The Russo Bros. Reveal New 'Avengers' Secrets
To celebrate the respective two- and one-year anniversaries of Avengers: Infinity War (2018) and Avengers: Endgame (2019), the films' screenwriters, Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, and directors Anthony and Joe Russo took to social media for two nights of "Quarantine Watch Parties."
Markus and McFeely kicked things off on Sunday with Infinity War, taking over Comicbook.com's Twitter page and sharing behind-the-scenes secrets and set photos. The writers returned to Twitter Monday for Endgame and were joined by the Russo Bros., who pulled double duty by offering commentary on their Twitter account and in an Instagram live feed for the first hour of the film, along with special guest Robert Downey Jr.
Heat Vision breakdown
With theaters around the world still closed, these dual nights of commentary for two of the biggest films ever released served as a welcome reminder of the communal experience of moviegoing and the passion of these filmmakers. Collected here are the best bits of trivia, anecdotes and set photos from both nights, offering a perfectly balanced experience that even Thanos could appreciate.
Avengers: Infinity War
An early draft of Markus and McFeely's Infinity War script had Thanos (Josh Brolin) attacking Xandar and retrieving the Power Stone from the Nova Corps' vault. Nova, aka Richard Rider, would have then crash-landed to Earth instead of Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) and proclaimed "Thanos is coming!" The Nova Corps hasn't been seen since Guardians of the Galaxy (2014), but with Xandar in ruins and the Nova Corps decimated, it seems highly likely that Richard Rider, last of the Nova Corps, will arrive in the Marvel Cinematic Universe sooner rather than later.
Gunn and the Guardians of the Galaxy
As James Gunn shared in his Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017) watch party last week, the Guardians initially had a much smaller role in Infinity War, except for Nebula (Karen Gillan) and Gamora (Zoe Saldana), according to Christopher Markus, but as the script came together, the rest of the team became more involved in the story. Gunn was consulted on the direction of the characters, even recommending the use of the Spinners' "The Rubberband Man" for their intro. McFeely noted how much fun it was to play with Gunn's toys and revealed that the scene in which the Guardians meet Thor (Chris Hemsworth) could have gone on for 20 minutes; a lot was left on the cutting-room floor. When it came to Gamora's death, it was Marvel Studios chief Kevin Feige who told Gunn about it, and Gunn has said he was consulted beforehand, and the character's death does not interfere with his plan for the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.
We'll Always Have Paris
An earlier draft of the script saw Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen) and Vision (Paul Bettany) in Paris. There they would have been attacked by "a swarm of Outriders," leading to a big fight sequence. The final draft saw the couple in Edinburgh facing off against Thanos' lieutenants, Proxima Midnight (Carrie Coon) and Corvus Glaive (Michael James Shaw).
— ComicBook.com (@ComicBook) April 27, 2020
McFeely revealed that there were several other versions of Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) and Spider-Man's (Tom Holland) rescue of Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) from Ebony Maw (Tom Vaughan-Lawlor). One version had Tony sending his nano-suit to Strange, which would have resulted in an Iron-suited Doctor Strange, with the Eye of Agamotto at the center of his chest piece rather than the Arc Reactor. The screenwriters shared a picture from the unfinished scene online.
Bringing the Red Skull back was an aspect Markus and McFeely were keen on making work, not least because it brought them full circle to the very first Marvel movie they wrote, Captain America: The First Avenger (2011). The screenwriters called his inclusion an important part of this wrap-up of the first decade of the MCU, begging the question of whether the Red Skull has a role in any future stories.
Smart Hulk was originally going to debut at the end of Infinity War, and Ruffalo shot a scene in which Banner argues with the Hulk before compromising and emerging from the Hulkbuster armor as Smart Hulk. But the writers said the scene didn't work, despite a "genius" performance from Ruffalo, so Smart Hulk's intro was saved for Endgame.
Markus commented on Thanos' line "I ignored my destiny once," saying that he is referring to his failure to save Titan. While concept art of young Thanos is featured in The Art of Infinity War book, we never see him in the film. But given his close ties to the saga of the Eternals and the Deviants, there may be a role for young Thanos in the future of the MCU, perhaps as soon as Chloé Zhao's Eternals next year.
Locked and Loaded
Markus revealed that the decision to bookend Endgame with Tony's two video messages — one where he believes he's about to die and one where he has died — is what helped lock the script and its structure into place.
