On Sunday, April 10, the cast of Captain America: Civil War assembled in a ballroom at West Hollywood’s London Hotel to field questions from reporters. Divided into two groups, “Team Iron Man” and “Team Cap,” much of the resulting conversation was virtually impossible to accurately transcribe, being thoroughly punctuated with snarky comments, jokes, and constant laughter. Here are some highlights:
Team Iron Man
Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man) held court from the center of the sofa, joined by Don Cheadle (War Machine), Paul Bettany (Vision), Emily Van Camp (Sharon Carter), Director Anthony Russo, and Producer Kevin Feige.
On advances in CGI:
A. Russo: I think part of the popularity of big special effects-driven movies these days is the fact that the technology has reached such an incredibly high level. Every couple of years it changes, and you sort of reap the benefits and you sort of push forward on every film. This movie has a very remarkable sequence, where Robert Downey Jr. plays a twenty-year-old man, which is pretty incredible. He plays someone who is around the age he was when we all first saw him on the screen…
Downey: Very expensive nostalgia.
Russo: 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.
On the subject of on-set discomfort:
Bettany: Well, I really enjoy wire work. I like the freedom of it, I dream of flying; you have to balance that out with being suspended by your testicles. It’s really a double-edged sword.
Whose costume is most uncomfortable?
Bettany: I think it’s a photo-finish, but I think that maybe Chadwick, you know, with the whole not being able to breathe business…
Downey: You can’t tell with Paul because he’s British. It’s hard to [know] exactly how excruciating… we should all be a bit more like Paul.
On bringing Spider-Man into the mix:
Russo: We’re big fans of balance in storytelling; we like really well-rounded movies, movies that make us laugh and cry. So for us, it became very important to find a way to change the dynamics and modulate the tone in the movie, by bringing in characters that didn’t have the same investment that all the Avengers have in the events that were unfolding, because they’re 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, as storytellers, to bring new colors into the film at a deep place in the movie. Lighter colors, more whimsical colors, and I think it helped to balance that big fight out that they all have with one another at the airport, in a really nice way. We tried to find very organic ways that those characters found their way into the movie, both of those characters.
Feige: In our minds, we’re kicking off Peter Parker’s story at a point after which he’s gotten his powers, but before we see he’s out there. He’s been doing some things in New York, and there’s been these Sasquatch-like videos of what he’s been doing that have been showing up, you’ve heard word-of-mouth that something’s happening, this very strange thing happening, but it’s kind of something that’s in the rumor mill, but nobody’s been able to identify who exactly this is yet or how it’s happening, et cetera, but of course, Tony Stark being who Tony Stark is, he’s one step ahead of everybody else.
About the Black Panther:
Feige: It was relatively early on in the development process of the movie that Joe and Anthony, and our screenwriters, Chris and Steve, thought that it would be very valuable to have somebody, sort of in the way that Anthony was talking about Spidey and Ant-Man, people who weren’t 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, “I think we’re going to bring Black Panther into this movie,” I’m not kidding when I say Chadwick was the only choice. His performance in 42, his performance in Get On Up, how different those performances are… And my memory is we called him on the conference room speaker when we were developing the movie, and got him while he was somewhere in Switzerland or something, at a premiere for Get On Up, and he was in his car, either about to get out or had just gotten back in, and we said “Have you ever heard of the Black Panther?” And he said “Yes! Yes! Why are you asking me that?” We said “Do you want to play the part?” and he was very excited. It happened very, very quickly.
On balancing action and character:
Russo: My brother and I always say, we love action, we’re action fetishists. But, for us, the action always needs to be driven by characters and by story, beat by beat by beat through the action sequence, or you lose interest, it has no value to the storytelling. So we look for opportunities in the movie to play with these rich complicated relationships. There’s a very interesting relationship between Paul’s character in this movie and Lizzie Olsen’s character in the movie, Scarlet Witch and Vision. You know, that begins to develop an interesting complicated relationship. You put them on opposite sides in the battle, it was very exciting to us, because it sort of interfered with what was happening, the dynamic between these characters, watching these characters and watching this push that forward.
On the Vision:
Bettany: You find Vision, in Age of Ultron, he is just born and omnipotent, yet naive, 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 very 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.
On War Machine:
Cheadle: I know that Rhodey is always trying to, and in this movie too, he’s always struggling with, what does he owe servicemen and what is his duty in the chain-of-command, and how must that be protected and honored, but also, I’m in this team of people who, some of them have almost no limit to their power, and what are the checks and balances? And that’s something that’s obviously central to this film as well. I think that’s an understandable sort of fence that he’s on, and how do you, friendship versus chain-of-command.
