Warning: This story contains mild spoilers for Captain America: Civil War
With Captain America: Civil War about to explode onto movie screens across the country, Marvel held a press junket for the film recently in Los Angeles.
Because there are so many actors in the film, the junket featured two press conferences: one for Team Tony that consisted of Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man), Don Cheadle (War Machine), Paul Bettany (Vision), Emily VanCamp (Sharon Carter) and Anthony Russo (co-director), and one for Team Cap that included Chris Evans (Captain America), Anthony Mackie (Falcon), Paul Rudd (Ant-Man), Sebastian Stan (Winter Soldier), Elizabeth Olsen (Scarlet Witch), Jeremy Renner (Hawkeye) and Joe Russo (co-director). Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige sat in on both.
With so many people at the dais, it's hard for everyone to speak and it's equally hard for them to not crack jokes and have a few laughs while they're up there. But the teams managed to deliver a number of nuggets of insight into the making of Civil War, which is already being talked up as the best Marvel movie to date. Here are some of the highlights we jotted down:
Director Anthony Russo was asked about an early scene in the film in which we see a much younger Tony Stark, still played by Robert Downey Jr. and a lot of effects wizardry: "It took us months and months of work on that shot to make it work. It’s very complicated taking the human face and changing the human face in a way that looks realistic. In fact, it was the last shot we completed in the movie, just dropped into the movie maybe five days ago."
Here's Russo on bringing more humorous characters like Spider-Man and Ant-Man into an already complex story with a large cast: "We knew we wanted to tell a really complicated story between Captain America and Iron Man in this movie, a story that went to very difficult, dark places. We’re big fans of balancing storytelling. We like really well-rounded movies. We like movies that make us laugh and cry. So, for us, it became very important to find a way to change the dynamic and modulate the tone in the movie by bringing in characters that didn’t have the same emotional investment that all the Avengers had in the events that were unfolding, because they are very serious events, complicated events. So, to bring in characters like Spider-Man, like Ant-Man, into the movie who don’t have that baggage, it gave us an opportunity a storytellers to sort of bring new colors into the film at a deep place in the movie, lighter colors, more whimsical colors."
Kevin Feige spoke about the decision to bring in Black Panther and cast Chadwick Boseman: "It was relatively early on in the development process of the movie that Joe and Anthony and our screenwriters Chris and Steve thought it would be very valuable to have somebody sort of in the way that Anthony was talking about Spidey and Ant-Man -- people that weren’t quite as invested. We wanted somebody who, perhaps, was invested but didn’t have allegiances to any one side, who was essentially in it for very personal reasons, himself. We knew we wanted to make a Black Panther movie at some point. But at that time, we weren’t sure exactly when that would be. But as these discussions were going on and we thought, 'we’re going to bring Black Panther into this movie,' I’m not kidding when I say Chadwick was the only choice."
Feige was also asked if the actors themselves know far ahead of time what is going to happen to their characters in upcoming movies: "In all seriousness, I would say it varies. I would say the characters don’t know what’s supposed to be happening to them, so I don’t know how helpful it would be. And, sometimes, there’s a long play -- I think Paul knew for quite a while that Vision was coming down the pipeline and had to keep it a secret for quite a while. Robert is very good at keeping secrets. We can tell him anything at all times. So, it really does vary. There’s some big picture things. I remember pitching the big twist of Winter Soldier to Chris Evans when we were shooting the final scenes in New York on the first Avengers film. So, there are long things like that and then there are shorter, 'Can you come over right now?' moments."
On the casting of Tom Holland as Spider-Man, Feige said that Robert Downey Jr. was instrumental in that process: "I called Robert relatively early saying, 'I think there’s a chance we might get Spider-Man in this movie.' And his reaction was actually one just like a fanboy, which was unbelievably excited for what that could mean for this movie. And then, a few weeks after that, said, 'Hey, we’ve sort of culled it down to about five finalists. Can we bring them to Atlanta and would you mind reading with all five of them?' And he did. And then, we culled it down a little bit more. And that was how Tom came to the top. And then, Tom and one other person came back and read with more of a stunt test in which Chris Evans was gracious enough to read opposite him. But it was fun seeing that Robert was invested. And to see Tom react to Robert, which is not dissimilar from the way Peter was reacting to Tony, was actually quite cool."
Downey spoke about the longtime friendship between Tony Stark and Jim Rhodes (War Machine), and acting opposite Don Cheadle: "Rhodey and Tony have had this kind of ongoing arc, but then there’s all this stuff that has to happen. What I really appreciate, and I credit Kevin and the Russos for really making sure it happens this time, is you really get back to this baseline ongoing complicated friendship that they have. And it’s obviously challenged to a different degree. I remember when we were doing this kind of resolution scene at the end. That was before I saw Miles Ahead (Cheadle's directorial debut, in which he plays jazz legend Miles Davis) and realized that, not only did I already think you were great, but now I realized you are probably the single most talented person I’ve ever been working with in a long time."
