On April 7th, directors Joe & Anthony Russo, Kevin Feige and several cast members (plus empty chairs for the fallen) came together for the AVENGERS ENDGAME Press Conference held in downtown Los Angeles. At this point in time, neither the cast nor the press had seen AVENGERS ENDGAME, so there will be no spoilers here.
AVENGERS ENDGAME is the most highly anticipated film in the MCU, because it is the conclusion of a huge overarching storyline encompassing 22 MCU films over 11 years. Movie ticket pre-sales broke all box office records, because Marvel fans are deathly afraid of online spoilers in the first few days of the film’s release. The Russo Brothers (co-directors of ENDGAME) took to social media with the hashtag #DontSpoilTheEndgame and a heartfelt note of warning.
— Russo Brothers (@Russo_Brothers) April 16, 2019
The press conference atmosphere rippled excitedly when Jon Favreau stepped up to the stage to moderate. But after an opening joke in which he commented on the empty chairs among the cast corresponding with the fallen in AVENGERS INFINITY WAR, his talent went underutilized as he read out pre-written questions rather woodenly. Obviously all of our heroes had been told on pain of death to reveal NOTHING, so the questions focused on previous films and character relationships. Kevin Feige, creative head of Marvel Studios and Producer on ENDGAME, kept reiterating that this film is a conclusion to a huge saga we’ve been following since the release of Iron Man in 2008. His words really cement the solemnity of ENDGAME. Click below to watch the entire press conference. Scroll down to read quotes from our beloved Avengers.
Since 2008’s IRON MAN, Marvel Studios carefully planted elements in each of the 21 films hinting at a huge interconnected universe. Characters from their own films appear in each other’s films. As an extra benefit, the actors themselves have developed relationships with each other, giving each new MCU outing a sense of family and added onscreen chemistry.
Don Cheadle: To get to know all of these actors as individuals at [Robert Downey Jr.] lunches and get to know them as people and get to be friends, and to keep coming back to these relationships again and people that have kids and kids going on to college and relationships starting and ending. It’s rare to have that kind of an experience over the course of ten years with the same group of people. So it’s really nice.
It’s not just the actors and directors who feel a sense of family. We as moviegoers have an investment in these characters. Who is your favorite? I’m sure you have one. Director Joe Russo explains why he thinks the MCU is special.
Joe Russo: This is a really unique experiment in movies, this grand mosaic. A lot of people have invested a lot of heart and soul into the characters. When we take these movies around the world, it’s really heartwarming to see people come up to you and say “hey, I started watching this with my classmates when I was ten years old. Now we’re all 21 and we’re all going to go see this together.” Or “my parents have taken me to every movie or my grandfather has taken me to every film.” It’s a real sense of community and sharing in these stories and believing in them. And I think with Endgame, we get the opportunity to finish off one of the grandest experiments in movie history and bring it to an epic conclusion. So what we’re hoping for is that people feel satisfied with the conclusion.
That’s what we hope, too! At this point, Jon Favreau asked Kevin Feige what makes ENDGAME in particular so special.
Kevin Feige: Well, what’s special is all the actors on this stage, all the actors who are not on this stage, the family that has come together this decade plus. And the fact that “part of the journey is the end.” Four or five years ago, we talked about, what haven’t we seen in films based on comic characters? We haven’t seen an ending. A definitive conclusion to an overall saga. So that’s why it’s called End Game and why I think it’s very, very, very special.
Anthony Russo: One of our favorite story telling adages is “write yourself into a corner.” And what we take that to mean is put yourself in a place on a narrative level where you have no idea how you could possibly move forward from here. And that’s a very exciting place to be. It forces you to come up with some really creative ways forward. And we’ve tried to do that with the endings of every single Marvel movie we’ve done and never more so of course than Infinity War.
And for us, moving into this new movie into Endgame, the story is very much about, how do these characters, how do these heroes deal with devastating loss? And how does a person move forward from that moment, how does a hero move forward from that moment? And our road into this story is how is everybody on an individual level dealing with that experience and then how do they collectively deal with it?
I don’t know about you, but I am absolutely sold on this film. The MCU has done an incredible job of giving each Avenger a particular personality and place. If you’re familiar with all the films, you know each of the character relationships as well. Some of the actors are fairly new to the MCU, yet they still feel that sense of family.
Danai Gurira: The first day of Infinity War when they all came to Wakanda and we were coming onto their set and we opened that tent flap. And there inside are all the Avengers sitting there. That’s the minute you realize you’re a part of a universe, which was pretty darn awesome.
