Captain America: The Winter Soldier triumphantly arrives on DVD/Blu-Ray on Sept. 9, after marching to the top of the 2014 box office and earning critical accolades. The film departs wildly from the original Captain America, refocusing Steve Rogers in our brave new freaked-out world. Cap 2 was directed by brothers Joe and Anthony Russo, heretofore best known as ace TV directors. EW caught up with the Russo brothers to talk about Winter Soldier, their work on 2016’s Cap threequel, Agent Carter, and their impending return to Community.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: A lot of people responded to just how radically different The Winter Soldier was from The First Avenger. What was it like to take this franchise in such a different direction?
Joe Russo: Kevin [Feige, head of Marvel Studios] said, “Let’s not call these movies 2 and 3. It shouldn’t be: ‘Hey, you’re gonna get more of the same concept.’ It should be: ‘Each movie is different, and your expectation should be challenged every time you come to the theater every 2 years.’” People tell you you love chocolate ice cream, but if you give them chocolate ice cream every day of the week, they’ll hate it. And looking ahead, there’s 97 comic book films coming out in the next two years.
Or in the next two weeks.
Joe Russo: Maybe! You have to work really hard to deliver something different, and exciting, and challenging. That’s what we’re in the middle of on Cap 3 right now, pushing really hard to make sure that what we deliver is something that’s gonna be different from Captain America: the Winter Soldier.
Is the third one going to be as different from Winter Soldier as Winter Soldier was from First Avenger?
We’re more grounded in the world of Winter Soldier than Winter Soldier was grounded in First Avenger. The difference between First Avenger and Winter Soldier is that seventy years had elapsed between the two movies. Cap was waking up in a world that was a million miles away from the one he came from. That gave us a narrative motivation to push the he tonal and stylistic content of the world forward. We don’t have that same time elapsed here. It’s the world Cap woke up in still, even though it’s several years later and some other significant events have happened. At the same time, we are pushing Cap to a place he hasn’t been before.
I felt like I picked up on a romantic subtext in the Cap-Black Widow relationship. Was that something that was on your minds in the making of the movie?
Joe Russo: That was something we added in early in the process. We didn’t want a traditional expectation to be fulfilled, which is: These two are gonna get together. We wanted to be faithful to their characters. Cap is not a guy who jumps lightly into things. In the compressed timeframe in this movie, he is not suddenly going to fall for Black Widow. But any two single people in a work-husband/work-wife relationship, there’s gonna be sexuality there.
This movie is much larger than anything you guys have worked on before. But the first scene that played at Comic-Con last year was purposefully small-scale: The fight in the elevator. Did you guys purposefully set out to film a superhero action scene in the smallest space possible?
Joe Russo: We were studying De Palma movies for clues about thriller tone and execution. We were big De Palma fans growing up, and we always remembered that he would take these great sequences and extract them out into five or 10 minutes. We had a much longer sequence of Cap’s escape from the Triskelion. But we were just talking about it from a budget standpoint and also just from an action standpoint. Because there’s so much action going down in the movie. Is it gonna get repetitive? Is there something else we can do here that’s more engaging? That’s when we said: “Let’s make it smaller. Let’s go in the opposite direction. Let’s do something that’s very intimate, that plays on a personal level. Let’s eke the tension out as long as we can.”
Top three De Palma movies?
Joe Russo: In any order?
Joe Russo: Gotta be Untouchables, Blow Out, and Dressed to Kill. Blow Out is a great film, and that ending’s insane. Here’s the thing I love about De Palma. :When most people are making a commercial thriller, and they’re eking out tension so that you’re scared for the life of your hero, or heroine–ultimately they’re victorious. De Palma had the balls to kill them. The end of that movie is devastating.
You’re directing some episodes of Cap spinoff Agent Carter. Is that tone a little more in keeping with the First Avenger’s retro style?
Anthony Russo: It is a period show, for sure. But none of the show has been shot yet. [Captain America writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely] are writing the first episode. And they’re also helping break the story for the whole season, they’re working on that now. The whole show is evolving as we speak.
Can you talk a bit about where Bucky is at the end of this movie, and how that might affect him as he moves forward?
Anthony Russo: Bucky’s such a heartbreaking character. Is he one of the world’s worst assassins? Or is he the world’s longest-suffering POW? He’s been brain-controlled, so is he responsible for his actions? Is he innocent, by reasons of insanity?
Joe Russo: And if you don’t have the memories of who you are, are you still that person?
Anthony Russo: It’s a a rich, philosophically complex human identity and relationship. And it becomes an important question for Cap, a guy who’s lost everybody in his life now.
You’ve both directed episodes of Community in the past. Are you involved in the new season?
Joe Russo: We are! We’re doing the first episode back, the first episode with Yahoo. There might be a little rebranding and a little repiloting going on.
Are there any stories from the dark corners of Captain America’s history you’d like to get into the movies at some point?
Joe Russo: Capwolf.