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Piecing together the entire story of "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" is like trying to solve one of those classic '70s spy thrillers, which is appropriate, considering that's the type of film Marvel is shooting for this time around.
Now, thanks to the brand new four-minute clip above and our set visit report below, we have some real concrete clues as to what shape this '70s-patterned thriller will take.
On our set visit to Marvel Studios in Manhattan Beach, California last July, Yahoo Movies (along with a select group of journalists) spoke at length to Chris Evans (Captain America), Sebastian Stan (Bucky Barnes / The Winter Soldier), Anthony Mackie (Sam Wilson / The Falcon), Kevin Feige (President of Production at Marvel Studios), directors Joe and Anthony Russo, and screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely.
We previously published our onset interview with Evans, but now the studio has lifted the embargo on the rest of the interviews. While the entire mystery of "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" will continue to unfold until its release on April 4, here's some clues to get you cracking the case a little early.
On the grittier, darker, political thriller type of tone:
Kevin Feige: Like the first film was a Marvel superhero origin story masquerading as a World War II propaganda movie, this is a Marvel superhero sequel masquerading as a seventies political thriller.
Joe Russo: The heart of the movie is how they got a character with a code like Cap to work for a clandestine organization which has a very subversive agenda. Can they coexist together? Fury represents the organization, Cap is Cap, and with it being a political thriller, we want to turn the gas up on that as high as you can, because that’s where you’re going to get your political thriller components. It’s where you’re going to get the conflict in the movie.
Anthony Mackie: It's kinda in the theme, not "Bourne," but when you watch a "Bourne" movie, that aspect of just intense action that you get as well as gritty, dark story, that’s kinda how the vein of this movie works and how the story’s told.
JR: If you watch "Three Days of the Condor," the first ten minutes are all about Robert Redford being as charming as possible, and then the next 80 minutes are about, “Is that charming guy that you really like going to get killed by some really gnarly people?” It’s a similar construct, we just tried to make you care as much as you can about Cap, and then we put him in jeopardy for the rest of the movie.
Stephen McFeely: "Three Days of the Condor," that was one that we went “oh wow.” So there’s a lot of seepage from that movie.
On where "Cap 2" fits into the Marvel Universe:
KF: It is, you know, smack dab between "Avengers" and "Avengers 2"... It takes place after both "Thor" and "Iron Man"... The ramifications at the end of this film go directly into "Avengers 2." Much more so than the other films.
SM: We are really excited about this, because it really is its own thing and we leave the world in a certain place, so that "Avengers 2" has to acknowledge that and move on.
On the souped-up action sequences:
Sebastian Stan: I think the most exciting thing was definitely learning some of the fighting style that these incredible stunt guys that we have came up with and choreographed for us. I’m really excited about it. I’m really excited to share it with... the fans and see what they think. I really think we’ve got some very interesting new stuff in this film in terms of that department.
Anthony Russo: What most excited us, too, is how we come up with these great action set pieces that play to Cap as a character as much as possible. Looking at him and how he’s unique in the Marvel universe and what sets him apart, and the fact that, essentially, he’s a man, only more so. It’s not flying across the sky, or transforming into something else. So we sort of came up with an approach of a hard-hitting, hardcore realism version of what a superhero movie can be on an action level.
JR: We wanted to bring some style of action that maybe hasn’t been seen in American movies in a little while, just the style of fighting and an intensity so that we really feel it. These stunt guys are really taking hits. It’s a very visceral execution of a lot of the stuff.
SM: This movie is going to punch you in the face.
On Cap's character development:
JR: The core is Cap’s relationship with himself, really; that’s the essence of the movie, Cap’s relationship to the modern world. And then after that, you have overlapping circles of relationships. There are people that he’s saying goodbye to, there’s the new friend in Sam and Falcon, there’s the potential for new relationships. He has a very strong relationship with [Black] Widow in the movie. But I think the two strongest relationships would be Sam and Widow. He and Fury have a great relationship, but it’s combative in this film.
AR: The great thing about this movie is that Cap just has conflicts all over the place with these characters. And there’s a level of ambiguity to that and it sort of plays out as the movie goes on.
KF: I don’t mind if [Cap] feels old fashioned. I don’t mind if he feels out of place. He is out of place and he is kind of old fashioned in the modern era. I care if he feels two dimensional. I care if he feels boring or if he feels in any way not like a fully formed character. But in this movie we’re embracing that side. That’s part of his conflict with Fury and with some of the other members of S.H.I.E.L.D. is the fact that he has a – he’s from a different place. He has a different set of values, I think. Or at least he thinks he does initially.
On Robert Redford's inclusion as Alexander Pierce:
AR: It was really special, and considering the specific genre and pedigree of this movie, to be able to cast him in this movie, in a political thriller, in a movie that’s aspiring to the best of what the 70s political thrillers did, it’s really incredible and it’s powerful.
JR: He’s got a relationship to Cap not unlike Ralph Fiennes in "Skyfall." There’s a conflict between the two.
KF: Mr. Redford is not shy about the fact that his grandkids are a fan of this and he wanted to do something that his grandkids would watch him in.