Paul Rudd: It’s a weird thing to kind of be hired in any job and step into it as it’s already picked up speed. It’s like having the Beatles say ‘come on. Jam with us for a while.’ It’s amazing to meet so many people who are so passionate about it. It’s incredible to meet so many kids whose lives are affected by these characters. And to play a small part in that. Pun intended. It’s just something I will always treasure.
Paul Rudd keeps doing that – he stepped into FRIENDS the same way as Phoebe’s boyfriend for the final seasons! But Rudd is not the newest newbie. Enter, Brie Larson.
Brie Larson: ENDGAME will always be personally dear to me because it was my first time playing Captain Marvel. We shot this first. So I had to stumble and try to figure out who this character was with no script for this and no script for Captain Marvel either. And perform for the first time in front of legends. But it was incredible. I think the other part of it, too, the set feels like this balance of as big as it is, it still feels like a bunch of kids. Just like what I was doing over summer break making movies in my garage. There is still this sense of wonder and play and encouragement. And I’m super excited for this to come out mostly just so that I can talk about it!
Because the MCU is based on a comic book universe created in the mid to late 20th Century, a majority of the first Avengers portrayed in the MCU are all white males. In a 2019 world calling for diversity, Scarlett Johannson was asked about her character, Black Widow, fitting in to this world.
Scarlett Johannson: Black Widow really started as a sort of sexy secretary with a skill set on the side. And then the next time that we saw her in Avengers, she was “one of the boys” for better or worse. And that made sense then. And as I think the fans have really pushed, certainly Marvel, but all the studios and filmmakers to really throw up on the screen what represents what’s going on in the zeitgeist; and wanting to see diverse films and casts that represents their own aspirations and how they feel; I feel the character has sort of grown in reaction to that. And the movies have really grown in reaction to that kind of fan encouragement. And I remember when [Elizabeth Olsen] signed on. Colby was there. I felt like I had been in this testosterone fest for such a long time, it was so nice to see other female cast members. And then with Brie coming on and Karen and Danai. I could never have imagined where this would take us. It’s been quite a journey.
Captain Marvel herself, Brie Larson, is a hero in real life, unafraid to speak out. As the press conference wore on and Favreau opened the floor to Press questions, he began calling on hands he could see, which were almost all male. Not surprisingly, Brie Larson noticed and called him out. “Can we pick a girl?” she reproached as it came time for the final 2 questions. Alula Alderson is 12 years old, and her small hand had been unnoticed the entire press conference. But not by Brie!
Alula: This question is for Anthony and Joe. I’m 12 years old and I often make short films with my friends. I aspire to be a director when I grow up. What skills do you think it takes to direct an amazing movie like Avengers Endgame?
Anthony Russo: That’s an awesome question. First of all, congratulations, because you’ve started making films more than ten years before we did. So that’s very impressive.
Joe Russo: We love your initiative. When anybody asks us about getting started, it’s doing what you’re doing. It’s picking up a camera and it’s shooting. You have iPhones now. Steven Soderbergh just shot an entire movie on an iPhone. And you have free distribution on YouTube. You can put things out there. We discovered Donald Glover for Community on YouTube. So it’s much easier now I think for people’s voices to be heard and seen than it was when we started and you had to go out and get a camera and buy really expensive film and figure out how to get it developed. Find a story that you want to tell. Be really passionate about it. Care about it. And then go out and tell that story. I think that’s really the secret to being a successful filmmaker.
That is what the Russo Brothers have done for AVENGERS ENDGAME, and that is what Kevin Feige has done as the creative head of the MCU. This week’s box office and the general public’s response on social media will determine whether or not this 11-year, 22-film grand experiment worked.
Anthony Russo: Look, at the end of the day, my brother and I, we came to this material because we’re fans. We grew up loving the comics. We came to the MCU already fans of the MCU. The energy we use is our own passion and excitement. And that’s how we tell stories. We learned long ago that you have to tell stories for yourself. You can’t be thinking about how others might receive them. So for Joe and I, because we have such an intimate relationship with the material, because we have so many amazing collaborators starting with Kevin, we are able to just really fashion the story around what we want to see as fans. How do we surprise ourselves? How do we excite ourselves? How do we challenge ourselves? How do we force ourselves to keep digging deeper and keep exploring this narrative and these characters in ways we never imagined? That’s how we guide ourselves through the process.
AVENGERS ENDGAME concludes an epic 22-film saga and arrives in U.S. theaters April 26th. I’ll be there cheering, gasping and laughing with all of you. And when you leave the theater…for heaven’s sake, #DontSpoilTheEndgame!!