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Russo brothers explain how 'The Gray Man' builds on the global success of 'Avengers: Endgame'

The Gray Man lands on Netflix Friday, July 22.

Ryan Gosling as Six in The Gray Man (2022)

Back in the summer of 2019, Joe and Anthony Russo captured the planet's collective attention with the release of Avengers: Endgame. The epic crossover film, a culmination of Marvel Studios' decade-long initiative to craft a shared comic book universe on the big screen, shattered box office records (briefly nabbing the title of highest-grossing film in history) and became a cultural phenomenon Hollywood hadn't seen since James Cameron's Avatar a decade before.

Now, after several years away from actively directing large-scale productions, the Russo brothers hope to reach the global zeitgeist once again with The Gray Man. Costing Netflix over $200 million (just a hair cheaper than Endgame, which carried a price tag of around $356 million), the film adapts the 2009 spy novel by Mark Greaney. Ryan Gosling leads the charge as Sierra Six, a CIA asset who, after discovering secrets that the agency would rather keep (ya know) secret, is forced to go on the run in an adventure that spans the globe. Hot on his tail are the world's deadliest assassins, hired by Six's former unhinged colleague, Lloyd Hanson (Chris Evans).

"We have to remember that there's a world that exists outside of Hollywood and there's a diverse range of tastes out there," Joe — who co-wrote the movie's screenplay with Infinity War and Endgame scribes, Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely — explained during a Twitter conversation with Fandango's Managing Editor, Erik Davis Tuesday afternoon. "I think the thing that was most compelling to us, working on Avengers: Endgame, was how it brought people together. Storytelling is a binding element and that was, perhaps, the most important aspect of it for us. That's why we like telling global stories; we like to invite people from all over the world into that story, to access that story. It's why we like diverse, international casts. It gives people an opportunity to see the film through the eyes of a star from their region of the world. And so, I feel like The Gray Man is basically everything we learned over the last decade poured into one film."

"We had an incredible team that we made this movie with, going back to Captain America: The Winter Soldier," Anthony said. "We've been working with the same stunt performers, some of the same cast members, some of the same designers, etc. It's a team that we've honed our skills with together for many years now and we love telling stories this way. We love thrilling audiences with action, with adventure, with surprising character work. It's a really special team of collaborators and we all got to dig deep and do our best work ... It was the product of so many years of collaboration between us."

(L to R) Chris Evans as Lloyd Hansen, Anthony Russo (Director-Producer), Joe Russo (Director-Producer-Writer) of The Gray Man (2022)

One thing the directors weren't often afforded while working in the Marvel sandbox was a chance to shoot on location with an eye for realism. "When you're working with Marvel, there's a lot of green-screen," Joe added. "A lot of conceptualization of the action is done prior to filming either through pre-viz or storyboards and it's a long, iterative process. Making this film was different in that everything's real-world locations. There are special effects in the movie, but it's in a way that's integrated. The characters obey the laws of physics, there are no super-powers."

While there are still two months to go until the film opens in select theaters and on Netflix, the Russos have big plans for the property, which currently spans eleven novels written. If this first adaptation is successful, an entire franchise of sequels and spinoffs are all on the table.

"We love universe storytelling," Anthony said. "We took our love of ensemble storytelling that began at the beginning of our career because we like this idea of multiple points of entry into what a story is. That sort of grew and expanded as we did work in the MCU into a full-fledged universe exploration of what stories can be and how they can work. And so, moving forward with our partners, Chris Markus and Steph McFeely, we are starting to conceive a large part of what we do as universes and The Gray Man is definitely an example of that. We thought of this as a much larger story than you are seeing here in this movie. While the movie is its own, complete experience, there are a lot of elements of the movie that speak to possibilities about where characters can go or what can happen."

Ana de Armas (No Time to Die), Jessica Henwick (Iron Fist), Wagner Moura (Narcos), Dhanush (Maaran), Billy Bob Thornton (A Million Little Pieces), Alfre Woodard (Luke Cage), Regé-Jean Page (Bridgerton), Julia Butters (Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood), Eme Ikwuakor (Moonfall), and Scott Haze (Antlers) co-star.

The Gray Man arrives in select theaters Friday, July 15 before landing on Netflix the following week on July 22.

Looking for more wild action? Jurassic World Dominion opens June 9, and Fast & Furious sequel Fast X is in the works with its own epic two-parter that starts on May 19, 2023.

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