Joe & Anthony Russo on ‘Avengers: Infinity War’: “Dimensions of the MCU Will End”

     May 5, 2016

I have no idea how Joe and Anthony Russo plan to outdo Captain America: Civil War, but they’ve more than earned the benefit of the doubt. Civil War and Captain America: The Winter Soldier are both terrific, and the directors deserve to handle the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s most pivotal, and biggest piece, the two-parter Avengers: Infinity War.

Collider’s own Steve Weintraub recently spoke to the directors on the subject of Infinity War for sixteen minutes and learned a lot about the upcoming superhero epic. Watch the full interview above or read the transcript below.

Before you check out the interview, here are some highlights:

  • It will fundamentally change the MCU; some things will end and some things will change forever.
  • They’re looking at a lot of concept art for the extraterrestrial stuff, but they still want to keep it grounded.
  • We’ve only scratched the surface of Scarlet Witch and Vision’s powers.
  • Josh Brolin (Thanos) will be on set for filming.
  • They’ll be shooting for a year.
  • So much time will be spent servicing characters for Infinity War that there probably won’t be much room for Easter eggs of other characters.
  • There’s a lot of ongoing dialogue between them and the other Phase 3 Directors.
  • They’re expecting some of the IMAX cameras they’re using to get “destroyed”.

Image via Marvel

Collider: What’s the most intimidating thing about taking on Infinity War?

JOE RUSSO: It’s the scale. They’re of an unprecedented scale, it’s very difficult. We always look for references because we are film geeks and we grew up on movies and we have a very shared language on film. We find it’s a very easy way to talk to our crew, by referencing films and by saying, “Look, see what’s happening here, this is what we’re going for.” So, for those movies, there’s not a real template for them, the scale of the cast is unprecedented. Really the only thing that we could think of as a reference point is Nashville, you know multi-perspective storytelling where you’re moving from vignette to vignette and moving the collective story forward. So I think that’s probably the most difficult thing to tackle with those movies, is the scale of characters involved.

ANTHONY RUSSO: I also think those movies are intended to be the culmination of everything that’s happened in the MCU from the very first Iron Man movie years ago. So they will end up changing the MCU more profoundly than any movie has yet, and there will be some things that come to an end in those movies, dimensions of the MCU will end in those film, dimensions will change forever in those films, dimensions will find new life in those films. They’re a real threshold for what we’ve come to know as the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and I think that dimension can be a little intimidating but also exciting.

After basically spending a lot of time on earth, it sounds like Infinity War might be going outside and pushing the boundaries of what we’ve seen on screen before. What are you looking at in terms of how you will make this look? Because we’ve seen Green Lantern that did it all wrong and we’ve seen the beginning of Man of Steel which did it all right. I love the beginning of Man of Steel on Krypton. I’m just curious what you’re looking at in terms of…

JOE: A lot of conceptual artwork. We still have rules where we want everything to be based in physics in some way, or departing from our universe, or going to somewhere fantastical that the rules are very clear to the audience about how physics operates in that space. So we’re using a lot of real world influences for our cosmic approach and while you can’t bring a level of “realism” because a lot of things that you’re dealing with in that space are theoretical, what you can do is bring a psychological realism to it and the characters can have a psychology that is relatable in a human storytelling level.

I believe Scarlet Witch is a very powerful character; can she fuck with Thanos with her power?

JOE: I don’t think we’ve seen her scratch the surface yet of her power, she’s an extremely powerful character, and I think she’s a very important character moving forward. Let’s just say that.

ANTHONY: Because her power is so intense we look for ways to make her vulnerable and make her powers vulnerable, and sometimes you go through emotional channels to do that. That’s something we’re very much paying with in Civil War, complicating her emotional state and having that interplay with limitations or issues she may have with her abilities, we do that with all the characters, we look for their vulnerabilities. So moving her forward I think that will remain a dimension of her, an important dimension of how we tell her story because she is so powerful.


Image via Marvel

I love the casting of Josh Brolin as Thanos, he’s gonna be great. Is he gonna be on set doing stuff?

JOE: Absolutely. He has to be.

