Captain America: The Winter Soldier set visit

In July of 2013 I took a short trip to Marvel Studios in Manhattan Beach to visit the Captain America: The Winter Soldier set. While on the studio lot, I got a chance to chat with the cast and crew;  I learned some of the secrets of the movie and about the making of the film. After the jump you will read over 40 things I learned during my visit to the Captain America: The Winter Soldier set. Marvel has also provided us with some photos to premiere from the production. And elsewhere on /Film, you can read full transcripts of our roundtable interviews with the actors, writers and directors.

 

The Story

Screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely started working on The Winter Soldier right around the time the first Captain America film was being released. The first movie was essentially a war film and they knew they didn’t want to do a “grandfather story, man out of time, fish out of water” story.

They always wanted to use the Winter Soldier story arc for the second film, but it took them 6 months to convince themselves they could. Ninety eight percent of the movie takes place in the current time. The writers originally worked on a draft which heavily relied on flashbacks but found it didn’t work. The shooting script only has a couple flashbacks.

They landed on the conspiracy genre and decided to approach Steve Rogers as being a man out of time, wondering who he can and can’t trust in this very different political future.  Co-director Anthony Russo says the story is “a very personal journey, very operatic — your best friend is a villain.” This movie is about Captain America’s journey to figure out what is right, who is the good guy and who is the bad guy. In the 1940s, all of these things were much easier for him to figure out. The man who once represented America now has become an alien in America and alien to the current values of his country. They dug deep to find a timely political theme. Once the murky conspiracy clears up, you know exactly what’s going on. It wouldn’t be a conspiracy if you knew who the bad guy is. Steve is not up on a pedestal being self righteous, he’s in a corner. Because of this set-up, his heroism seems justified.

The story takes place a year after The Avengers in the Marvel Cinematic Universe timeline.  It takes place after both Thor 2 and Iron Man 3 and smack dab in between The Avengers and Avengers 2.

The writers were very influenced by 3 Days of the Condor, The Parallax View, and Marathon Man. The conspiracy movie template usually follows one guy who is increasingly isolated and eventually, after he figures out the situation, is forced to make a decision. Should he continue running away or go on offense?

There are dual storylines which switch between Captain America and SHIELD. A couple cast members described the movie as an “Avengers 1.5,” emphasizing the ensemble cast.

Rodgers does spend some time checking in on people he knew in the past, not sure if they are alive or dead.

There is a monumental idea in the third act of this film which will largely affect the Marvel movie universe. The ramifications of this film’s storyline take us right into Avengers 2, more so than any of the other Marvel films – leaving the Marvel Cinematic Universe world in a certain place that Avengers 2 will need to acknowledge. But that film will be able to move on from there; it’s not a setup for other movies.

The film was constructed in a way that it will work for someone who hasn’t seen Captain America 1 or The Avengers but also rewards a fan who has seen all of the Marvel movies.

The Cap suit is a metaphor: Captain America begins the film in a suit which is more in tone with the kind of work he has been doing for SHIELD. The design is as functional as it can be, but at the same time it has some thematic meaning. The suit will evolve over the film and has a thematic arc of its own.

Robert Redford in Captain America: The Winter Soldiuer

Casting

Anthony Mackie‘s brother was a big comic book reader so Mackie knew a but about The Falcon (and The Black Panther) when he got the role. His brother was super excited that his brother is going to play Falcon on the big screen.

Sebastian Stan didn’t know if they’d bring him back as Bucky Barnes/the Winter Soldier until a year after the first film was released, right before comic con last year. He learned the film’s title from a friend who called him from Comic Con, after Marvel had made the reveal in Hall H.

Robert Redford‘s grandkids are huge fans of the Marvel movies, which is why he wanted to do this film.

Frank Grillo on the set of Captain America: The Winter Soldier

The Characters

The Avengers team members have more of an affect on Rogers  than the events that happened at the end of The Avengers. He’s not alone in being a superhero anymore.

Black Widow best represents this century and the grey morality areas. She is able to pick at his weak spots. It’s fun for her to get at his soft underbelly that way. Black widow is a character who lies for a living, and Captain America is a character who lives by the truth. She’s pushing him to modernize and he’s trying to enstill some of his old school beliefs in her. Chris Evan’s favorite scenes are the moments he shares with Scarlett because he says they are “very human scenes.”

The Captain America/Nick Fury relationship is very rich and complicated.  Nick Fury represents an obstacle for Steve in some ways. Part of Captain America’s conflict with Nick Fury is that he’s from a different place and thinks he has a different set of values. The story puts them in a place where they need to confront their differences. How does a character with a moral code like Captain America work for an organization like SHIELD?

Captain America sometimes has fun with some people’s expectations that he might not understand an element of today.

Anthony Mackie plays the third version of the three versions of the Falcon from the comics. Captain America and Falcon’s relationship is build upon comradery in the military. Fallon’s character is established in this movie, but his origin story isn’t necessarily told.

