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'World won't ever see anything like this again'

April 29, 2019 09:30 IST

'The Marvel Cinematic Universe is 9 franchises that have been combined together.'
'It's like running a relay race, only we are handing over characters instead of batons to each other.'

Joe Russo, along with his older brother Anthony, has directed three movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, including Avengers: Endgame which was the No 1 film at the box office in 54 countries around the world this weekend!

On a recent trip to India to promote Avengers: Endgame, Russo spoke to Urvi Malvania about balancing huge star casts, fan expectations and resolving conflict with his brother when they disagree.

 
Q.

How do you handle the narrative when there are so many movies that have come out on the subject before you have started working on one?

A.

I think part of it is just looking at stories that you want to tell and then finding a way to tell them using the pre-existing mythology.

There have obviously been times when we have changed the mythology outright because it did not suit the story we wanted to tell.

It's a really fascinating experiment and there's an incredible group of film-makers involved in this experiment from Ryan Coogler (Black Panther), Taika Waititi (Thor: Ragnarok), and James Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy) to Joss Whedon (Marvel: Avengers).

It has really been a special experiment and I don't think the world will ever see anything like this again.

Of course, there's been Harry Potter and (James) Bond in terms of pre-existing franchises, but this (the Marvel Cinematic Universe) is nine franchises that have been combined together.

I don't think we've ever seen anything like this (in scale).

IMAGE: Avengers: Endgame Co-director Joe Russo. Photograph: Pradeep Bandekar
Q.

Do you have a directors' round-table when you go into scripting? How do you keep track of which character's story is headed where?

A.

No (there is no round-table).

Everybody is respectful of each other.

They tell the stories that they want to tell and then when they are done with their script, and are comfortable sharing it, we (Anthony and I) will read it.

So we have an understanding of where he is going with Black Panther from Civil War (where the character made its first appearance in the Marvel Cinematic Universe).

So we cast Black Panther in Civil War, and hand him off (the character) to Ryan and then he hands the character back to us for Infinity War, and we hand him back to Ryan.

It's like running a relay race, only we are handing over characters instead of batons to each other.

Q.

Does the potential for merchandise play a role while scripting?

A.

Never.

Merchandising always comes in later.

As a kid, I grew up with comic books and I understand the elemental nature of them and what it is that excites people about these stories.

And I try to tell those stories on as big a scale as possible, because that's what these movies are about.

And I think there are inherent merchandising opportunities that come from the scale (of these films).

I feel that you always have to focus first and foremost on storytelling.

If you tell a great story, then there is true value in your merchandise.

If you tell a bad story, then there is no value in your merchandise.

IMAGE: 'I feel it is Robert Downey who sets a very good tone on the set.'
Q.

When you're handling a script with so many characters, and consequently so many actors, how do you do justice in terms of screen time for each one of them, and on-set egos, if any?

A.

It's really interesting that there are no ego moments with these films.

And again I feel it is Robert Downey who sets a very good tone on the set.

He's very professional and it's all about giving and everyone is handing off to each other.

Also, these movies are hard.

And these actors have made a lot of them.

I think sometimes they just enjoy coming to set and not having to carry the whole movie (on their shoulders).

And for us, we know that every character in these movies is someone's favourite character, so we just have to think about moments of each of them.

Why are they in the film?

And if we can't find moments, we have to cut them out of the movie.

They have to add some intrinsic value to the storytelling.

Q.

How do you and Anthony resolve conflict when you have different views on how to proceed with a story, both as directors and as brothers?

A.

We arm-wrestle (laughs).

He's bigger than me so I get to use both hands.

But seriously, we argue about things all the time.

We are Italian and we're passionate.

Our arguments are very entertaining.

Usually, the best idea wins.

We have been doing this for 25 years together.

We'll always get to a certain point where one will think this (argument) is beyond the regular levels of intensity and he (the other brother) must really feel strongly (about his idea), so let's go with that idea.

IMAGE: 'We cast Black Panther in Civil War, and hand him off (the character) to Ryan (Coogler, director) and then he hands the character back to us for Infinity War, and we hand him back to Ryan.
Q.

How do you react to fan expectations from these movies?

A.

The fan expectations (for these movies) are huge and they are global fan expectations.

You are talking about an incredibly diverse audience that loves these movies.

But we do our best to block those out.

I think that's been very successful for us.

You just have to ignore all the stuff (on social media).

The Internet is mostly a minority of people who are very vocal and you find opinions that are loudly expressed on the Internet are not always the majority opinion.

So you just have to ignore those.

I also think that you just cannot tell stories of this scale and allow yourself to be influenced (by so many people).

You'll just end up making really bad decisions.

We love the characters so much, and we love mythology so much, so we just tell the story that we want to tell and hope everyone else loves it.

It's been unique, but we couldn't be happier.

Sharing the movies with people around the world is the best part of making them.

IMAGE: The Avengers cast chill on the sets.
Q.

What has influenced your style of film-making?

A.

Each story influences our style of film-making.

We have grown up on a diverse diet of movies, from really genre films to the most pedigreed films ever made.

We've consumed all of it.

We have a sort of encyclopedic knowledge of movies which we reference periodically when we're working.

 

Urvi Malvania
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