Joe & Anthony Russo Break Down Their Directing Technique on ‘Captain America: Civil War’
With Captain America: Civil War, directors Joe and Anthony Russo have to manage a massive amount — a huge ensemble cast of A-list talent, all the character threads that come with them, and the splash page action sequences that happen when they all come to blows. Fortunately, the directorial duo has had nearly 20 years of professional experience to refine their technique.
With Civil War arriving in U.S. theaters this week, Steve sat down with the Russos for an extended, wide-ranging interview. You can look forward to a lot more from their chat, including some deep-diving on Civil War itself, but he also took the opportunity to get some insight into how the duo shares their directorial duties and how they approach directing such an enormous cast of actors, each of whom has a preferred method of working. Watch the interview in the video above, or read what they had to say below.
While you might expect a directorial team to divvy up the duties on such a massive project, theyprefer to work in tandem, hashing out the difficult details as a team. Joe explained,
We don’t really divide up our duties. We’ve been doing this for almost 20 years now. I think we find that it’s most helpful when we have both of our brains applied to an issue. Obviously, because these movies are so complicated and difficult there are moments where it’s much easier for us to divide and conquer, but for the most part, we prefer the process where we argue through a concept to make sure that the choice that we’re making is logical and sound.
In terms of how they approach actors, they share a very similar approach with one major difference — Joe is a trained actor with an MFA in the performing arts. A background that likely gives the duo some tremendously helpful insight into working with different actors. As Anthony puts it,
It’s incumbent upon a director, if you want to pull the best performance out of an actor, you have to really work to who they are and how they work, and not just expect them to hit a mark every time. You have to be very adaptable in the approach that you use with every different actor.
Joe got into some more specifics, detailing how they accomodate the various ways their stars like to work. Chris Evans is technical, Chadwick Boseman is method, and Robert Downey Jr. is organic.
Of course, we work differently with different actors because they’ll have a different process. Chadwick is a very method actor. He shows up on set in character, stays in character, stays in accent because he finds its helpful for him to be transformative. Chris is an extremely technically gifted actor. All his work is done before he gets to set. He understands the script, he understands what he wants from the scene and he nails it. Downey is very organic – the process with him. He really wants to get under the skin of each scene, so what e’ll do is on a Sunday before we shoot his scenes that week, we’ll go over to his house with Markus and McFeely and we’ll g through his scenes and he’ll do a lot of improv and there’s a lot of discovery. If there are great lines that come up, we re-work them into the script and we work the scene in so that the story structure — so that there’s still finality to the story structure, but we get his passion and emotion in the content.
Speaking more broadly, Joe detailed their approach to giving actors the space, simplicity and focus they need to focus purely on the scene at hand without getting derailed by overthinking it.
Our language — the way that we deal with most actors is we don’t like to get very complicated because we don’t want them to think too much because we find it takes them out of the moment. We roll the camera for extended takes, we’ll do six, seven, eight takes in a row because we find by take two or three they’re not thinking about anything other than what’s happening in the scene. They become very present to the scene, and the more you stop and people have a smoke or go t the restroom the more diffuse the energy can become and the more diffuse the focus can become.
Ultimately, when you work so well together, is there a downside to working with family? There is, but it’s probably not what you’d expect. Anthony explained,
There is a worst part and it is this — we spend more time with each other than we do with our wives and children, and we work very long hours, we work non-stop, so when we need to shut off we need to be separate or else we or else we just slip into our work mode. So we do have to spend more of our private time apart because we spend so much of our profession lives together, and that’s tough.
Look for a lot more from Joe and Anthony Russo all week. For more on Captain America: Civil War check out some recent links below:
- ‘Captain America: Civil War’: Over 50 New Images Tease Friendly Fire, Vision in Fancy Clothes
- ‘Captain America: Civil War’ Box Office Off to Strong International Start with $14.9 Million
- Watch: Chris Hemsworth Jokingly Calls ‘Captain America: Civil War’ “Pathetic” for Excluding “Strongest, Biggest Avengers”
- Anthony & Joe Russo on ‘Captain America: Civil War’ and How the ‘John Wick’ Directors Helped with the Action