Marvel’s run of Phase One films culminated with the smashing success of last year’s The Avengers, and while Phase Two is gearing up to kick off next month with the release of Iron Man 3, there are a couple of Marvel veterans who have their hands creatively in more than one upcoming film. Screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely wrote the script for Captain America: The First Avenger, and while they were enlisted to pen the sequel Captain America: The Winter Soldier, the duo also worked on the screenplay for this November’s Thor: The Dark World.
Steve recently spoke with Markus and McFeely in anticipation of director Michael Bay’s upcoming black comedy Pain & Gain (which they wrote), and during the course of their conversation the two talked extensively about their work on Captain America 2, Thor 2, and Marvel films in general. Hit the jump to see what they had to say about Easter Eggs, Black Widow’s presence in Cap 2, the amount of flashbacks we can expect, planning for Phase Three, and much, much more.
While McFeely and Markus are the sole screenwriters credited on Captain America: The Winter Soldier, the duo also had a hand in the script for Marvel’s Thor sequel. Steve asked the duo about their involvement with that film, and they talked about the multiple screenwriters who did some work on the pic while also revealing that the film will spend much more time on Asgard:
Stephen McFeely: [The Thor: The Dark World script] was in good shape, we left it in good shape. There are a few different masters on Thor. It’s a hard project to get right, I’m really impressed with the first one; I know how difficult it is to get the balance between Earth and Asgard right and that still is the case, you’ve gotta figure out a way to balance both worlds.
Christopher Markus: You get a lot more Asgard in this one in a satisfying way.
McFeely: Chris Yost sort of was the guy on set, and then Don Payne who recently passed did the first draft. And then Robert Rodat did at least a draft before we came on, and then even some other people.
Markus: It’s a party line (laughs). Surprisingly, I wouldn’t let that worry you. It came out really tight.
Thor: The Dark World is wrapped and set for release later this year, but production only just began on Captain America: The Winter Soldier. When Steve spoke with the screenwriters as they were just beginning work on the Cap sequel, they said we could expect a fair amount of flashbacks in the follow-up. However, it appears that the initial plan has evolved quite a bit:
Markus: [There was] a fairly dramatic change. I mean we haven’t thrown anything out but I think structurally we had something in mind that might serve us better in another movie down the line.
McFeely: When we talked to you that would’ve been summer of 2011 so we were at the “anything’s possible” stage so we were heading down a particular road that had a few more generous flashbacks, and we didn’t go quite down that road. Frankly, Kevin Feige came in and said like two words and we went “Oh, those are two really good words. Let’s go that way.” I mean I’m very pleased with where we’ve ended up.
One of the major changes that we only recently learned about is the fact that Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow plays a major role in the story. Markus explained that the character provides a nice foil for Chris Evans’ Steve Rogers:
Markus: [Black Widow is] a great—both in attitude and in profession—a great contrast to Steve Rogers. She’s incredibly modern, not very reverent, and just very straightforward whereas Steve is, you know a man from the 40s. He’s not a boy scout, but he is reserved and has a moral center, whereas her moral center moves.
McFeely: The script has been tight for a while. So anything we do these days is really about, “Well that’s a door and we need a window,” as opposed to big stuff. And then there’ll be stuff for cast, so we’ve had the privilege of going “Alright now that it’s Robert Redford, what does that mean?” (laughs) And so that was great.
Speaking of Robert Redford, the actor recently revealed that he will be playing the head of S.H.I.E.L.D. in The Winter Soldier. Steve asked the duo if they could confirm who Redford is playing, and they were a bit coy:
McFeely: I’m giving you nothing on that. I would not say that Mr. Redford is wrong.
Markus: Chronologically it takes place at some point after The Avengers, I’m not even sure we’re particular about it in the script. The movies are more or less evolving in the time of release so if The Avengers came out in 2012, I think you could almost count the years after release.
McFeely also revealed that moviegoers will likely be able to follow along with The Winter Soldier even if they’ve only seen The Avengers and not the first Captain America film:
McFeely: We have to assume that more people saw The Avengers than saw Captain America. That doesn’t mean that we do a whole “previously on Steve Rogers,” but we have to be cognizant of it. Not everyone knows the first movie in the same way.
Markus: Coming after the first movie and coming after The Avengers, there’s now stuff we don’t have to do in terms of, “Let’s give you the idea of who this guy is and he wears this outfit.” Everybody knows now, so you can hit the ground running much more quickly than we did in the first one when we had to spend 40 minutes introducing the skinny guy. I think it allows for a much faster pace and a tenser movie.
