Ahead of his visit to India, Joe Russo tells us what’s in store for Avengers: Endgame releasing in April
Ruso also tells us how he developed Thanos' character, and why he’s excited about shaking the very structure of storytelling in his future projects
If there's a director duo that knows how to make a superhero film exceptional, it has to be the Russo Brothers. Consider Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Captain America: Civil War and more recently, Avengers: Infinity War. And yet to come, Avengers: Endgame. These are just some of the superhero films that the brothers have directed. Joe Russo graduated from Case Western Reserve University, where they began directing, writing and producing their first feature, Pieces. Their feature caught the attention of Steven Soderbergh at the Slamdance Film Festival, who offered to produce the crime-comedy Welcome to Collinwood (2002). They went on to work in different formats — on TV with Arrested Development and Community, films like You, Me and Dupree, and the Ghostbusters reboot. What is perhaps one of the most eagerly awaited sequels this year, Marvel's Avengers: Endgame is slated to release on April 26. Gear up for Endgame by watching what went down last year in Avengers: Infinity War, as it makes its Indian television premiere on March 24 (1 pm & 9 pm) on Star Movies. Ahead of his visit to Mumbai in April, we speak to Joe Russo about what we can expect from the sequel, and what’s in store for the Brothers. Excerpts from a chat with the director:
Endgame is releasing soon, and we are obviously super excited. What’s next in store for the Russo Brothers after Endgame?
My brother and I love to challenge ourselves; to move around through different media. We’ve done film, TV, comedy, sci-fi movies and drama. So we’re open to all forms of storytelling, and I do feel we’re in a progressive phase right now. I have got four kids under the age of 22, and I see their viewing habits and they are very different from my viewing habits. So, I think that narrative will continue to evolve. I think part of the driver behind that are the different platforms, which, frankly if you think about, is telling stories in either six, eight or 10-hour increments. Binge watching is really a new form of narrative. I can watch a 10-hour movie on a Friday and Saturday night instead of going to the theatre, so we’re excited about shaking up the storytelling structure.
How has it been working with Marvel?
We love making movies with Marvel. We’ve been making movies with them for the past six years and we’re basically a family. We’re very close to the people who run Marvel. We’ve had an amazing experience. We really do prioritise work experience as much as we prioritise the work, and because we grew up in an Italian family, everything is about a community, inclusion and feeling like we are a big family. You spend a lot of time with these people so you want to make sure you get along and love each other. We’re friends at work, we’re friends outside too.
When it comes to the writing process, how close did you guys get to developing Infinity War and
Endgame into very different movies?
Well, we did drafts of this film that were radically different. One draft involved Thanos as the narrator; it was non-linear in structure and had a backstory for the Black Order. They were all introduced in very cool sequences, but it all ended up being a 250-page draft. Very often, when you work on a movie this scale and you wind up with a 250-page draft, it is the Bible of the movie. So you gain a lot of information, you write characters in such a way that you start to understand what it is they want. I think writing Thanos’ narration gave us an insight into who he was, and what he wanted to do. From then on it was much easier to simplify the movie, put all that information out to make it subtext and to create a more linear structure.
Infinity War left all of us in shock, right from the beginning to the end. What made you decide that you wanted to start with such an impactful scene of the attack on Thor, Loki and the Asgardians?
We had a draft where Thanos secures the Power Stone, but we thought why don’t we start with the middle of the scene, which would knock the audience off balance. Thanos already had the Power Stone, everyone already has had their ass kicked, people are already dead. We just thought it would be a more shocking opening that would define him as a character for the rest of the movie.
With so many people working, so many departments working on one movie — how do you keep track of who is doing what and how does the movie never leak?
Well, we have a consortium of generals, they are like key collaborative individuals that it takes to make something of this scale. The great thing with us is that we have a room full of trusted advisors, and they all each have thousands of people working under them that they have to communicate efficiently with about storytelling, sensitivity of the character. For a film like this that is filled with CG characters, particularly Thanos who, in a lot of ways has to carry the emotional centre of the movie. We’ve said this before that it is his film and he is exclusively CG and I would argue that it has been done before in this scale, that this level of emotion was conveyed to an audience. The VFX artists have the hardest task to make sure that the humanity and the storytelling stays consistent shot to shot throughout the movie and I think they do an amazing job of it.
Joe Russo will be in Mumbai in April. Avengers Endgame releases on April 26.