Team Captain America
Chris Evans (Captain America), Sebastian Stan (Bucky Barnes), Anthony Mackie (Falcon), Jeremy Renner (Hawkeye), Elizabeth Olsen (Scarlet Witch), Paul Rudd (Ant-Man), Director Joe Russo, and Producer Kevin Feige
About the action scenes:
J. Russo: Action is very important to us, these movies are about action, the characters and such are. Action has to have storytelling to it for us, or it’s vacuous and superficial. You’ll get tired of an action sequence if it’s not either defining a character or moving the story forward in some way. It takes an incredible amount of effort, and thank God we have such an incredible team of collaborators, including Kevin and Markus-McFeely and Nate Moore, who can work with us and keep us honest in terms of the storytelling, and this cast, who are caretakers of these characters in a way that we never could be. So it’s by far the hardest thing to do on a film. The easiest thing to do on a film is when you have a Soderbergh level of cast like this, to put down dramatic scenes; on camera especially, with actors of this caliber, who’ve been playing these parts for this long, those are some of the easiest things to do. The hardest things to do is executing the action.
Evans: It was hot. It was Atlanta in August, so everyone was toasty. There’s only a couple scenes, a couple of shots, where you might have had that one 50/50 where everyone’s running together; for the most part, it’s picks and pops and you’re just getting pieces, so it’s a lot of waiting around, but you really have confidence that this is going to be something special. You can see in Anthony and Joe’s face, you 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’d 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 excellent. But it’s hot.
Olsen: And these guys run really fast, and I’m in heels and a corset, and I really wanted everyone to slow down just a little bit. And I didn’t get that. And I was pumpin’ those arms and falling behind, and then taking off [and flying].
Rudd: How I felt as far as being the fanboy of the group, that was not really… 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, so to be there on the day, I kind of couldn’t stop geeking out. Oh, there’s the shield, and there’s the arm… (to Sebastian Stan) you weren’t looking.
Feige: 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 and 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 his many movies, and we have big plans, 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. We want a movie where she can be in the entirety of the movie and not a moment in an action scene.
Are ripple effects from the Netflix and network TV programs going to be felt in the cinematic universe?
Feige: They might be, but what I think, what I love, is you now seeing, in the film medium, in the television medium, the reflection of what the comics have always been. There’s always been that great diversity of tone in the comics; I love that we’re seeing more and more of that on various screens.
About Captain America:
Evans: In terms of who he’s been throughout the arc of his character, he’s always kind of fought for the greater good, he’s always kind of put the needs of the masses before his own, and that’s exactly what’s different in this film, instead of dedicating himself to what others need, in this film he prioritizes what he wants, which is a departure from what he’s normally allegiant to. It colors the character in a really nice way; the guy who is this incredibly austere and moral character, it’s hard to find ways to make him layered and dynamic, and I think in this movie, he becomes potentially selfish, where he kind of puts his own desires first, but it’s rooted in family.
On the Scarlet Witch:
Olsen: I think what ends up happening is, she was starting to feel confident, but it wasn’t about her powers, it was more the conflict she had with making a big mistake. But I think what’s interesting is, every superhero has a weakness, and I think hers is she’s the person who gets in her way; but she’s kind of limitless, and to me, that’s kind of interesting character. I don’t know what we’re going to do next, but I think of her as being an incredibly strong, powerful person, but it was also fun because I feel like she could flip either way because of her mind. I think there are a lot of things that we could possibly play with. But I think this film is a lot about those conflicts in general, of what’s right, how to use your abilities, and whether you should or not, I think that was a consistent theme throughout the whole film.
About Steve and Bucky:
Evans: It’s like when you have friends you had from high school, and you try to make your friends from high school get along with your friends from college, it’s this blending of the worlds, and Steve has this part of him where it’s Bucky and Peggy from his old life, and then he has this new family, and this movie makes these worlds collide. And it’s difficult and challenging, and the loss of Peggy certainly makes Bucky the last remaining part of Steve that is a part of his old self, his memory of home, who he is, before this shield, y’know? It’s who Steve was before he had this responsibility. When you lose Peggy, Bucky becomes so much more meaningful, and that’s what motivates Steve to become selfish; you’ve got the most selfless guy in comic books, all of a sudden saying “I care a little bit more about my relationship than what it means to you guys.” He’s taking his current family, the guy’s only looking for a place to fit, he’s looking for home, and he’s found it with these current Avengers, but Bucky’s that Achilles’ Heel. It’s impossible, pitting that against his current family; he chooses his old family, which is, again, a little bit of a selfish thing, but that’s something he’s never done before, it’s new territory, it’s a grey area that he hasn’t… Joe uses this and I love it, Steve’s a very binary guy, it’s this or that, and with Bucky it becomes grey, and it’s tough for him, and he chooses Bucky.