Avengers: Endgame director Joe Russo on Stan Lee's final cameo, Reddit theories, and misleading fans through trailers
When you get a chance to interview Joe Russo 25 days before the release of Avengers: Endgame, the only agenda would be to get a spoiler or two from the horse's mouth. But the Avengers: Infinity War co-director is determined to save every detail for the big screen experience that Marvel movies are made of.
From what transpired on the last day of shoot to the point of view from which the Infinity War sequel has been told, every potential spoiler is dodged by Joe with consummate ease and commendable determination.
He admits he is even guilty of 'misleading' the audience through the trailers of Endgame, like he did with Infinity War (Read: planting The Hulk in the Wakanda battle climax). "Had this been a standalone film, people would have no context in the trailer. But Endgame follows the 22 MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) movies that have been watched over and over again. There is context to every shot we show in the trailer. Both my brother (Anthony) and I are dedicated to saving the film for those who want to enjoy it without knowing too much about it and contribute to the culture of discovering things as they watch it," argues Joe Russo, on his maiden visit to India as part of the Asia-Pacific promotional tour ahead of Endgame.
True to his resolve, Joe refuses to reveal how misleading Endgame trailers are on a scale of 1 to 10. But he confesses that the entire Marvel creative team, from the writers to the Russo brothers, are big on easter eggs. "There isn't a specific stage at which we add these easter eggs in our movies. It happens organically when one of us comes up with something and we all approve of it. For example, in Captain America: Winter Soldier, we added Nick Fury's Pulp Fiction reference only at the VFX stage."
Joe is fascinated by the extent to which Marvel buffs read into their films. The theories about Infinity War and Endgame on Reddit have opened endless possibilities about how Thanos may be defeated in Endgame. "I don't know if I have a favourite one but the most ridiculous one is Ant-Man going really small, entering Thanos through his butt and then becoming very big to kill Thanos. But it's great to read these theories to engage with the fans and just to know what they're thinking. I appreciate the passion behind those theories." However, out of all the theories he has read, he confesses none comes even close to Endgame. "But I haven't read all the theories out there. So you never know."
With this revelation, he eliminates the perception that they re-shot Endgame multiple times only to incorporate these theories into the final narrative. He insists that the need for re-shoots arose more from the reactions of the test audiences. "There're actually people out there who aren't Marvel employees and have seen Endgame. They're secured on an island somewhere till the film releases. It's a part of their contract," quips Russo, confirming, in the least, that the above mentioned test audience does belong to this planet.
While he is contractually and ethically bound to protect the plot of Endgame, he does relate to the impatience fans globally have in deconstructing the final instalment of the Avengers franchise. "We're also Marvel fans. While we do make these movies, we're also engaging with the audience as Marvel fans. Protecting the plot is only a way to not do disservice to the universe that we've all come to admire." This is also why Joe is most excited about late Marvel Comics creator Stan Lee's cameo in Endgame. "We've done four films with him. He's the reason I'm sitting here today. His cameo in this one is a fitting end to his legacy and all the cameos he's made in the films so far," says Joe, hinting that Endgame may be Lee's last cameo, given that he was perhaps "not well enough" to shoot a cameo for Spider-Man: Far From Home, the next MCU release.
After giving in to a minor extent on the Stan Lee question, the director in Russo takes charge once again, pushing the fan in him to the backseat. He goes all cryptic about whether Endgame also serves as befitting farewell tributes to the original Avengers, particularly Robert Downey Jr, Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth and Mark Ruffalo, whose contracts with Marvel are reportedly drawing to expiry. "I can't talk about who's going forward and who's not. All I can say is Endgame has a runtime of three hours so obviously, there are a lot of stories packed into those three hours. And they will do justice to the way the Avengers franchise has shaped up so far."
Joe chooses to be cryptic even about the last day of shoot, reportedly after which Chris Evans posted an emotional message on Twitter about how "Playing this role for the last eight years has been an honour". "There were a lot of last days really, since we re-shot the film a few times. That's all I can say." When probed further on Evans' heartfelt parting (?) message, Joe merely repeats himself. "There were more than one last day on this film." Since the Russo Brothers have directed the two Captain America films, The Winter Soldier and Civil War, the speculation of Endgame rounding up the character's arc has high chances. The trailers also partially suggest that Endgame is from Steve Rogers' viewpoint. "All I can say is Infinity War was from Thanos' POV; Endgame is not. But yes, it focuses more on the original Avengers."
The closest Joe comes to talking about the plot of Endgame is by discussing its theme. "I believe it's very important to have a narrative. A nine-year-old who is a Marvel fan should enjoy as much as someone who has no clue about the past storylines. For that purpose, these films need to have ideas that resonate. Black Panther, a highly political film, did so well at the box office because it resonated. Similarly, Captain Marvel, which is also political in nature, did great as well. It just means people are responding well to resonant ideas."
Joe reveals that while the idea behind Infinity War was to hint that sometimes, villains do win (Read: Thanos' snap that erases half of the universe's population), Endgame is about the cost of being a hero. "Both my brother and I are huge believers in stakes. So Endgame focuses on what's at stake when you are a hero and how you weigh it against the value of saving the universe," reveals Joe, adding they will do "whatever it takes" to keep 'disrupting' the MCU. "We disrupted it in Civil War by splitting the Avengers and we did it again in Infinity War by killing half of the superheroes. We hope to do that with Endgame as well."
Is that an Easter egg? Joe wants us to think on it all the way to the theatres on 26 April. As a last-ditch attempt before winding up the interview, he is asked a pertinent question: Which character would he personally have saved from Thanos' snap? "Shuri. Now, I'm sure you have the brains to think it through."
Updated Date: Apr 02, 2019 13:40:40 IST
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