From directors Anthony and Joe Russo, the highly anticipated superhero epic Avengers: Endgame will show the aftermath of the events set in motion by Thanos, when he wiped out half of all living things in the universe. Fractured and on a mission to save their friends by undoing everything that’s been done, the remaining Avengers will face off against Thanos in one final stand that 22 films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe have been leading to.
During a press conference at the film’s Los Angeles junket, co-stars Robert Downey Jr. (“Iron Man”), Chris Evans (“Captain America”), Chris Hemsworth (“Thor”), Brie Larson (“Captain Marvel”), Scarlett Johansson (“Black Widow”), Mark Ruffalo (“The Hulk”), Paul Rudd (“Ant-Man”) and Don Cheadle (“War Machine”), along with directors Joe and Anthony Russo and Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige, talked about their individual journeys with this epic film franchise, and what it’s been like to be a part of this family, over the years.
Question: Robert, when you first suited up as Iron Man, could you have envisioned Tony Stark’s arc and where you wanted to see the character go?
ROBERT DOWNEY JR.: I’ve been thinking about this recently. There are always two tracks, at least in my mind. One is that the sky is falling, and the other is that the sky is the limit. As we had those many discussions, while shooting the film, I’m reminded now that I was talking a lot of smack and saying, “Wait until you see where this goes,” but in the moment, I was just hoping, day to day, that we were making good scenes and getting good stuff in the can. just wanted to not drop the ball.
Was it a surprise to you that Iron Man amassed an army of devoted fans, early on?
DOWNEY: I’ve been just feeling like I’m an oddball manny who’s been offered the opportunity to usher in this large family. We’re close and growing closer, by the moment, so it’s just nice. To me, it’s just the coolest relay race in the history of entertainment.
Relay race is a good way to put it because it’s not only been a collection of different actors portraying superheroes, but also filmmakers who are carrying the torch, from one film to another, all under the guidance of Kevin Feige. Kevin, you could not have predicted the 22 films that you’ve produced in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, over the last 11 years, would be so wildly successful and popular. When did you actually begin to realize that you had something big on your hands?
KEVIN FEIGE: Well, big is relative. We hired a great director (Jon Favreau) to do the first film in the MCU, and then we hired a great actor (Robert Downey, Jr.), and we had fun making that first movie. The bar for success was pretty low. It felt high, at the time, but it was not that high. It was comparative to other Marvel films that had been out, which is what we wanted to compete with. But as we were making the movie and looking at dailies, and we were looking at effects tests coming in, we realized that this was really going to be special, and even perhaps more special than we thought. And then, in that opening weekend, and in response to showing that trailer for the first time in Hall H at Comic-Con, there started to be a much bigger wind behind our back. That was combined with Sam Jackson’s cameo that we secretly did, that leaked the next day, and people picked up that it meant this interconnected universe, which everybody knew from the books, but had never been done in the movies.
What makes Avengers: Endgame so special that it’s become the most highly anticipated superhero film, ever?
FEIGE: What’s special is all of the actors, and the family that has come together, over this decade plus. Part of the journey is the end. We’ve all talked about doing something that’s never been done before. Back to Iron Man, it was, “What if a superhero outs his identity at the very last shot of the movie? We can’t do that? No one does that. You can’t do that. What would we do next time? I don’t know. Let’s do it.” Four or five years ago, we started talking about, “What haven’t we seen in films based on comic characters? We haven’t seen an ending that’s a definitive conclusion to an overall saga.” That’s why it’s called Endgame, and why I think it’s very, very, very special.
Anthony, how will the surprise ending of Avengers: Infinity War and the aftermath of Thanos’ destruction affect the tone of Endgame?
ANTHONY RUSSO: Joe and I, we speak constantly about the debt we owe to [Jon Favreau] for starting this whole thing. We both remember that moment that we sat in the theater and watched that first Iron Man, for the first time. I remember that feeling of, “I wish we were a part of this.” We had no idea that, years later, we actually would be, so that was an epic moment in a movie theater. With the ending of Infinity War, one of our favorite storytelling adages is, “Write yourself into a corner.” And what we take that to mean is to put yourself in a place, on a narrative level, where you have no idea how you could possibly move forward from there, and that’s a very exciting place to be. It forces you to come up with some really creative ways forward. We’ve tried to do that with the endings of every single Marvel movie that we’ve done, and never more so than with Infinity War. We are very committed to the ending of that movie. We think that stories lose their meaning, relevancy and resonance, unless there are real stakes. For us, moving into Endgame, the story is very much about, how do these heroes deal with resounding, true, devastating loss? That’s what they’ve experienced in Infinity War, and it was a unique experience, for all of them. So, how does a hero move forward, from that moment? Our road into this story is, how is everybody, on an individual level, dealing with that experience? And then, how do they collectively deal with it?
Joe, what do you want audiences to experience when they watch Endgame?
JOE RUSSO: I think is a really unique experiment in movies, with this grand mosaic. Depending on how you count it up, there are 11 franchises that have been interwoven into one big narrative, and a lot of people have invested a lot of heart and soul into the characters. When we take these movies around the world, it’s really heartwarming to have people come up to you and say, “I started watching this with my classmates when I was 10 years old. Now, we’re all 21, and we’re gonna go see this together.” Or they’ll say, “My parents have taken me to every movie,” or “My grandfather has taken me to every film.” It’s a real sense of community and sharing in these stories and believing in them. With Endgame, we get the opportunity to finish off one of the grandest experiments in movie history, and bring it to an epic conclusion. What we’re hoping for is that people feel satisfied with the conclusion.