Though the team-up in The Avengers now forces the subsequent standalone films to grapple with the question of, “Well why doesn’t X just call his/her friends and be done with this villain already?”, Markus thinks The Winter Soldier sidesteps that issue just fine:
Markus: In terms of “Why doesn’t he call The Avengers?” it never bothers me in the comic books, you know, it’s just they’re not here. But I think it’s also a question of is the story you’re telling personal enough? If it’s Cap’s story, if it really has to do with his life, then your desire for him to call for help is out. It’s his life. It’s a question of making it personal to him and it’s also a question of pacing… I can’t tell you what the plot is, but it has a lot to do with Cap, on a thematic level, as a person. If it was giant space robots, anyone can fight giant space robots. Only Cap can do what’s happening in this movie.
Marvel also has a track record of hiding Easter Eggs for fans in their films that may or may not pay off down the road, and McFeely and Markus revealed that there will be plenty of hidden goodies for fans to find in Cap:
Markus: Easter Eggs more with Cap than Thor, but I think more with this one literally some of the eggs are hatching as opposed to being planted… [But] yes, there are certain locations [in The Winter Soldier] that offer the opportunity to pour out the Easter Eggs like it’s Easter.
McFeely: There are a few hopefully Blu-ray moments. There are gonna be frames where you can pause and go, “Yep, yep, yep.”
Speaking more generally about the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the duo revealed that setting up storylines for down the road comes secondary to the film at hand:
McFeely: [Kevin Feige] has a general sense [of the trajectory for future films], but I wouldn’t say—he never inhibits the current phase in the interest of the next phase. So if this, in order to be a great movie, needed to do X, Y, and Z and that screwed up W over here, you wouldn’t do W.
Markus: But it’s also if we come up with a fun idea and pitch it to Kevin, it might trickle down to the next phase because he’s like, “Oooh I see how that can…”
Watch the video interview below preceded by a time index, and look for much, much more from McFeely and Markus in Steve’s full interview, which should be available closer to the release of Pain & Gain.
Thor: The Dark World opens on November 8th of this year, and Captain America: The Winter Soldier opens on April 4, 2014.
- :26 How’d they get involved with Thor: The Dark World? Talk about the scripting process on that film and what to expect from the movie.
- 1:25 Did they bring them in to up the love story on Thor since they nailed it on Captain America? Say it was just logic stuff and talk about all the different screenwriters that worked on the film.
- 2:23 Talk about Kevin Feige and what an asset he is to Marvel, and how he keeps all the movies in the same universe while also working as standalone stories.
- 3:40 When they’re working on a script, is Feige telling them stuff to include that he can pay off in Phase Three or Phase Four?
- 4:33 Talk about working Easter Eggs into their scripts.
- 5:40 The development process on Captain America 2. Say the script has been tight for a while.
- 6:20 Talk about the first week of filming on Cap 2.
- 6:45 Is Robert Redford playing the head of S.H.I.E.L.D.?
- 7:15 Is Chris Evans more bulked up this time around as Cap? They say the action and the way Cap fights is taking big leaps forward, and Evans “hit and is hitting” the gym.
- 8:00 Talk about the dramatic changes in the script since they first began. They originally had more flashbacks.
- 9:05 Talk about writing for Black Widow and how she fits into the film.
- 10:15 Following in the wake of the massive success of The Avengers. Talk about people seeing the sequel who only know Steve Rogers from The Avengers and the film’s faster pace.
- 11:45 Where does The Winter Soldier fall chronologically after The Avengers?
- 12:39 How do they address the question of, “Why doesn’t Cap just call in The Avengers?”
- 14:00 Talk about keeping the film character-focused while also delivering on spectacle.
- 15:25 Talk about how they balance telling their own story and making the film fit within the universe of future Marvel films.
- 15:47 Easter eggs in Captain America 2.
- 16:25 Where are they filming? Cleveland and Manhattan Beach. Talk about the benefit of the Russo brothers being from Cleveland.
- 17:18 Talk about working with the Russo brothers as directors.
- 18:50 Discuss how Kevin Feige collaborates with directors to bring the unified Marvel vision to fruition.
- 19:47 Are they trying to work on other future Marvel movies? Say they’re not actively pitching the studio but they’d like to do another one.
- 20:30 Talk about how Marvel balances their roster of superhero movies without oversaturating the market and how they approach adapting new characters.
- 21:40 Marvel’s future in TV.
- 22:41 When they were writing Cap 2, were they keeping a bullet point list of things they could use in future films?
- 23:40 Are they dealing with the repercussions of Cap’s love story from the first film in the sequel?
- 24:00 Is there additional casting that hasn’t been announced yet?