Team Cap speaks from the set of Captain America: Civil War
I’m standing on the tarmac of an airport in Germany. At least that’s what you’ll see when you’re in the movie theater, because the blistering Atlanta heat is blaring down on us. It’s worth it though. I’m watching a comic book panel literally come to life.
Chris Evans in all his star-spangled glory stands on one end of the set, which has a football field-sized green screen as a wall, mingling with his teammates. At his sides are Anthony Mackie’s Falcon, Paul Rudd’s Ant-Man, Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye, Elizabeth Olsen’s Scarlet Witch, and his end-of-the-line pal, Sebastian Stan’s Bucky Barnes, aka The Winter Soldier. The group stands on one end of the runway and as the take begins, they run toward the other side. This is just one half of what will be a giant shot as Team Cap and Team Iron Man clash. Marvel’s Civil War is on.
“We’re referring to this sequence as the Splash Panel or the double panel,” co-director Joe Russo tells us. “If you’re a comic book fan you know that any epic book you would open it up, as a kid I would just go through and look at who was fighting who. I’d stand there in the store for 15 minutes until the guy told me to buy the book or get out. So this sequence is our live-action splash panel or double panel. It’s a big epic sequence.”
This entire sequence, which will end up being about 15 minutes when chopped together, is being filmed entirely in IMAX, the only scene shot on the format in the whole film. In addition, the camera being used is fresh off the assembly line and only a week old – the IMAX/ARRI 65mm camera. It’s good practice for the Russos to work with it too, it’s what they’ll be filming the entirety of Avengers: Infinity War with.
Team Cap runs down the stretch of boiling concrete a number of times, some splintering off so CG can later show them flying up, but all the while Chris Evans is leading the charge as Steve Rogers. Ever since the character became a super soldier in World War II, he’s found himself in the center of conflict. Be it fighting the Red Skull in the 1940s, taking on Loki and aliens in New York, fighting modern day HYDRA in Washington, or battling an army of robots in Sokovia, Captain America was built for combat.
“I think he handles it well because he is so selfless,” Chris Evans says of the character’s ability to cope with constant fighting. “He refuses to show the struggle. I think this is the one time there’s a conflict where his compass doesn’t know which way to point. I think he handles conflict well because he knows what’s right and he knows the right thing to do. Sometimes that’s hard, because it may affect certain people, and it may butt with what other people believe, but at least he knows his own mind. I think this is one of the first times he doesn’t know. And I think when you’re kind of aimless, I think that’s terrifying. Whether rooted in conflict or not, he just doesn’t know what the right move is.”
That conflict of course is a divide right down the middle of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, pitting hero against hero. When it was officially announced that the third Captain America movie would be “Civil War,” and with the cast’s roster seemingly unending, it got many wondering why this wasn’t just being called “Avengers 3.”
“I think it’s tone,” co-writer Christopher Markus, now penning his fourth Marvel Studios film, says. “There is a story in addition to the Civil War. Civil War is kind of a backdrop to what’s going on, and that is 100% Steve’s story. We kind of set up an area with ‘Winter Soldier,’ where we’re the franchise that kind of takes in the consequences of all the fun superhero destruction and action… If ‘The Avengers’ kind of have more of an ‘Iron Man’ feel and everyone comes and plays in Iron Man’s world, we wanted to drag everybody into Cap’s world and make him feel bad for a while.”
Directors Anthony and Joe Russo echoed this sentiment, citing the grittier and more realistic approach they brought to Captain America: The Winter Soldier as a separate sandbox in the MCU. A sandbox that all of the other heroes have been invited to, and which will affect how they’re presented.
“Downey’s been doing an amazing job on this film,” Joe Russo says. “He’s got a complex arc. I think it’s really some of the more interesting stuff he’s done in a long time. He is fantastic in the movie… The ‘Iron Man’ films sometimes have a lighter quality to them, they’re funny or whatever. This movie is just pulling that center of gravity more toward that Winter Soldier intensity.”
The setting of today’s scene isn’t lost on us either. Germany; a place that Steve Rogers has visited a handful of times over the past seventy years and each time he’s found himself up against a foe.