Paul Bettany spoke about Vision's conflicted position on signing the Sokovia Accords and his growing fondness for Scarlet Witch: "In Age of Ultron, he is just born and omnipotent, yet naïve. And then, in this movie, you find him trying to figure out what humanity is and how you have loyalty, because logic doesn’t afford loyalty. So, I think it’s really interesting working out what love is. And there’s this woman who has a similar problem that he’s facing, which is, he doesn’t know the limits of his power, nor does she. Of course, love can make you feel loyal. At the end of this movie I think it’s a double-edged sword, because you see his response of finally having a human response, he makes a big mistake, which is interesting. And I thought it was a really deft piece of storytelling. So, it was really fun to do."
Chris Evans was asked whether he feels more pressure and responsibility when the movie's title says Captain America instead of Avengers: "I mea,n there’s pressure, but I don’t think it’s anywhere near the pressure, to be honest, that people like the Russos or Marvel feel. Movies live and die based on the directors and the producers. We’ve all see phenomenal actors and great scripts still didn’t come to fruition in a good way. And it really goes to show that a good movie lives and dies based on the directors. You could have all the other pieces in place, but unless you have quality storytellers, you may fall on your face. So yeah, there’s pressure, but not as much as (these) guys. They did the job real well."
Evans also spoke about shooting the huge battle sequence between Teams Cap and Tony, which was set in Leipzig, Germany but filmed in Atlanta: "It was great. I mean, it was hot. It’s Atlanta in August. So, I think everyone was toasty. And there’s only a couple shots where everyone is running together. But for the most part...you are just getting pieces. So, it’s a lot of waiting around. But you really have a confidence that this is going to be something special. You can see in Anthony and Joe’s face, and Kevin. I mean these guys get so excited when these moments work. It’s a meticulous process, because it’s such a grand scheme. So, on the day, it’s not as cool and romantic as you think it would be. But there’s an energy on set and an excitement that keeps you invested knowing that it’s going to be something epic."
Paul Rudd was asked about Scott Lang/Ant-Man being the "fanboy" of the group: "There was very little acting required in that scene for me. They’ve all worked together and done this before. I’ve just seen the movies. I’ve seen all the Marvel movies. So, to be there on the day, I kind of couldn’t stop geeking out about it. I thought, 'Oh my god! There’s the shield!' I thought, 'There’s that arm!'...Even when I was getting the suit on, there was this area where we’d get changed and stuff. It’s like, 'Oh, there’s Iron Man’s suit. There they all are.' I did feel that excitement of, 'What? I can’t believe that I landed here! This is nuts!' So, it was really cool."
On whether there any thought of including Evangeline Lilly as the Wasp in Civil War, Feige responded: "There were drafts where Wasp participated in the splash panel fight, the airport battle. And the truth is, you took away the fun of seeing her suit up for the first time, of seeing her on that road to being a hero. We experienced that with Ant-Man in his own movie. We experienced that with Spider-Man in many movies. And we later announced the title of Paul’s sequel, which is Ant-Man and The Wasp. So, we have very big plans to unveil her in her own movie, where she can be the entirety of the movie and not a moment in an action scene."
Scarlet Witch struggles with how to use her own powers in the film and Elizabeth Olsen was asked about her character's journey: "I think what ends up happening is, she was starting to feel confident, but it wasn’t about her powers, it was more about the conflict she had with making a big mistake. But I think what’s interesting is, every superhero has a weakness, and I’ve always thought of hers as, she’s the person who gets in her own way...that is, to me, an interesting character trait. I don’t know what we’re going to do next, but I think of her as being an incredibly strong, powerful person. And it’s also fun because I feel like she could flip either way because of her mind. I think there are a lot of things that could possibly be played with, but I’m not in control of that."
Chris Evans explained that the process of making Marvel movies is not as corporate as people might think: "I’ve been doing these for a long time now and...sometimes you think, with these movies, these giant Marvel movies, any big movie where you think there’s a thousand cooks in the kitchen, you assume there’s some sort of formula, some algorithm that kicks in and there’s 30 people in suits being like, 'This is what it needs to be.' But the truth is, it really is Joe, and Anthony, and Kevin, and Nate (Moore, producer) in a room mapping out stories for so many characters, so many arcs. And they are making them real. They are making them actual, fleshed-out arcs and conflicts that are worthy of a film. All the explosions in the world aren’t going to make you care...it was nuts to kind of realize it really does start from just a few people."
Captain America: Civil War is out this Friday (May 6).