Marvel movies are always highly anticipated blockbusters, but none more than Avengers: Endgame. After the ending of Avengers: Infinity War last year, fans can’t wait to find out how the Avengers will defeat Thanos, and if any of the people dusted in The Snap will be able to return.
Given half the characters disappeared, the press conference for Avengers: Endgame was smaller than last year’s Infinity War event. Directors Joe and Anthony Russo, producer Kevin Feige and cast members Robert Downey, Jr., Chris Evans, Danai Gurrira, Karen Gillan, Scarlett Johansson, Chris Hemsworth, Don Cheadle and Mark Ruffalo gave a press conference in Los Angeles. Avengers: Endgame opens April 26.
Q: Robert, when you did the first Iron Man, did you envision Tony Stark’s arc and where you wanted to see him go?
RDJ: I’ve been thinking about this recently. There’s always two tracks, at least in my mind. One is the sky is falling and the other is the sky’s the limit. As we had those many discussions, I’m reminded now that talking a lot of smack, saying, “Wait ‘til you see where this goes.” In the moment, I was just hoping day to day we were trying to make good scenes to get good stuff in the can. I just wanted to not drop the ball.
Q: When did you realize you had something big on your hands?
KF: Well, big is relative but we hired a great director to do the first film in the MCU, and we hired a great actor. And we had fun making that first movie. The bar for success was pretty low. It felt high at the time, but it was not that high. It was comparative to other Marvel films that had been out in that general area which is what we wanted to compete with. But as we were making the movie and as we were looking at dailies and as we were looking at effects tests coming in, we realized that this was really going to be special, even perhaps more special than we thought. Then that opening weekend, and the response to the trailer frankly coming out of Hall H at Comic-Con for the first time, showing that trailer, it started to be a much bigger wind behind our back, combined with Mr. Sam Jackson’s cameo that we secretly did on that Saturday at Playa and then leaked the next day. The response to that, and people picked up that that meant this interconnected universe which everyone knew from the books but it hadn’t been done in the movies.
Q: What makes Endgame so special?
KF: 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 in this decade plus. Robert said it so well in the trailer. Part of the journey is the end. And about four or five years ago, we all started talk about doing something at every turn, including the first Iron Man film, we talked about how do you do something that’s never been done before? What if a superhero outs his identity at the very last shot of the movie? We can’t do that. What will we do next time? I don’t know, let’s do it. Four or five years ago we talked about what haven’t we seen in films based on comic book characters? You haven’t seen an ending, a definitive conclusion to an overall saga. That is why it’s called Endgame and why I think it’s very, very, very special.
Q: How does the surprise ending of Infinity War affect the tone of Endgame?
AR: We both remember that moment that we sat in the theater and watched that first Iron Man for the first time and remember that feeling of I wish we were part of this. We had no idea that years later we actually would be. That was a magic moment so thank you for that. So the ending of Infinity War, Joe and I had mentioned this before that one of our favorite storytelling adages is write yourself into a corner. 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 there. 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, never more so of course than Infinity War. We are very committed to the ending of that movie. We think that stories lose their meaning, relevancy and resonance unless there are real stakes. For us, moving into this new movie, into Endgame, the story’s very much about how do these characters, how do these heroes deal with loss, resounding loss, true loss, devastating loss? That’s what they’ve experienced in Infinity War. That’s a unique experience for all of them. How does a person move forward from that moment? How does a hero move forward from that? We wrote it in the story how is everybody on an individual level dealing with that experience and then how do we collaborate and deal with it?
Q: What do you want audiences to experience when they watch Endgame?
JR: Look, this is a really unique experiment in movies, this grand mosaic. Depending on you count it, 11 franchises interwoven into one big narrative. I think a lot of people have invested heart and soul into the characters and taking these movies around the world, it’s really heartwarming to see people come up to me and say, “Hey, I started watching this with my classmates when I was 10 years old. Now we’re all 21 and going to see it together.” Or “my parents have taken me to every movie” or “my grandfather’s taken me to every film.” It’s a real sense of community and sharing these stories and believing in them. I think with Endgame we get the opportunity to finish off one of the grandest experiments of movie history and bring these movies, as Kevin said, an epic conclusion. What we’re hoping for is that people feel satisfied with the conclusion.
