Joe and Anthony Russo are Marvel’s favorite directors. The brothers have teamed up on four comic-book adventures and have arguably done more than any other filmmakers to shape the trajectory of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.
The Russos began their run with 2014’s “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” and oversaw last summer’s smash hit “Captain America: Civil War.” They’re sliding behind the camera on next year’s “Avengers: Infinity War,” which will introduce the Guardians of the Galaxy to the world of Iron Man and Hulk. The brothers also have been tapped to run point on a yet untitled Avengers movie scheduled to hit theaters in 2019. The Russos took a break from shooting to talk about the political messages of their films, their love of “Star Wars” and how they avoid sibling rivalry.
Do your comic-book films comment on real-world issues?
Joe: My brother and I are politically minded guys. We’re all impacted by what’s going on every day in the world. Heroes are a way to remove yourself from what may be difficult concepts to talk about in your life. They’re a way to get some distance and have an experience in a theater where you’re confronting those issues in a way that’s safer for your psyche.
Anthony: In “Winter Soldier” we were thinking about the surveillance state. In “Civil War” our heroes had to decide, is it better to allow themselves to be monitored and controlled by the government or to disband and not let that happen? It’s a theme that just keeps expanding. You’ll find that “Infinity War” and the still untitled Avengers movie deal with much larger issues. They move beyond the politics. Those stories were specifically about Captain America, and he’s a guy that wears a flag on his shield. We can’t help but address current American issues with him. “Infinity War” deals with much deeper, more universal and more profound themes of fate and destiny and the essence of what it means to be a hero.
The Avengers keep adding members. Is it hard to tell a concise story when the cast keeps getting bigger?
Joe: We’ve always been really drawn to the idea of ensemble storytelling. These movies just bring that to the nth degree. It’s sort of “How do you hold a stable narrative together when you have all these points of view?”
You have said that “Infinity War” and the untitled Avengers movie will serve as an end to a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. What do you mean?
Anthony: If the first “Iron Man” movie were the first chapter of a book that would be written over 10 years and 22 films, these two movies are the final chapters of that book. Of course, there will be other books written.
Joe: The [Marvel Cinematic Universe] will go on after these films, but there are many ways in which these films are a culmination and completion of one road.
Would you be interested in directing a “Star Wars” movie?
Joe: I sat in a theater when I was 11 years old and watched “The Empire Strikes Back” from 10 in the morning until 10 at night the day it came out. To say we’re obsessed with “Star Wars” is an understatement. We’d absolutely love to do a “Star Wars” film.
How do you work together as brothers?
Anthony: People always say, “Oh, I’d love to work with my sibling,” or “My God, I could never work with my sibling.” It was just a natural process for us. We started collaborating on our first films and it evolved. We have a passion for film that we shared as we were growing up.
Who yells “Cut!”?
Joe: Whoever has more energy.
What superpower would you want to have?
Anthony: We’re in the midst of making two of the biggest films ever back-to-back. If we had the power to both go without sleep for the next year and a half, that would be amazing.
Did you see “Wonder Woman”?
Joe: We both enjoyed it tremendously. Ant’s son, Julian, exclaimed at the end of the movie that Marvel better watch out.