“We’re taking Cap to a place in this movie that he’s never gone before,” Anthony Russo says. “That for us is taking Cap full circle. How do you take this guy that began where he began and had that great arc that he’s had and still take him to a place he’s never gone before? He’s such a tough character in a lot of ways because he’s so strong and so centered, he has such strong ethics and morals. How do you upend a character like that? It’s easier to upend a character like Tony Stark in some ways because he’s a little all over the place and unbalanced. So how do you spin Cap out? We found a way to really get at the heart of who Cap is to shake his foundation, push him somewhere I think that’s going to surprise a lot of people.”
What really makes this movie a Captain America story and not just another “Avengers” jaunt? The Winter Soldier. Not only are they picking up the threads of where the titular 2014 film left off, but the soldier-turned-assassin is integral to the film’s plot. Joe Russo tells us if you want to make a character important to your story’s plot, you have to tie them to it, and The Winter Soldier is bound by an anchor.
“I think it’s fair to say that there’s A, B, and C plots to the movie,” co-writer Stephen McFeely says. “If ‘Civil War’ is the A plot, then the Bucky story is the B plot. At some point, it’s for Steve to choose. That’s probably the best way I can put it.”
Chris Evans points to Civil War as an important piece of the Marvel tapestry not only because of how it picks up where “Winter Soldier” left off, but because it’s also a sequel to Avengers: Age of Ultron.
“They’re still trying to break in the new members,” Evans says of his fellow Avengers. “I think it’s no secret that what happens is there’s a world around them that expects a little bit more responsibility for their actions. The Avengers have been operating independent of any government restriction, so I think there’s plenty of people that makes nervous. I don’t think I’m giving anything away by saying what happens is certain governments expect a bit of a change.”
Evans also goes on to reveal that once it becomes clear Bucky is a key player, his fellow Avengers empathize with Steve’s position.
“Cap’s done nothing but give himself to this group, so I think they understand the value of what it means to me to find him. And especially after Renner’s been brainwashed, Scarlett’s been misled, we’ve all had our share of being taken advantage of, so I don’t think they hold him completely responsible for some of his actions.”
Sebastian Stan plays the metal-armed BFF of Captain America. He spoke about the key similarity that Steve and Bucky share, waking up after 70 years to find a new world. The difference being Bucky has murdered hundreds of people in the name of Hydra against his will.
“Where we find the character is really where he’s at in the post-credits scene at the end of Winter Soldier,” Stan says. “So that’s where he picks up in this film. It very much is a big struggle, figuring out what his life has been about and what he’s really been up to. That’s what I think the similarity between them is. They’re men out of time, struggling to embrace this new life, and how do they do it.”
“It was bad enough when Cap woke up after 70 years in the ice having done nothing,” Christopher Marcus says. “(Bucky) woke up after 70 years having murdered a hundred of the best people of the last century. Do you want to go on? Do you want to be free? Do you want to put a bullet in your head? What is it?”
Stan does note that whatever you might think is going through Bucky’s head as he walks that museum floor in the post-credit scene, imagine what that would do to a person fresh off the mind-control block.
“Whatever notions you had about that post-credits scene where you see him in the museum, and obviously he’s staring at himself, whatever ideas you got from that scene, keep thinking about those and go with your own thoughts on that.”
Another piece picking up from “The Winter Soldier” is the inclusion of Anthony Mackie as Sam Wilson, aka Falcon. At the time of our visit, just one month after Avengers: Age of Ultron opened, Mackie can’t contain his excitement because he’s finally an Avenger.
“When they asked me to do Avengers they sent me two scenes. There are two hours and seven minutes around those two scenes, but I never got to read it… When we were at the premiere, I was like ‘cool.’ I’m with my son and he gets to see his daddy in two scenes in The Avengers. By the end of the movie, I turn around and they’re like ‘Avengers Assemble!’ I’m like, ‘HOLY S**T! I’M AN AVENGER!’ So I turn around to everybody with me and they were like, ‘Dude! You’re a f***in’ Avenger! This is f***in’ amazing.’”
Mackie reveals that upon filming his scene at the end of “Age of Ultron,” he didn’t know that he’d be named one of Earth’s mightiest heroes.