The Falcon is not afraid of being a real 2013 person, and definitely is not in awe of Captain America.

We will learn where SHIELD came from, where its going, and more about the cool technology the agency possess.

Mackie revealed that Redford’s character is “more of the shield guy than an Avengers guy” so they dont share any scenes together.

Anthony Mackie jokes that he has snuck in a subtle subplot that The Falcon is in love with Black Widow. He admits never asked permission to do it and didn’t tell Scarlett thats what he was going for while performing those scenes.  So maybe you’ll be able to see it in the final film.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier Set Visit: Chris Evans & Scarlett Johansson on the set

Production

Winter Solider began shooting even before Iron Man 3 was released. We visited set on day 66 of 76 shooting days. They only had 8 days left of principal photography. They were filming Scene 152.  All the signs at Marvel Studios featured a fake title “[FREEZER | BURN]“. Even our name tags featured the fake title.

We were on set to watch the filming of a third act set piece which featured Falcon and Captain America vs. Winter Soldier on a metal walkway leading to an Airlock chamber on a soundstage covered in green screen. On screen, the sequence will appear to take place 100 feet in the air with levels below it.

The director chairs on set say the character names and not the actor names. For example, Chris Evan’s chair says “Steve Rogers”.

The screenwriters were on set for the entire shoot but insist there hasn’t been a lot of tweaking being done on set. Robert Redford may have told them that he didn’t need to use a few of his written lines, and the writers admit the resulting performance works even better than written.

In Cleveland they had to shut down a freeway for two weeks for one of the film’s action sequences.

Two sound-stages on the Manhattan Beach studios lot was being used for Avatar 2 tests but we saw nothing as those stages are “tightly under wraps.” The stage they were filming on was right next door to the Lightstorm offices. When we went to grab snacks from craft service on stage 28, we saw the giganic model of the Titanic behind a protective fence on the side of the stage – movie history in a warehouse.

The filmmakers are shooting the film with longer lenses with less depth of field, they described it as “more of a Scott brothers look.”

Cap Winter Soldier Empire 4

The Action

The look of the movie is described as an 180 degree turn from the first one, and is said to be much different than all the other Marvel movies. The Russo brothers shot a lot of the film handheld, they wanted an aggressive and gritty-looking movie.  They are hoping to achieve a more “visceral action” and “hardcore realism”.

The Russo brothers were big fan of The Raid, Joe admitted they studied the action scenes in that movie: “Our DVD players and apple tvs live at quarter speed.” The Raid inspired them to have more hard hitting action in the film, admitting that a lot of real hits have been taken by the stuntmen during this production.

The action takes a leap by 20 fold over the first movie, which had a slower pace due to the period setting. They wanted to bring a style of action and intensities that most American audiences haven’t seen before. Anthony Mackie compares the intense action and gritty dark story to the Bourne films.

Not only does the movie’s camerawork look more modern, but also Captain America’s fighting style has progressed to be more modern. Now that cap is in the future, he has a faster tactile mind, and he has absorbed everything in the past year and a half. So he sometimes uses his Shield in a more eastern tactile way.

The filmmakers pushed all of the actors to train really hard and do more of their own fight sequences. Chris Evans took gymnastic classes in prep for the movie.

The Russos namechecked Ronin as the film which had the biggest influence on the car sequences in this film.

Joe Johnston wanted Captain America’s powers to be really grounded in the first film. We will see Captain America’s powers pushed a little bit more in this sequel: “You’ve seen the avengers, they need to have a reason to have him on this team!”

Russo Brothers and Chris Evans on the set of Captain America: The Winter Soldier

 The Filmmakers

Joe Russo was a Marvel fan from a young age – he started collecting comics when he was 10 years old. The Russo brothers also grew up on the great thrillers of the 1970′s.

The Russos got involved in the film because of executive producer Kevin Feige. Feige doesn’t watch a lot of tv but the television series, he does watch he kept seeing their names credited on. He pitched them on the idea of Captain America 2 as a 70s style political thriller and they loved the idea. The Russo’s agents told them that Feige was a big fan of the Community episodes they had directed. A lot of directors were in the mix when they got the call. The Russo’s passion for the material and 70s films won out.

The Russos have become prominent television comedy directors but when the Russos first got into the business they wanted to do big action movies. They tried to get the rights to the Lord of the Rings trilogy in the 1990s when the material was available. Their first film played at Slamdance, which would have never been created without the start of Sundance, so the Russo brothers believe they somehow owe their careers to Robert Redford.

The filmmakers believe The Winter Soldier storyline one of the best comic book storylines of the last 50 years. They love the  post modern deconstruction of superheroes. They had dinner with Ed Brubaker right after they signed on to pick his brain and get his blessing. Their huge fans and they have a Brubaker Easter egg hidden in the film. They didn’t get a chance to meet Stan lee until he filmed his cameo.

Peter Sciretta on the set of Captain America: The Winter Soldier

And lastly, proof I was on set – a photo of me and the Captain’s shield.

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