You’ve now written four Marvel films, and it’ll be six after ‘Infinity War.’ What’s it like to have the keys to all these characters, and what is still exciting for you to write in this universe?
Chris: We’re drunk with power. [Laughs]
Stephen: We have shared custody of some keys. I’m comforted that it’s not all on our shoulders, but I’m pleased to be a pretty important part. This particular project, ‘Infinity War,’ is a really big puzzle. I can’t see Chris and I writing a movie or two movies that are as fraught with pitfalls plotwise as these are. So that’s exciting. You want to be a little out in the water where you can’t swim so well. That’s how you’ll prove yourself; you’ll get better.
Christopher: And also what keeps it interesting is the characters keep evolving. We don’t sit down to write and go, “Oh god, I’ve got to have Captain American and another Avenger wind up in the same place.” Everybody is changing as the universe goes on, and changing out of your hands, because there will be movies that we haven’t worked on that come out in between that alter things.
Stephen: We’re hopefully never giving you warmed-up leftovers.
What are your thoughts on the R-rated success of “Deadpool”? Would that kind of irreverence be a fit in the Marvel universe?
Chris: There’s room for anything. I think the differences between “Ant-Man” and ‘Guardians’ and ‘Cap’ prove that if you’re doing a standalone movie, you can go pretty far off tonally and then still come back.
Stephen: It’s probably too early, and the Marvel Universe is working too well, to poke fun at its own conventions. But a lightness of spirit is already all over the Marvel Universe from ‘Guardians’ to casting Downey in the first place. “Deadpool” was an interesting phenomenon. It’s a hilarious movie and so more power to them for being really, really true to the source material. That’s sort of the secret there. It’s not like they said, “Let’s make a name by being R-rated.” “Deadpool” is R-rated; that’s how you make it.
One of the riskier moments in ‘Civil War’ was writing in Giant Man. Did you have any hesitation? What were your thoughts when writing that scene?
Stephen: He was in there from the first draft, for a number of reasons; some of them are very mundane. If you’re going to bring in Scott Lang, there’s only so much you can do as a tiny person in a fight of that kind. He’s great in an espionage, one-on-one, sneaking-around situation, but if you put 11 other superheroes there, he can’t just sneak up behind them and punch their feet every time. So what does he have in his skillset that could balance things out? And if you’re starting a fight with 12 superheroes punching each other, where does it go from there? How can it possibly build? One way is to physically make someone much larger.
Christopher: But you ask a good question. While it had been there the whole time, I think as we got further along, people said, “Are we really going to have a Giant Man? It’s goofy; how can we do this?” And so the Russo brothers certainly had to convince a few people [that] we can do this well.
It’s probably too early, and the Marvel Universe is working too well, to poke fun at its own conventions.
Stephen: It’s good goofy. There’s an element of the goofiness that saves that sequence from becoming too laden down with this big seriousness. We knew we were about to injure Rhodey; we were about to break up friendships; and if we let it just consume itself with gravity, it wouldn’t be fun anymore. Everything still has to be fun; you’re still at a superhero movie.
Christopher: It’s a strange beat that’s the end of Act II. Normally the end of Act II is the darkest moment you could possibly think of, and then you know you repair everything in the third act. We knew that we were going to be like ‘Empire Strikes Back‘ in a way; we were going to have kind of a downer of a third act. So our end of Act II was going to have a dark moment, [with] Rhodey’s injury. But it’s a 15-minute exercise in fangasm [getting there]. The hope is that it would be glorious and sad.
Rhodey’s injury was a surprise. Is that something going into the movie you knew you wanted to show?
Stephen: Killing somebody was probably a bridge too far, because it would almost force people to get back together. How callous would someone be to fly away from a dead Avenger? And we knew we wanted to leave them broken and shattered at the end, so [killing a character] was never really on the table. But the movies are best when there are changes, when you can’t skip it, when it feels like you really moved the ball down the field, and changed the story and changed characters. And it’s an interesting thing for Cheadle to play, and it’s different for him to play, so we’re interested in that.
Christopher: Just on a logic level, if you have 12 of the most powerful, physically powerful people in the world punching each other and all they come away with is mussed hair, then it’s just an exercise.
At the end of the film, Winter Soldier is back on ice. Will he be back in some form?
Stephen: Good question that I’m not sure we can answer at the moment.
Christopher: All I can say is he ain’t dead.
Stephen: But his journey is a long one, I think. While he is innocent of his crimes, he is haunted by them, so he’s got to work that out. And I think he’s noble in going back under the ice. He’s giving up a chance at life, knowing that he’s a danger. Somebody’s got to work that out.
Christopher: Whether or not his brain did it, his hands killed Tony’s parents…there’s no way to wash that off.
Stephen: It’s complicated.
Will you have any access to the Marvel characters on Netflix, and might they work their way into the movies?
Stephen: As they say, it’s all connected, but some of that’s above our pay grade. It gets a little tough, scheduling-wise. They have entire seasons that they’re doing while we’re shooting.
Christopher: Decisions get made in TV so quickly that they can kill somebody in the time that it takes us to get a draft out. And so it’s very hard to sync up those two schedules.
Stephen: I’d love to see it, though; they’re doing some ridiculously good work on that end. I thought “Jessica Jones” was awesome.
“Captain America: Civil War” is now playing.