ANTHONY: We had a meeting with him and we discussed this very specifically because we like a very tactile approach, I think you can see it in the way we execute both Winter Soldier and Civil War. We like a very tactile approach to how the camera can move, how the other actors interact with one another…

JOE: And behave opposite one another. We can’t get that true behavioral performance without both actors being in the room together, it’s impossible. You lose so much subtlety in level of detail.

This is a massive shoot, as you said, it’s like a yearlong process. When you’re telling people, “By the way, this is gonna be a year, this shoot” dot their faces sort of go, “Oh, wow” or are they like, “We’re about to make two of the biggest movies of all time”?

JOE: I think everybody’s excited by that concept and I think working on these film, because these actors have been doing it so long, they’re all very close, it’s a little bit like summer camp. I think they’re starting to get withdrawal symptoms when they’re not together now, so I think they’re excited.

A few of them have told me about Downey’s base camp, what it is and what he does and getting an invite inside, it seems like that’s a big deal.

JOE: Downey has some amazing cooking inside his base camp. It’s a little bit like a small city.

ANTHONY: It’s very kind of him he invites us for lunch all the time but we usually need our lunch period for prep for the rest of the day.

JOE: We’re either looking at editorial or talking about what we have to do in the afternoon. But I will say that sitting in his base camp having lunch is one of the treats of working in the movie.


Image via Marvel

Everyone has said that. Given the stakes of Infinity War, is this the kind of setting where you guys can finally unleash Vision’s full powers?

JOE: Vision is another character who I don’t think has realized his power yet. It’s tricky in Civil War because he’s a very logical character and I think his thought process is being complicate by something he didn’t expect that he could access which is emption. And I think his feelings for a certain character in that film complicate his powers as well, and I think frankly he willingly takes a back seat in some events in the movie because he’s so powerful that there’s not –If he’s gonna blast somebody with his mind ray he’d kill them, so I think when he faces a true threat I think you’ll see what he can do.

ANTHONY: The great thing about Vision’s arc –and Paul Bettany has articulated it very cleverly- is that Vision wants to understand humanity and I think in that process of trying to understand humanity he becomes more human, and that’s very much the arc that he goes on in Civil War and I think he will continue down that road.

I think that a lot of people, myself included, have read Vision and The Scarlet Witch wondering, will both survive, and could that be a Phase 4 movie?

JOE: It certainly could be. If they survive.

It’s just a great title too, straight out of the comic. It’s just gonna be interesting.

JOE: You want royalties for that one?

Not even a little bit, I think Marvel owns that. I just think it’s great, it’s a great title. What influences are you looking at for Infinity War? Because you mentioned there’s nothing that’s been done in this scale and scope that I can think of. Even Godfather that has all these characters, you guys mentioned there’s like 60 characters on the drawing board. What do you look at in terms of trying to balance all of it?

JOE: I don’t know. You can kind of look at Civil War and look at how many characters are in that film and how they relate to one another and whether the movie is successful or not successful in using those characters and moving the plot forward. I think that and, like I said, some other properties that are multi-perspective storytelling.


Image via Marvel

Will Infinity War possibly be something that in the background of some scenes we might be seeing characters form the Marvel universe that have not been “introduced yet” but that are gonna be like Easter eggs?

JOE: Look, by the time we get to Infinity War there’s so much to do to service the characters that exist, that currently exist or will soon exist in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, that our focus is going to be on those characters and advancing the story of those characters, and I think that alone is sufficient scale for those movies. So I don’t know how much time we’ll spend on Easter egging other characters.

How much do you guys talk with the other Phase 3 directors in terms of balancing what they’re doing and what you’re gonna be doing with Infinity War?

JOE: We talk a lot. It’s a little bit like United Artists over there right now because we’re all very close on a personal level, social level, texting, emails and everyone has the same collective goal which is great storytelling. We find it fascinating, I mean, just being in television where we supervised a lot of directors for years as executive producers, we’ve always liked a very social and communal environment as directors. Because [Steven] Soderbergh discovered us and really shepherded our path into this business, we feel karmic debt to the same for others, so we’ve always been very appreciative of others directors and supportive, and the same holds true here. We talk to some more than others but there’s a lot of dialogue that goes on.

