During a supersized press conference held over the weekend, Marvel Studios assembled 21 cast members from Avengers: Infinity War to field unanswerable questions about the movie. There was Robert Downey Jr. and Scarlett Johansson, Benedict Cumberbatch, Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Chris Hemsworth, Letitia Wright, Danai Gurira, Tom Holland, Josh Brolin, Chadwick Boseman, Paul Bettany, Winston Duke, Dave Bautista, Don Cheadle, Elizabeth Olsen, Mark Ruffalo, Tom Hiddleston, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie and Pom Klementieff, as well as directors Anthony and Joe Russo and producer Kevin Feige.
As if those marquee names weren't enough, rumor has it that even more familiar faces from all corners of Marvel's behemoth cinematic universe will appear in the film, out Friday. I sat down with the Russo Brothers following the press conference and pressed them to name names. "A lot of universes intersect, but not all of the universe's elements intersect," Joe told me, with a promise from the Russos that they haven't forgotten about Hawkeye and clarification over their telling ET that Brie Larson's Captain Marvel would be introduced in Infinity War.
ET: With the movie coming out this week, do you still feel like you have to be clamped down or are you starting to ease into sharing some information about the movie?
Joe: Oh no, we're clamped down. Especially clamped down!
Anthony: We're more clamped down than ever, because I feel like--
Joe: We put so much work into protecting the secrets of the movie.
Anthony: Those secrets are more rise-able now than ever, you know what I mean?
Joe: It was really from the fake scripts to not showing the movie to everyone, it's all paid off, because we haven't seen anything leak that's factual. So, it's been a good strategy. I think it's helping.
What percentage of the movie do you estimate has been teased in the trailers and clips?
Joe: It's like five minutes of footage, I think, that's been teased out there. And it's typically nothing-- I mean, I don't think anything dramatic has been teased in it. Just character interactions and I think that's the big selling point of this film, is that if you've been a fan for the last 10 years, this is it. This is the moment where you finally get to see all your favorite characters interacting. But as far as the big surprises that come with the story, none of those have been alluded to.
So, there are large swatches of this film that we don't have any idea about?
Joe: Huge. It's a big movie. There's a lot of stuff that hasn't been touched on in the footage at all.
With Marvel, we can't always trust the trailers anymore, anyway.
Joe: That's right.
Stuff that's shown in the trailer ends up being different in the movie. I'm thinking of the Thor: Ragnarok trailer, which showed Thor with both eyes. And if I recall, in the Civil War trailer, Spider-Man was taken out of a group shot.
Joe: He was. We did, we alter the shots in order to protect secrets in the movie. We have shots that aren't in the film, that we put in the trailers as another way to provide footage to the fans. So, there may be shots that you love in the trailer that you're not going to see in this film.
Are there altered shots in the trailer?
Joe: There are always altered shots, yeah. It's impossible to take footage from the film, because there's so many little surprises and not alter it ahead of time. You have to!
What did you learn from making Civil War, which was such a massive crossover, that changed how you approached Infinity War?
Anthony: I don't know, to be honest with you. Civil War, for us, there was more continuity between Winter Soldier and Civil War than not. Because it was still a Captain America story. Winter Soldier was an ensemble film as well; it's just Civil War was a larger ensemble film. I think what we learned was that even though Winter Soldier was an ensemble film, Black Widow and Falcon very much lived in Cap's tone in that movie. The thing we got to do where we had a lot of fun in Civil War is, you know, the central narrative in that film is the Avengers are being torn apart and the relationship between Steve Rogers and Tony Stark is going to be destroyed. That's a really serious and tense narrative line. However, we realized we can introduce characters midway through that movie who didn't have any relationship to that breakup and who didn't have the baggage, that tension, like Spider-Man and Ant-Man, and we can actually use those characters in different ways for different colors, different tonal colors. I think we really enjoyed that about that film, because we liked being able to balance that movie. Joe and I love really balanced films. We like movies that make you laugh, make you cry, make you think, scare you, etcetera.
Joe: You get more for your money.
Anthony: In order for us to balance that movie, we really had to use those characters who had less proximity to the central problem to be a little lighter and more fun. I think that is a tool that we brought forward into this film as well.
You've spoken about searching for "strange alchemy" when pairing characters together. Was there a pairing you hadn't planned for that surprised you because of how well the characters gelled or what that chemistry looked like?
Joe: Because [Thor: Ragnarok director] Taika [Waititi] was re-toning Thor while we were shooting, I think that Thor [and] Star-Lord meeting each other was much more combustible and a lot funnier than we expected. A lot of that was just part of what was happening in the Thor universe at the time. Taika came down and sat with us and showed us scenes from the movie and explained to us the direction that he was working in -- because obviously it's a very unpredictable direction until you see the footage -- and then that opened our minds up to an interpretation of Thor that would allow for a more combustible relationship.
Anthony: It was almost more complementary to the Guardians' tone.
