"Telling a great story requires a grand finale," said Kevin Feige, president of Marvel Studios. "When you do that, change the way you think."
The public is about to discover what a finalization for a coin-moving machine looks like: will the story really come to a conclusion? Will the characters die and the actors leave the series?
Whatever the answers, they have already contacted the help of the Russo brothers, two of the most consistent and diligent (if not widely recognized) filmmakers of Marvel.
When they finish their "The Avengers" films, which they filmed for more than 18 months, the Russos will complete their own improbable arc, from independent film aliens to television comedy magnates and directors of possibly the largest franchise in the world. history of cinema.
The brothers: Anthony, 48, the brain with glasses, and Joe, 46, the square-jawed pragmatist, have contrasting but complementary energies. As Mr. Downey described them, Anthony is "a little more thoughtful, a yin guy", while Joe is the intense yang of the association: "Bitcoin was invented to prevent Joe Russo from killing himself during the last 20 percent of the session, "Mr. Downey said.
When they are together, Mr. Downey added: "It's as if the two did a third thing that is better than anyone could be."
The Russos grew up in Cleveland, where their father, Basil M. Russo, served as leader of the Democratic majority of the City Council. When the city went into an economic crisis in the 70s and 80s, the brothers immersed themselves in films and learned to appreciate their creative isolation.
As Anthony Russo explained, "The virtue of growing in the industrial midwest is you have nothing against you and no one to tell you that you can not do what you want to do, because nobody is doing anything. "
They spent three years and $ 30,000 writing and directing an independent feature film, "Pieces", about three brothers, also called Russos, who dabble in crime. Despite some outrageous criticism – Variety called it a "blatant vanity project" – "Pieces" caught Steven Soderbergh's attention at the 1997 Slamdance Film Festival.
With their help, the Russos made their first film of study, a comic crime caper called "Welcome to Collinwood," with George Clooney, William H. Macy and Sam Rockwell. But it failed in its launch in 2002.
Over the next few years, the Russos focused on directing television programs, including "Lucky," a short-lived FX series, and "Arrested Development," the fast-fire satire that became a cult hit for Fox.  Photo
Marvel / Disney
Despite critical acclaim, "Arrested Development" scored notoriously low. But the Russos said that this lack of attention was a blessing in disguise, allowing them to experiment with the narrative, the tone and the rhythm, without the annoyance of the executive network interferers.
"So they did not understand the program that they really did not care what you did," said Anthony Russo, adding, "It was a great creative advantage."
The Russos used the "Community" of NBC, another well-reviewed comedy with little audience, to present elaborate tributes to "Star Wars" and Sergio Leone's spaghetti westerns. It was here that his work caught Marvel's attention.
At the time, the studio was generating success with its first superhero deals, created by established filmmakers: "Iron Man", directed by Jon Favreau; "Captain America: The First Avenger", directed by Joe Johnston. But Marvel wanted to expand its portfolio quickly and bring in TV directors.
Marvel also wanted to change the tone of his "Captain America" movies, beginning with the sequel to 2014, "The Winter Soldier."
"The first one was a fairly patriotic movie, from World War II," said Christopher Markus, who wrote the "Captain America" movies with Stephen McFeely. "You can not do a series of those before you have a little nausea"
The goal of "The Winter Soldier", Markus said, was to show Captain America "losing faith in all the institutions that had created him " , giving you a way to see it as relevant in the modern era. "
The Russos imagined "The Winter Soldier" as a modern update of spy thrillers such as "Three Days of the Condor," and the studio responded forcefully. When the movie sold $ 714 million in tickets worldwide, Feige said Russos "redefined the franchise, not just the Cap franchise, but all the Marvel films in the future."
"They found a way to keep the wonder, keep the show, but move it even more in realism," said Mr. Feige. "Which is a word I use lightly when it comes to our movies."
The Russos succeeded again with "Captain America: Civil War", a replete sequel to 2016 in which the Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) and a new incarnation of Spider-Man (Tom Holland) were introduced, and the Adventurers took sides in a conflict between Cap and Iron Man.
Even before the "Civil War" turned into a $ 1.15 billion global disaster, Marvel had already started putting the pieces in their place. that Mr. Feige called "the grand finale of the initial story we were developing."
The plan was ambitious: Markus and McFeely would write two "Avengers" films, generated from a 60-page manifesto in which they started working in 2015. All of Marvel's main heroes had to be accommodated , and even more characters would be introduced. "Not all scenes can have 25 people in a room," said Mr. McFeely. "You'll have to make kickball teams and then have a tournament."
