Russo Brothers Inject Less Laughs, More Thrills to ‘Captain America’ Sequel

Anthony and Joe Russo
Michael Tran/FilmMagic

If theatergoers notice a more mature tone in the upcoming sequel “Captain America: The Winter Solider” than in the 2011 origin story, credit a pair of directing brothers best known, counterintuitively, for laughs.

Kevin Feige, president of production at Marvel Studios, was searching for a decidedly different take on the newly re-introduced character of Steve Rogers (played by Chris Evans), the frail young man cum WWII super solider frozen in time and thawed precisely at the moment Earth needed him most. Feige was familiar with the work of Anthony and Joe Russo on the original run of the Fox comedy “Arrested Development,” for which the pair won a directing Emmy in 2004, and on NBC’s “Community,” which the siblings executive produced from 2009-12.

Feige initially pursued Anthony, 44, and Joe, 42, and ultimately decided to entrust the next film adaptation of the 73-year-old comicbook franchise — and its $170 million production budget — to the Ohio born brothers. But the development process was hardly, well, arrested.

Over the course two and a half months, including four hours-long meetings, the duo provided storyboards laying out character arcs, fight sequences and thoughts on how to alter Cap’s uniform; created a faux trailer to address tone and cadence using scenes from “The Raid,” “Clear and Present Danger” and the bank heist sequence in “Heat”; and insisted that their film be equal parts superhero movie and psychological thriller.

“We were polite but forceful with our vision,” Joe tells Variety. “After that, the movie kind of dropped into our laps,” he deadpans.

The movie, which Marvel parent Disney opens April 4, was shot over 77 days, including a stint in the Russos’ hometown of Cleveland, and produced more than two million feet of footage.

“We wanted a film that entertained not just the 12-year-old version of ourselves,” says Joe. Anthony cuts in to finish the sentence: “We wanted something relevant, with stakes that were a little more real and human.”