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For the past two years, Joe and Anthony Russo have held the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe in their hands as the directors entrusted with the epic two-part closer to the Infinity Saga: 2018's Avengers: Infinity War and 2019's Avengers: Endgame. The latter film set box office opening records and went on to become the second highest-grossing film of all time, while also paving the way for the much-anticipated fourth phase of the MCU.
On Friday, with their record-setting MCU career behind them (for now), the Russos took the stage at San Diego Comic-Con's Hall H to chat about how they got here, how the last two Avengers films came together, and what's next for them. Things kicked off with a highlight reel showing the evolution of the brothers' career from their time on sitcoms like Arrested Development to their MCU triumphs, and then the brothers themselves took the stage alongside moderator Steven Weintraub to begin the conversation. Right away, Joe Russo made the event about gratitude by offering his thanks to the fans.
"Give yourselves a round of applause, thank you for supporting us and these movies," he said. "You made the Marvel universe happen and we couldn't be more grateful."
Speaking of Marvel, though the Russos have said they're done with the studio for now, Weintraub then decided to invoke the Russos' tease that they'd return to the MCU if they got the chance to direct Secret Wars, which Joe Russo noted was his favorite book as a child. While they didn't make any promises on the Marvel front, Anthony Russo did continue the tease by leaving the door to Marvel Studios open.
"Our run at Marvel was one of the best creative times we ever had," Anthony said. "We'd love to work with them again at some point, and maybe it will be on Secret Wars."
The conversation then turned to how the brothers have managed to work together so well for so long, as Weintraub asked them about arguing while working. After joking that the last fight they had was over what to have for lunch, the brothers conceded that they did have a "several month"-long discussion over how long Captain America's hair should be at one point, and also noted that arguing is part of how they work best together.
"You can look at our entire collaboration as one long argument," Anthony said.
Then it was time to talk about the Avengers, specifically what it was like to work with such a massive cast. Who ruined the most takes? That would be Anthony Mackie and Mark Ruffalo, while the brothers noted they could count on Scarlett Johansson to nail things on the first take out. In terms of nailing the VFX in both Infinity War and Endgame, the brothers called the dust effects at the end of the first film particularly difficult, along with the portals opening in Endgame's final battle and the "very difficult" fan-favorite that is Smart Hulk.
"It's a balance between what looks interesting and cool and emotionally resonant, and not silly," Anthony said.
Speaking of Smart Hulk, Weintraub then unveiled a surprise "fan question" in the form of a video message from Mark Ruffalo himself, who asked if Smart Hulk's merging of the best of both Banner and Hulk now makes him the smartest and the strongest Avenger.
Anthony was quick to note that, according to his daughter, Shuri is the smartest person in the MCU.
Then it was time for another "fan question" in the form of a video message from Chris "America's Ass" Evans, who asked what did Steve do after he finally got to dance with Peggy Carter at the end of Endgame.
"Maybe they tried to make a baby?" Anthony responded, while Joe joked that Cap would have run to the bathroom because returning all the Infinity Stones to their respective places in the timeline took a while.
Evans also asked which of the brothers' Marvel fims was the most and least stressful. The most stressful was Infinity War because of the anxiety of following it up with Endgame, while the least stressful was their first Marvel effort, Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
Then yet another "fan question" appeared onscreen, this time from Chris Hemsworth, who asked who'd be the better leader for "the group previously known as the Guardians of the Galaxy, now known as the Asgardians of the Galaxy? Me or that other guy?" Hemsworth also decided to answer his own question in the message: "Me? Thank you, I knew that was the answer."
Next up was a video question from Ant-Man himself, Paul Rudd, who wanted to know where the Russo Brothers stand on the ranking of the MCU Chrises, specifically as it pertains to the distinction of "America's ass." The Russos wisely deferred to the Hall H crowd to answer the question, and the audience decided that Chris Evans retains the title.
Then, it was finally time to talk about what's next, now that the Russos have closed the book on the Infinity Saga and made the decision to back away from the MCU, at least for now.
"We're directing a movie called Cherry starring our friend Tom Holland," Joe said.
"We start filming in October. This is based on a best-selling book, set in Cleveland where we grew up, and a lot of locations in the book are places we grew up in and around," Joe continued. "It's about the opioid crisis, which has touched us and our families, so it's a very personal movie for us."
In talking about their upcoming, non-Marvel projects (which also include 21 Bridges, a crime drama they're producing starring Black Panther's Chadwick Boseman), Joe also took an opportunity to hype up the brothers' production company, AGBO, which allows them to greenlight and finance their own film projects in the wake of their MCU success.
"We call it a storytellers' studio because we like to collaborate with everyone who comes into the company the same way the four of us (the brothers and Endgame screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely) collaborated on the Marvel movies," Joe said.
After talking up some of their upcoming, non-genre projects and revealing a trailer for 21 Bridges, it was time to dive back into fantasy with their upcoming Netflix animated series Magic: The Gathering, based on the beloved card game that the brothers are longtime fans of, which Joe Russo teased could someday be more than just one series.
"We're partnering with Netflix on it, it's an animated project that could potentially spin off into live action in the future," he said. "It's a game we love."
Then it was time to talk about two never-before-mentioned projects the Russos are passionate about. Joe revealed that they're working on an adaptation of Grimjack, which he called one of his favorite comics as a child, though almost no one in the Hall H crowd seemed to know about it... yet. Another upcoming adaptation is a new take on the animated series Battle of the Planets, another childhood favorite.
After leaving fans with those enticing new projects, the Russo Brothers gave out signed T-shirts to as many kids in the room as they could, and then completed their victory lap with a teaser for the upcoming Avengers: Endgame Blu-ray release.
Click here for SYFY WIRE's full coverage of San Diego Comic-Con 2019, including up-to-the-minute news, exclusive interviews, and videos.