With scripts in hand, the Russos would record these films consecutively. In Mr. Feige's mind, there were no other directors who could handle the task of making "three consecutive years of cinema."
Mr. Feige said: "There are two of them, which help, but their individual resistance is unrivaled."
The Russos moved from Los Angeles to Georgia for two years, where they filmed "Avengers: Infinity War" and its sequel , mainly at Pinewood Atlanta Studios. (They estimate that they took a break of about three weeks between the filming of the two films.)
They said that making movies in this way was an irresistible challenge, which has been attempted by very few directors, including the Wachowskis ("The Matrix "series" and Peter Jackson ("The Lord of the Rings" and "Hobbit" franchises) – and a test of his strength.
Describing the process, Anthony Russo said: "You're a really good marathon runner and you know how to train for that, suddenly, you're running a double marathon, you can not really understand until you do it. "
The Russos acknowledge that the films were made this way, in part, for economic reasons: it's cheaper for Marvel to hire actors (dozens of them, some of which are very expensive) for months at a time, instead to make offers for each movie.
Although they must serve many corporate masters at Disney and Marvel, and Mr. Feige is known to have a strong hand in his films, the Russians say that they were given the freedom to make the movies they want to make. .
"It's no different from doing any kind of narrative in a medium where capitalism thrives," said Joe Russo. "You have to have a Zen recovery capacity on what you want to do, and then do a very good job at that, and they all stay out of your hair."
Mr. Downey, who worked first with the Russos on "Civil War," said they were well served by their television training, which taught them to be quick and collaborative.
At any given time in these films, Mr. Downey said: "We have 80 things that are going to explode, collide, story points that are about to happen at the same time." When one of the Russos had a new idea, he said, they would approach him with a gentle question: "Let me tell you this."
"No one takes it personally, and then the idea comes up," Downey said. "An amalgam of everything that did not reach the floor ends"
The Russos are not revealing much about how, exactly, their "Avengers" films will close this phase of the Marvel movie saga. (They did not even reveal the title of the movie that follows "Infinity War," protesting that even this vast amount of information would be a spoiler.)
"In short," said Joe Russo, "what you'll see by the end of the movies is, how much does it cost to be a hero in a world where there are no easy answers? I think that's the world we live in. "
Death is a staple of comics. The beloved characters are killed all the time, sometimes replaced by successors who inherit their clothes and identities: Bucky becomes the new Captain America; Jane Foster the new Thor. There is no reason to believe that their cinematic counterparts are not equally deadly and similarly interchangeable.
Mr. Evans has not hidden his desire to go beyond the "Captain America" movies. Meanwhile, Mr. Downey, who introduced himself in a telephone interview as "Robert Downey Jr., retired film actor," is already working on his next hit movie, "The Journey of Dr. Dolittle."
He talked about his time with Marvel in retrospective tones, and reflected on a meeting with Keanu Reeves, who at that time had just finished the first "Matrix" movie.
"I was like," Hey, buddy, how did it go? "& # 39;" Mr. Downey remembered. "He said:" I've been on another planet. "Right now, I've been on the planet Dolittle for a while, being separated from it has given me a lot of warmth, affection and objectivity in the last decade."
Of course, the Marvel engine will still work. "There will be more movies with some of these characters," said Feige, "and with many new characters."
Fox's pending acquisition of Disney would add even more familiar heroes to the Marvel toy trunk, including the X-Men and Fantastic Four. But Mr. Feige said it was "too early" to make plans for these properties.
"We would love to get all the characters back," said Feige. "It's a dream, but we're very busy with the next five films."
The Russos are also preparing for their later lives to "The Avengers." They have established their own production company, Agbo Films, whose executives include Mr. Markus and Mr. McFeely and who has already secured $ 250 million in private Chinese funds.
The brothers are elliptical about whether there are more Marvel movies in their future. "We wanted to maximize our options as storytellers and artists," said Anthony Russo. "We have structured our business life in a way to support that, it can be, or can not be, we have kept all options open."
Joe Russo said there are still some "very personal projects we want to do", adding that he and Anthony want to nurture the new filmmakers as Mr. Soderbergh did for them. "We have a karmic debt to the universe for what Steven did for us," he said.
The reality, however, is that the Russians have not even finished with "Avengers". Once "Infinity War" is released, there is still an additional movie for them to build from incalculable hours of raw footage, a task that they estimate will take them at least until the end of the year. "There are months of work left," said Anthony Russo. "It will be very cathartic for us to get out on the other side, that's when our brains can open up to what comes next."
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