What do you do once you’ve wrapped the highest grossing movie of all time? Why, whatever you want, of course!
Joe and Anthony Russo, the masterminds in charge of Marvel mega-blockbuster Avengers: Endgame, have spent the past year continuing to work with their spandex-clad buddies. First, there was corrupt cop thriller 21 Bridges with Black Panther star Chadwick Boseman, which came out in November. Next up is Spidey-starring drama Cherry with Tom Holland, due sometime next year. But before that, the MCU golden boys have written and produced a Netflix action flick with Chris Hemsworth (aka Thor) in the lead.
Based on the graphic novel they dreamed up as kids, Ciudad, the Russo Brothers’ new ultra-violent explosion fest, Extraction, is a hard-nosed, quick-fire, old-school attempt at replicating the kind of slick badass-ery last employed by Keanu Reeves in the hugely popular John Wick series. In short, it’s a whole heap of fun.
We sat down with the nerdy pair to pick their brains on it – along with Netflix’s Tiger King, the future of the industry and which Avenger they wish they were self-isolating with.
Hi Joe! Hi Anthony! How’s lockdown treating you?
Anthony Russo: “We’re both at home in America at the moment. We’re good. Our families are healthy and things are going OK. What about yourself?”
Oh, you know, keeping on. How long have you been trying to get Extraction made?
AR: “About a decade now. My brother and I grew up on a steady diet of ’70s action thrillers, so we had a strong, emotional desire to make [our own]. We thought the best way to approach that would be to first tell the story as a graphic novel, so we had a visual document of what we wanted. Then we converted it into a screenplay.”
Was it easier to get funding once you’d made the highest grossing film of all time?
AR: “Definitely, we were in a very fortunate and rare position as filmmakers. We can tell the stories that we want to tell for the rest of our lives now. From films that excited us as kids – action films like Extraction to… We’re working on Cherry with Tom Holland right now which is a [drama] about the opioid crisis in the US. We’ve also got a project with Barack and Michelle Obama called Exit West which is based on an exquisite book about the refugee crisis. Then there’s the stuff we have coming with the Daniels, two young guys we think are the most exciting filmmakers in a generation. We’ve got a lot going on at the moment.”
Extraction had a different title originally, Dhaka, why did you change it?
AR: “It was really just to try and capture the theme of the movie. The intention was to tell multiple movies with this character – a man who presents himself as physically brave but is really an emotional coward. We wanted to build around the idea of a black market extractor, which is why we changed the title. These films aren’t always going to be set in the same location, so we couldn’t make it location specific.”
Chris Hemsworth is in this, and you’ve made another film with Tom Holland – is there anyone from Endgame you don’t think you’ll work with again?
Joe Russo: “I don’t think so, we had an amazing experience with everyone. It’s very unique as a filmmaker to work with the same actors over an eight year period. You get very close, and you’re like family. You build up a level of trust too, so that when you call someone up and say, ‘we think there’s a really great story here to tell’, you can get a quick, honest read out of them on the script.”
Are there any Easter eggs in Endgame that no one’s found yet?
JR: “We can’t answer that question.”
AR: “I’m sure there are… but if there were, we couldn’t answer the question. We’d have to wait until somebody found it.”
What about plot holes?
AR: “We’re usually very thorough. We keep making the movie until the moment the movie is gone so we keep looking, testing and searching for those things all the way through.”
JR: “We’ve seen some social media comments [about plot holes], but it’s a particularly dangerous pastime to try and answer them.”
Have either of you watched Tiger King on Netflix?
JR: “I have. I watched it with my daughter. It’s stranger than fiction, right? Had you written that story, it would have been called absurdist and over the top. It’s a very complex collection of characters revolving around these animals. It’s a tragic story actually.”
Do you think Carole Baskin murdered her husband?
JR: “I’m gonna plead the fifth on that one.”
We don’t have that in this country, but OK. If you were casting a Tiger King movie, who would you call first?
JR: “I saw the Joel McHale, who’s a buddy of ours, follow-up interview on Netflix with most of the folks on the show. I thought they all did an amazing job of saying who they would get to play themselves. I can’t remember who said it, but I think that Billy Bob Thornton would make a great Joe Exotic, for sure.”
We accept. Get to work straight after lockdown ends
JR: “No deal!”
Are you worried about the future of the industry post-coronavirus?
AR: “We’re not worried about it. Right now, we’re worried about everyone who’s struggling with the virus and everyone on the front lines who’s bravely tackling it and keeping us all safe. I think theatres will always exist. There will always be a desire for a communal experience. But I think that form is going to get more specific as the theatrical experience moves forward. Films that are going to demand that you gather in crowds and need a certain level of scale to them [will need cinemas]. I think we’re in an amazing time right now where we can get really complicated, diverse and interesting stories made with very healthy budgets. You didn’t get that in the film business 10 or 15 years ago – and that’s thanks to digital distributors like Netflix, Amazon, Apple, Hulu and HBO.”
Last question: which Avenger do you wish you were isolating with?
AR: “I think Spider-Man would be a great partner for social-distancing, right? He can swing over the city or if anybody gets too close he just webs them and creates a nice social-distancing barrier.”
JR: “I would go with Tony Stark to isolate with because of his vast capacity for virtual life.”
And he could come up with a vaccine, right?
JR: “Yeah, yeah, he’s also got enough tech to get yourself lost in until that happens.”