it very compelling.
Sam and Bucky are still debating whether they can trust Zemo, as is the audience. So I might as well ask the source: Would you trust Zemo at this point in time?
No, never. (Laughs.) And that’s the good thing. If it’s hard to read and tell what somebody is up to, that ambiguity — which people always enjoy and I do enjoy — is always fun. So, yeah, you shouldn’t really trust him. But I guess it has become apparent that he is not an evil supervillain; there’s more to him, which we already know from the other movie. But in the conversations between the three of them, we have intensified the very human side of Zemo. I disagree with his radical methods, but it’s understandable based on where he comes from. So I understand if people empathize with Zemo, and I would understand if everybody joins Team Zemo by the end of the show.
I love the moment where Zemo plays with the Winter Soldier’s chin cleft. Was that detail scripted or improvised?
That was improvised. (Laughs.) And I knew how much Sebastian was suffering. There were a couple of takes where he couldn’t deal with it. (Laughs.) Another thing that I’m very happy they kept was the dance. There are some moments where you’re not sure if they’ll really keep it in the final cut, but they did. And that’s something I enjoy so much about working with Marvel in general. They create this atmosphere of looseness, fearlessness and joy. That’s the way it should be. Anyway, on endeavors like these, I’m sometimes really impressed because there’s so much pressure — and there must be. It’s such a gigantic project, and you’re almost surprised by how light, warm and welcoming the tone and vibe is on set. And that allows you to try things and not be restrained. So you go for some funky choices like dancing or the chin. (Laughs.) So it’s nice that this is accepted and embraced.
I rewatched Civil War the other day, and your scene with Chadwick Boseman is one of Marvel’s best scenes by far. I realize this is a tough subject, but what comes to mind from that day on set?
(Brühl sighs.) I was surprised by how incredibly touched I was. I only had one scene with him, but that day really left a strong impression on me because I was blown away by this man’s talent, aura and personality. He was bold, brave, charismatic and intense. His acting was absolutely fascinating. So it’s a huge loss, not only for the MCU, but the whole cinematic realm. He was mesmerizing. He was wonderful. So it’s really sad.
Rush is one of the best films of the past decade, and you and Chris Hemsworth were both brilliant in it. Out of curiosity, have you taken Kevin Feige aside at all and pitched him some scenes involving Zemo and Thor?
Oh, I would love that, but no, I haven’t dared so far. (Laughs.) Maybe a little dance between these two?
One can dream.
(Laughs.) Yeah, I’m a huge fan of what Chris has done with his character. And speaking of sense of humor, Chris has blown me away with how funny he is. I love the Thor films, and I’ve always loved him in the Avengers movies. So that would be a nice rendezvous.
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is now streaming on Disney+.
by Alex Weprin