ANTHONY: There’s two sort of formal check-in points that we have: The first is when there’s a draft of the script that’s basically there, that’s ready and that’s pretty much the draft they’re gonna shoot, that’s when other people that are working in the MCU on other projects will usually read that draft and get a very specific image of what’s being done in each of these movies. And then there’s also that point where the edit has gotten to the point where it feels pretty close to what the movie’s gonna end up being, of course there will still be more work done and changes made but the essential movie is there, and that’s also a check-in point that we use.


Image via Marvel

Who is gonna be doing second unit on Infinity War, do you know?

JOE: Alexander Witt, from the Bond films.

There’s no chance for anyone from John Wick?

JOE: Those guys are really busy with their own directing careers, they frankly did us a huge solid by showing up and helping us out on a couple of days and a couple of fight scenes.

These are my two last questions. First is IMAX cameras, you’ve talked a little bit about how you’re gonna be using IMAX to film the whole movies. So talk a little bit about how many cameras you can get from IMAX, is it one of these things where you can only get two or three cameras?

JOE: When we were shooting Civil War the reason we only shot that one section in IMAX was because that was all that was available, the cameras weren’t ready yet when we started shooting, so we tried to push back the start of that big airport scene for as long as we could until the cameras were available.

ANTHONY: We’ve continued a whole conversation with them, it’s not only the number of cameras but it’s what we need the cameras to do, there’s a whole dialogue we’ve been having with ARRI and IMAX about getting the cameras ready for what we need them to do in Infinity War.

JOE: They’ll be ready.

So you basically said, “We need 10 cameras and some have to go underwater”?

JOE: Pretty much. Some are gonna get destroyed.

ANTHONY: And a few other things.


Image via Marvel

When your shooting like that, one of the things I’ve found talking with a lot of filmmakers is that they’re using everything from GoPros to Canon 5Ds to get certain shots, and Chivo (Emmanuel Lubezki) is like taking a camera and just going over someone’s face, really close. Can you do that with these IMAX cameras?

JOE: Yeah, you can interweave technologies.

ANTHONY: But it does get more difficult, it is a good point. The bigger the image is, the higher –You know the ARRI 65 that are the cameras that we’re using as IMAX cameras, you’re getting more detail, more of a color range, so smaller cameras can mesh with it less easily so to speak. It is a consideration what you’re talking about.

My last thing, I’m always fascinated by the way technology is impacting filmmakers and what you can do now that maybe you couldn’t do a year or two ago. Is there technology that you guys have seen or worked with that is on the cusp of entering Hollywood that you’re looking forward to incorporating?

JOE: VR I think. I don’t know if you’ve had an opportunity to check out any VR yet but…

Oculus Rift and the Valve one.

JOE: Yes, pretty incredible. Game-changing.

It’s game-changing. Everyone says game-changing, but it is game-changing.

JOE: I think that we’ve understood movies for the last hundred years as two-hour closed-ended stories and I think VR will open up the possibilities moving forward so that will in some ways become a distant memory. The storytelling is gonna advance in such a way that is so immersive, choose your own path through a narrative, that I think we haven’t thought of the ways yet that we can tell stories on VR and somebody soon is going to figure out one or two or three different paths we can take to tell stories with that equipment, and that’s when I think you’ll see the game change dramatically.


Image via Marvel

I’m curious, with VR specifically, is there talk when you’re designing something –Say that you’re on set with Infinity War or with Civil War and you design something about opening it up to some VR experience so people at home can walk around this room that you’re in and look around…

JOE: We’re already considering that.

ANTHONY: We have a lot of ideas that we’re circling for Infinity War right along those line, because the technology has really turned us on and we’ve been looking for opportunities to start using it more extensively, and that’s some of what we’ve been talking about for sure.

Yeah. Because I would imagine if you’re gonna also design something in a computer, say arbitrarily you’re designing Stark’s tower, and you’re really designing it to be a part of the film and you’re really getting in there, releasing Stark tower so people on the Oculus Rift can enter and walk around and investigate everything.

ANTHONY: Absolutely.

So, I’m not far off.

JOE: No you’re not.

There we go, and on that note I will say thanks for your time.

For more from our exclusive Russo brothers interview click here.


Image via Marvel

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