Q: How does leadership change for Captain America meeting other leaders like Captain Marvel?
CE: Sure, I think he tends to lean on those people who are of like mind, who are intrinsically selfless. I mean, all the heroes up here have flaws, and a lot of that makes for really great conflict in storytelling. That’s why my favorite stuff is between myself and Downey because there’s such a dichotomy to how we approach things, but I think our hearts are both in the right place. It provides a lot of great fiction, but introducing characters like Captain Marvel, like Black Panther who also kind of align very similar to Cap’s nature, I think it reinforces Cap’s sense of purpose and home. This environment that feels more and more natural for him, so I think it’s nice to see certain pockets where he feels at peace and certain pockets where he feels his buttons being pushed.
Q: What makes Okoye such a respected and well liked character?
DG: Thank you. It was an amazing honor and joy to be a part of it. Once again, the beauty of being here today is being amongst this amazing franchise, we got to embrace this universe and be a part of it. So that was such an amazing part of it. What I can say about Okoye, what I love about her is that she is very unapologetic. I really got to work, collaborating with the awesome Mr. Ryan Coogler who really allowed me to imbue her with the idea that she has a good time. She doesn’t have a ring, she doesn’t have that going on. She loves her life. She loves her country. She loves her people. And she’ll do whatever it takes to take care of what must be done, and at the same time there’s a fierceness that I think she unapologetically also embraces her femininity so it’s been really fun to get to see her in all these different ways. The first day of Infinity War, when they all came to Wakanda and we were coming onto their set, we opened that tent flap and there inside were all the Avengers sitting there like oh, hi. That’s when we realized we were part of a universe.
Q: What has made Thor such an entertaining, beloved character? What do you like best about playing him?
RDJ: Why are you so great? Just tell us now.
CH: Well, the first time the Marvel universe came to life, in Australia we were watching Iron Man thinking I wish I could be a part of that world. And then a few years on, getting cast in it as Thor, what made it special to me was just the different people I was able to work with. From Kenneth Branagh on that first film, I was completely in his hands and was basically willing to do whatever it takes and wherever he needed me to go for the character. And then through the films with each director and each different cast member was an entirely different film. By the time of Ragnarok, I felt like what is it that I can possibly bring to this? And then had this great relationship with Taika [Waititi] and really decided to do something different and unexpected and unique. And then working with Anthony and Joe, I said, “I’ve got this new version of Thor that we just shot and I want to continue that version. I don’t want to do the old version.” They said, “Well, we’ve got an even newer version for you.” As this film here, it’s just about the people. That’s why it’s so special.
Q: Scarlett, what has it been like playing Black Widow since Iron Man 2?
SJ: Well, the character has changed. Initially the character, and I was talking recently, analyzing all this whole journey that the character really started as a sort of secretary, a sexy secretary with a skill set on the set. I didn’t know the audience would react to the character, my interpretation of the character and obviously a very beloved character a long time. The next time we saw her in Avengers, she was sort of one of the boys, for better or worse. As, I think, the fans and the audiences have really pushed certainly Marvel but pushed all the studios and filmmakers to really throw up on the screen what represents what’s going on in the zeitgeist and want to see diverse films and casts that represents their own aspirations and how they feel. Even the character has sort of grown in reaction to that and the movies have really grown in reaction to that and the fan encouragement. Honestly, I have to say that I remember when Lizzie [Olsen] signed on, I was so happy. Cobie [Smulders] was there and we were all clinging to each other. I felt like I’d been in this testosterone fest for such a long time, it was so nice to see other female cast members coming on again, and Danai. I feel like I’m amongst so many wonderful actors and strong actors and it’s just grown beyond my wildest dreams. I could never have imagined where this would take us. It’s been quite a journey.
Q: What excited you about bringing Nebula back?