“I had no idea. I flew in, Chris and Scarlett are up top and the rest of us are standing there. It was like ‘Cut. Anthony fly in. Action. Hrm-hrm-hrm. Cut. Alright, thanks!’ That was pretty much it. Six months later you go to a premiere and you s**t yourself.”
This time around, Mackie says that instead of just sharing scenes with Captain America, he gets to share scenes with everyone in Civil War.
“I get to continue my (un)dying love affair with Black Widow, which is good,” Mackie says with an infectious laugh. “I think moreso in this one that I didn’t get to do before is become my own person. Now everyone knows who I am, so it’s not ‘Who’s the flying guy?’ It’s more, ‘Hey, Falcon’s here.’ You get to see my relationship with everyone else has grown as opposed to being the new guy on the team.”
That relationship, Mackie reveals, appears to be built around Sam Wilson’s inability to really deal with the other characters and their abilities. He takes it upon himself to be a big brother and poke some fun at them.
“Vision is by far the easiest person to make fun of. He’s always a good target. Vision is definitely my one guy because he’s easy to make fun of. And Tony Stark. I don’t know why everybody thinks Tony’s cool, and Tony thinks he’s really cool, but Falcon just thinks he’s a nerd. And not like a cool millennium nerd… I’m talking about a 1985 nerd.”
Mackie goes on to say that he’s the secret weapon of Civil War, not because of some new technology or super power, but because he’s the stand-in for the audience.
“I’m being used strategically to ask the audience’s questions… So when Scarlet Witch is all (moves his hands around), I’m like, ‘You saw that? Right. Just making sure you f***in’ saw that.’ Scarlet Witch and her crazy rave baby technique and Ant-Man and him riding an ant. Alright, cool.”
Speaking of Scarlet Witch, the one true super-powered member of Team Cap, Elizabeth Olsen says that the rousing speech Hawkeye gave her in “Age of Ultron” has had a profound impact on her as she’s grown into the team.
“We find Scarlet Witch without a home, without a family, and she ends up creating a surrogate family within the Avengers and making a decision to be a part of the team. I think a lot of that has to do with Jeremy’s character – like his attitude towards her and the speech he gives her at the end of the film. So we pick up with her having started a new life, but still trying to figure out what her abilities are and if using them causes greater good or greater damage.”
Many will assume that given her near-limitless powers in the source material, Scarlet Witch is a key factor in this fight that she could probably end in minutes. You wouldn’t be wrong in that assumption, but the character is not only still learning her powers, she has some restrictions on them.
“We like characters that have limitations to their powers, so there’s a cost for everything that they do,” Joe Russo says. “Wanda can’t fly, she can use her power to push herself off, launch and then bring herself back down. But she has to stop herself and it’s not the most graceful version of flying. It’s just using her power to create energy to push herself up and bring herself down, but she’s still subject to gravity.”
Fans will also be curious about her relationship with Vision, as the pair have long been a romantic duo in the comics, but who find themselves on opposite sides of the Civil War.
“I think there’s something unique in the fact that her powers come from the same thing that powers him,” Olsen says. “And that is how we’ve made them have that specifically in common, as opposed to it being something else that the comics kind of created, which has been pure romance. But they do have something uniquely special because of that.”
Hawkeye is the final factor in Team Cap. Even though he seemed to be retired at the end of “Age of Ultron,” he finds himself in the Michael Corleone position. Just when he thought he was out, they pull him back in.
“I think that’ll always be there for Barton, right? You have real life, and then you have fight life. And that’s the character that I love now – discovering that in him makes him a very sort of accessible Avenger. That’ll always be there, I’m sure. And it certainly plays in this one.”
The crew transitions from the “splash page” shot on set to the next set-up, where Clint finds himself in the middle of a battle with his oldest and dearest friend: Black Widow. The two of them have fought before on the Helicarrier in The Avengers, but Clint wasn’t in his right mind. This time they’re trading blows and they both know why. They even have some brand-new equipment to swing at each other.
Check back here tomorrow to find out who else is fighting in that scene and all about Team Iron Man in Captain America: Civil War, opening in theaters on May 6. You can view new Team Cap character posters in the gallery below!