O Captain, My Captain
On whether or not Carol Danvers (Brie Larson) ever had a larger role in Endgame, McFeely said her role was always the size it is. "The goal for Endgame was always to highlight the original Avengers as we said goodbye. Newer characters generally took smaller roles as a result," he said. But with the goodbyes to the original Avengers largely done, expect those newer characters, including Captain Marvel, to get plenty of screentime in the future of the MCU.
The Russos discussed the scene in which we're reintroduced to Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) five years later, and we see her eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Because of the nature of the shoot and doing multiple takes, there was a spit bucket under the desk next to Johansson that she could spit her sandwich bite into after each take so she wouldn't have to eat "14 sandwiches." Markus also revealed that there is extensive footage of Johansson making a sandwich, which he jokingly said he "can't believe" was cut from the film.
"You Maniacs! You Blew It Up"
The Russos revealed they had always wanted to do a dystopian scene, inspired by their love of The Planet of the Apes (1968) growing up. Scott Lang's (Paul Rudd) reemergence from the Quantum Realm provided them with the perfect opportunity to do that and tap into Rudd's inherent everyman quality to sell this new and unfamiliar version of San Francisco post-Snap.
— Russo Brothers (@Russo_Brothers) April 28, 2020
The Massive Weight of Talent
Chris Hemsworth's "Fat Thor" prosthetics weighed 70 pounds, and the actor had back problems by the end of the shoot. The beer that Thor drinks in the "Lebowski" scene is from a local Georgia brewery that the crew, but mostly Joe Russo, was obsessed with, so they slipped it into the film.
When asked about the hardest character to write, the screenwriters said it was Black Widow, simply because she's so guarded and tends to keep so much to herself. As for the hardest scene to write, they said it was the one in which the time travel is explained because of the process of ensuring it made sense for the context of the film and still provided character moments. They did sit down with physicists to discuss the nature of time travel.
Iron Man vs. Heimdall, and a Sea Monster Too
An earlier draft of the script saw Iron Man and Thor traveling to Asgard to collect the reality and space stones. Tony would have worn an invisible stealth suit, which debuted in Iron Man no. 152 in 1981, and fought Heimdall (Idris Elba). McFeely noted that while the scene was cool, it was not emotional, which makes sense, given that Tony has no emotional connection to Heimdall. Similarly, Nebula and War Machine (Don Cheadle) were originally going to arrive on Morag while it was underwater, and they would have fought a giant sea monster. Again, cool, but it lacked an emotional connection.
Reunited and It Feels So … Awkward
The screenwriters revealed that it was their intention to have Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) meet Red Skull on Vormir, but it never made sense storywise for him to be there. There was also an original plan to have Nebula wield the Infinity Gauntlet as she does in the comics, but the screenwriters felt it took away from the weight of Tony inevitably putting it on and sacrificing himself.
— Russo Brothers (@Russo_Brothers) April 28, 2020
Was He Always Worthy?
According to Markus, Steve Rogers was not worthy to lift Mjolnir in Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015) because he still had the secret of Tony's parents on his conscience. With that resolved by the third act of Endgame, Captain America is worthy to wield its power.
— Russo Brothers (@Russo_Brothers) April 28, 2020
Sunday Sessions With RDJ
Every week before filming on Infinity War and Endgame, the Russos would meet with Downey so he could use that time to dig into Tony Stark's character, work on improvisations and play with line deliveries. The now famous line "I love you 3000" was something that Downey's now 8-year-old would say to him. Joe Russo discussed the notion of "emotional ownership" that came not only from Downey incorporating elements of his own life into Tony Stark but the directors also expressing the values that were important to them. Downey admitted that the process of filming these movies back to back after the end of a 10-year experience "should've been exhausting, but it wasn't" because of the friendship and collaborative process that was established among the directors and the cast.
Paul Thomas Anderson: Fanboy?
Downey shared an anecdote in which he talked to director Paul Thomas Anderson (There Will Be Blood, The Master), who revealed that when he saw Avengers: Endgame, he recorded fan reactions in the theater to remind him of "the power of cinema" and its unifying aspect.
Joe Russo briefly addressed the question of whether he and Anthony would return for another MCU movie. While his answer wasn't exactly new, he did reconfirm what he's said before. "We had an amazing experience, creatively and emotionally. It's just a question of timing and when [we] find the right material." The Russos produced the action film Extraction, starring Chris Hemsworth and written by Joe Russo, which just hit Netflix over the weekend, and they are currently in postproduction on their next directorial feature, Cherry, a crime thriller starring Tom Holland. Given their penchant for working with MCU actors, it seems highly likely that a future MCU phase will again carry the tag "Directed by Anthony and Joe Russo."
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