AM: Robert Redford makes the best pinot noir in the country. I said it, write it down, kiss my ass if you don’t believe it. So that being said, I’ve just been stalking him to get him to send me some wine. Because it’s really good.
On Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson):
JR: [Johansson's] character lies for a living, that’s what she does. [Chris Evans's] character tells the truth. That’s why we put the two of them together in the movie ... She’s pushing him to modernize, and he’s pushing her to add a certain level of integrity to her life. Chris and Scarlett have … I think this is their fourth movie together … they have amazing chemistry; their scenes are fantastic in the movie. They’re really, really good together. It’s a really combustible relationship.
AM: I’ve put in this interesting sub-plot that Black Widow and I are in love with each other. [Laughs] And it’s working really well, so when you see the movie I hope you catch it because there are different scenes where I give it to her, a little chocolate love, like, “Pow!” And I think I’ve seen her return it, but I’m not sure. So I’ve been working on that sub-plot and I think it’s working out really well. [Laughs]
On the Winter Soldier story line:
JR: The story of the Winter Soldier, it’s very operatic in its construct because it’s talking about your best friend as a villain.
SS: Even in the first ["Captain America"] for me, I feel like sort of knowing ahead where it was potentially going to go, I was always trying to, even back then, see what I can possibly layer in ... There were other things about him I was hoping you could see in that first movie that if they sort of amplified that, that he could become something dangerous.
SS: He’s sort of like this tragic character that you’d fine in Shakespeare or something. I mean, I’m not trying to get all actory and all blah blah …what I mean is just that there’s this guy’s eternal struggle to try to find himself and just trying to be a good person in all the sense that he’s learned that he’s supposed to be. Then this thing happens to him, and then he goes on this whole path of relearning about himself and what he has to live with and all of the things that he’s done. It’s such an interesting, heavy, but rich kind of character, and it’s just so exciting. I mean, it’s never black or white with him.
On Cap's new BFF, The Falcon:
AM: If you look at The Falcon now, he’s really a military, tactical, driven force. I mean, he works with Cap, not so much out of self-preservation, but more so out of respect and honor because they’re both military guys and they both share a common bond within the military. He’s just a stand-up guy that can fight really well.
AR: We fell in love with Anthony Mackie for this character because he has an energy and a sense of fun … Cap’s coming from a very difficult place in this movie. He’s basically a guy who wakes up in the modern world, we’re maybe a year or two after he’s come out of the state and his whole world is gone, this guy has lost everybody. It’s a very severe sort of emotional and psychological place to be in, and Anthony Mackie just has this wonderful energy that we just thought, if you’re going to form a new friendship, he needed somebody like that to pull him.
AM: In this movie, not so much Falcon; it’s more so Sam Wilson. Because of the way it’s written in the comic book and him having so many incarnations, they kinda used this movie to establish my character and my relationship with Black Widow and Captain, and Nick Fury.
On Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and S.H.I.E.L.D.:
AR: The relationship between Cap and Nick Fury in this movie is really rich and complicated. These two guys are very different animals, and there’s this sort of plot that sets them up in a way where they really have to confront their differences and sort it out, and it’s a messy process. But it’s all wrapped up in terms of, “What is S.H.I.E.L.D.?” And what Cap started fighting for in the first place, and what that organization is, and what that mission evolved to in several incarnations.
AM: Our relationship is more of a business relationship. Since I’ve been in the military, I know what S.H.I.E.L.D. is, I’ve been in his tactical program, he knows who I am, I’ve worked with him and for him before, so we form this workmen’s camaraderie, as opposed to a friendship camaraderie.
Christopher Markus: If the first movie was a movie about the US Army, then this is a movie about S.H.I.E.L.D., but it's not about [that] … You will learn about S.H.I.E.L.D. You will learn about where it came from and where it’s going and some of the cool things they have.
On Chris Evans:
AM: He’s a very smart guy. I feel like a lot of actors aren’t smart, well, a lot of people in the film business in general aren’t smart about different aspects of the film business. He’s a guy that understands rigging, camera work, directing, as well as acting ... He’s just a really smart, intelligent guy who knows how to talk about film in depth. It’s cool when you see your friend and he’s good at something and you didn’t know that. It’s been fun to watch him in his element and see him transform and work to make this character come to life in a different way.
SS: We just see each other, and we go, "Round two. Here we go." And then we’re back to where we were. I mean, if anything, we just grew up a couple more years and then, funny enough, you find that that experience makes its way to the character as well. Which is kind of appropriate in a weird way because, you know, some time has gone by.
AR: We relied on [Evans] a lot. We pitched him the idea of how we saw Cap transforming in this movie and how he’d been spending the past couple of years in terms of throwing himself into the modern world, training extremely hard. That was all stuff that really excited him, and he ran with it.
JR: He worked his ass off in training. He trained for months. He’s in great shape for this film and he executes a lot of the fighting on his own, which is great because that’s like what I was talking about with "The Raid," and the visceral quality of seeing the actual actor executing the fighting in the movie makes it more engaging. There are points where we wanted him out of his mask so you could have that experience where you’re watching and you go, “Whoa, that is him. Jesus!” And he does a fantastic job.