On top of having everybody who has ever been in a Marvel movie in this, you are introducing four new characters with Thanos' Black Order. [Corvus Glaive, Cull Obsidian, Ebony Maw and Proxima Midnight, who is played by Carrie Coon.] Did that feel like an immense undertaking, to have such a large cast already and then have to establish new players and make them pop?
Joe: It does, and you have to just make choices that are efficient for the storytelling. This isn't a movie about the Black Order. But it was helpful to have them in the film, because we have a lot of heroes and the heroes needed to conflict with someone. And Thanos can't be all places at all times.
Anthony: Even with the Stones. [Laughs]
Joe: You also want to reserve him for a climactic moment. So, we brought the Black Order in, which were favorite characters of ours from the [Jonathan] Hickman run, but they're not the same Black Order from the books. We're interpreting these for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, not for the comic books. They have different power sets. They're not as all-powerful as they are in the books. They live more in the world of the Children of Thanos that include Nebula and Gamora. They're tough and they're powerful, but they're not Thanos.
"We turned to Downey halfway through the movie and said, 'Oh sh*t. Where's Renner?'"
I am going to name some of the people who are rumored to be in this in the hope that you will confirm who actually is and is not. Is Hawkeye in Infinity War?
Joe: Uhh, Hawkeye... We can't tell you, but I will say this about Hawkeye. We knew when we were working on Avengers 3 and 4 that we had a lot of story real-estate there. Especially with the original Avengers, we wanted to make sure that they each had satisfying stories, and we knew that we had both movies to do that in. So, it is more of a long play with Hawkeye than a short play.
Anthony: But it is grounded in his story moving forward from Civil War. There's a narrative, there's a reason, for his absence or not absence from this.
Joe: He was a fugitive at the end of that movie, so we have to answer that question.
Were you surprised by the reaction from fans, this outcry for Hawkeye when he wasn't in the trailers or on any of the posters?
Joe: We love it! Because it just shows you how passionate they are for all of these characters.
Anthony: It was really awesome -- exactly, like Joe said. I love those moments when you are reminded that every one of these characters has a very dedicated fan base. It's amazing. But certainly, it was surprising when it was assumed to be some kind of a mistake. [Laughs]
Like you just overlooked him.
Joe: We turned to Downey halfway through the movie and said, "Oh sh*t. Where's Renner?"
Anthony: "Wait a minute. Why isn't Renner here?"
What about Hawkeye's family, are they in this?
Joe: That we can't say either. But we will say that, you know, a guy who's a fugitive has to have a solution for being a fugitive, especially when he has a family. You'll find out in this movie what his solution was.
Joe: Valkyrie... Um. Can't say.
Anthony: We're going to give you the same answer! She's a great character.
Joe: Can't say, but, like, a lot of universes intersect, but not all of the universe's elements intersect.
Joe: He's a fugitive as well. I think when you see the movie, you'll understand the choice he made. Not dissimilar to Hawkeye.
Joe: Same thing. It's, like, not all elements of every universe intersect.
There are rumors that Janet van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer) is in this.
Joe: You know, those are weird-- Let me just say those are weird rumors.
Joe: Can't say.
Anthony: Can't confirm.
Joe: Can't confirm or deny.
Either of the Howard Starks?
Joe: Cannot confirm or deny.
Anthony: [Laughs] And again, we have two movies worth of storytelling. We're really only, at this point, where we're speaking to the first movie only.
When ET interviewed you on set last year, you said that Captain Marvel is in this and that you were -- I'm going to quote you -- "really, really proud of being able to introduce" her. Then we were told she's not in the movie.
Joe: Yes. What we were doing was, I think, we were speaking about -- because we were working on both movies at the same time -- we were speaking about both films, as if they were one film in our minds.
Anthony: We developed that habit internally, in the crew. We would just call them "the movie." I think that's where the miscommunication came from.
You were the first directors to work with Brie Larson within the Marvel universe.
Joe: That's right.
So, she's not in this one?
You've said that the genre of Infinity War is a smash-and-grab film inspired by heist movies of the '90s.
Joe:Out of Sight. 2 Days in the Valley, yeah.
What is the genre of Avengers 4?
Joe: I don't think that there's a particular genre for that movie. This film, because there are so many characters, required a very simple plot. And smash-and-grab heist films have a very simple plot. In Out of Sight, there's a bunch of diamonds in a fish tank and everybody wants the diamonds, you know? In this movie, Thanos wants the Infinity Stones. And that's the unifying element, that's the glue that pulls all the characters together is, "We gotta stop that guy from getting the Infinity Stones." That allows a lot more story real-estate for character interaction, for these people to have conflicts with each other, and they're not having to say exposition. And for the audience to be able to track all the characters, they don't have to also then track a very complicated plot.
Will the plot remain simple through Avengers 4 then?
Anthony: Here's the thing, we're really not talking about Avengers 4 for two reasons: Number one, this is the movie right now. But number two is we have another year left of work on that movie. That's a lot of work. We're not really ready to present what that movie is.
Joe: Which is why we're also hiding the title.
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