KG: Well, I think it’s safe to say that she suffers from some daddy issues, because her dad is Thanos. I think she has to face the source of this abuse. This has been building through multiple movies, through the Guardians movies and she’s talked about how she wants revenge. So I would like to see her face that. I don’t know if she will. Maybe she won’t. I’m not saying anything. I just got really nervous.
Q: What is it like being part of this community of actors?
PR: It’s hard to put it in words, honestly. I mean, I can sit and listen to Joe and Anthony speak, I’ve gotten to know Kevin. Getting to work with all of these actors in this series of films, it will never happen again. Never. I keep taking steps back and trying to recognize this for what it is and it is so surreal and profound and incredible to be a part of it. It’s amazing to meet so many people who are so passionate about it. It’s incredible to meet kids whose lives are affected by these characters. To play a small part, pun intended, is just something I will always treasure. So to be here on this panel today amongst all of you is really just an incredible feeling. I’m just honored to be a part of it.
Q: Everyone is waiting to see Captain Marvel in action. How did it feel to connect to the bigger MCU picture?
BL: It’s the most magical timing. To come exactly at this 10 year anniversary, my first introduction to everybody was the 10 years photo which was a really remarkable and special day and super surreal and also not allowed to talk about it. So the whole thing has always felt like a dream. This film 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 is 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’s still the sense of wonder and play, encouragement and of course this film deals with some heavy subject matters. So we were bouncing in between things that feel very deep and serious, and then we were laughing and playing Boggle which I am very good at. Just to be clear. And so it’s nothing, there’s no other word I can describe it as other than surreal and I’m super excited for this to come out just so that I can talk about it. I can talk about my experience which I haven’t been able to do for a very long time.
Q: Rhodey has been there from the beginning. What do you like about him and suiting up as Warmachine?
DC: Well, Rhodey obviously started, I think it’s fair to say, as a lighter toned, sort of bigger than life than I am in real life. But as the character darkened and things became more compact in the narrative, I think we’ve seen a real growth in his character as he’s gone through his trials and tribulations obviously over the course of these films. And he’s come out the other side now and is able to really be a part of the team and really contribute at a high level. It’s been a lot of fun to see where he’s come from, to see where he’s gone and see what else happens next. To echo what Brie said, we’ve had a great time this whole time being together and having the Downey lunches that we have that he’s put together. To get to know these people, I’ve always known their work but to get to know these individuals, get to know them as people and get to be friends and to come back, to get to keep coming back to these relationships again and seeing where everybody is, who had kids and now their kid’s going to college, other people had kids, relationships started blooming. It’s rare to have that kind of experience over the course of 10 years with the same group of people so it’s been nice.
Q: Does it feel like family?
MR: It doesn’t feel like a family to me because we all really get along well. There’s not that much drama. No, it does feel like family. It’s a family that you wish you had in a way. I don’t know if you can tell, it’s a little bit different press conference than last time. It has a little bit sort of sadness. We’re all talking like we’re dead. “Oh, I loved working with these guys, it’s great knowing them.” There’s something very bittersweet about this moment because as actors, we’re vagabonds. We bounce around, we have these intense relationships and then you don’t see anybody until you get nominated for somthing or you’re nominated in something and you end up in an awards ceremony.
CE: What’s that like?
MR: This is the closest thing that any of us really have, unless you’re in several franchises, it’s the closest thing you have to continuity and friendships and watching people grow up and have children, get married, then get divorced and get remarried.
Q: How did not having feedback to trailers and cuts affect you putting the film together?
AR: We, at the end of the day, my brother and I keep 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 live on is our own passion and our own excitement. That’s how we tell stories. We read long ago that you have to tell stories for yourself. You can’t think about how audience members see them. So for Joe and I, because we love and have a 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, keep exploring the narrative of these characters in ways we never imagined. That’s how we guide ourselves through the process. And once the film is complete and we put it out into the world, we really have no idea how it’s going to be received. Once that complete film is experienced and digested and responded to, I think that’s the moment where we are then [able to get] a reaction. As we’re executing, once we conceive a film and start executing, we’re not really second guessing what we’re doing. We’re really focused on chasing the initial vision that we had for it.