If you’ve seen Captain America: The Winter Soldier, prepare yourself for a SPOILER-LOADED look at the creative decisions and tempting sequel possibilities faced by screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely. Seriously, there’s a minefield of SPOILERS ahead, too many to call out one by one, so if you haven’t seen Cap 2, read ahead at your viewing peril – and if you HAVE, get ready for some answered questions and tantalizing teases.
On the decision to dismantle S.H.I.E.L.D.:
Christopher Markus: [Marvel Studios head] Kevin Feige walked in one day – the executives had been having some larger Marvel cinematic universe discussions – and said, "We're thinking of taking down S.H.I.E.L.D. and that dictates a lot of things." It's like, "Okay. Cap is very well suited for that, because he doesn't get along with S.H.I.E.L.D. Also, you don't do that quietly." And it was also a matter of saying, "Where does Cap fit right now, in 2014?"
Stephen McFeely: We were working on that part: what theme were we drawing out and what's the issue for him? And we've always said that he's not an antihero. I know that's part of the default a lot for movies these days, the hero is the bad guy that we love. But Cap’s Gary Cooper. The world changes to him, and so you tell me that S.H.I.E.L.D.'s going to go down, maybe three "helicarriers" might drop out the sky? Well, that's how he's changing the world.
On the cross-pollination of plot points and characters from past and future Marvel films:
Markus: The actual talking is quite limited in that everybody's off: Joss has got a show and the sequel to the third most successful movie of all time, but it's all going through this repository of Kevin and the executives at Marvel. It's fascinating, and it's one of the fun things about doing it is we pull minor characters: we pull Garry Shandling from Iron Man 2.
McFeely: It's so organic, right? We're going to have to have examples – particularly for the end, there has to be resonance. We have to know that in doing that, somebody was exposed. So, okay: who can we expose that would mean anything to anybody?' And then we have seven or eight movies to look through. We pulled Max Hernandez up [who plays S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Jasper Sitwell]. Who was very excited until he read it and was like, "Oh, dammit! "
Markus: "You're going to kill me?!"
McFeely: But I need a mole! I need a weasel! So they're decisions that you would make anyway, and you have a cast to choose from, and if there's nobody that's accurate then you would make a person up.
On never having any plans to reveal Robert Redford’s character Alexander Pierce as the Red Skull in disguise, despite much fan speculation:
McFeely: No, we'd never. Because put yourself in our spot in 2011: the [first] movie's come out, we're going to write a next one; who's the bad guy going to be? It would be the same guy? If we can't come up with someone different, why are we doing this?
Markus: And it also diminished the conspiracy in a way. To have it all down to one evil genius, then you're not saying the whole society is corrupt. And we want to say the whole society is corrupt!
On the sequel elements that are front and center in their minds as they start prepping the story for Captain America 3:
McFeely: We laid some threads out at the end of this one, but I think we're going to pick them up, and we don't know how long we're going to pull on them. But we're certainly going to try to.
Markus: Obviously, Bucky's out there. He's changed in some way, but he's clearly not all the way to being sentient or a good guy. So how much do we follow the Winter Soldier story, and how much do we hold that at bay?
McFeely: Sharon Carter seems to be fairly active.
Markus: Also, what are the challenges, personally, left for Steve Rogers? He shaped the world in his image in Cap 2. He's like, "I don't like that," and by the end of the movie, it's in flames. You can't do it again. So it almost dictates a change of scope in a way. Do we go very tight now?
On the Cap comic book storylines they’ve been reading for research:
Markus: We're reading everything right now. Literally, I just read stuff from the '70s. I read late Brubaker. How can you merge them all together?
McFeely: Love Brubaker stuff. I just bought the collection that they rereleased.
Markus: There are all sorts of things which is great that you can keep pulling. I mean, Brubaker did some great stuff… [and there’s an older storyline] where the outfit is taken from him. They get the kind of crazy John Walker guy to come in and be the new Cap and Cap becomes "The Captain." But even though it's drawn in a kind of exaggerated style, really dark stuff happens in it!
McFeely: It's fabulously unpleasant.
On whether there’s a future for more of the Black Widow in their Cap-verse:
Markus: Potentially. I'm very glad that we flirted with flirting but didn't go there, you know? And I don't want to go there. They work really well together as friends and as comrades. Plus we're bringing Sharon up, and we don't want to have a love triangle in the middle of your Captain America movie. If there's an organic place for her in the story, yes.
On the blowback from the film faced by the cast and creators of Marvel’s TV series Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.:
McFeely: Poor bastards. I think they were all sat down and shown an early cut, and I'm not positive how much they were told beforehand – I'd like to think nothing, and they just went, "Oh, crap. I'm out of a job!" But I don't know that. But they liked the movie and went, "Okay, well, obviously, we've got stuff to do." And I think you can even see that they're teasing, obviously, towards something, the Marvel uprising.
Markus: Kevin, after a certain point, knew he wanted to bring S.H.I.E.L.D. down. And I think knew that for Avengers purposes, in a way.
McFeely: It gives texture to stuff. Maybe they can bring it back. I don't know. But for now, you're going to have to operate in this lawless world. What kind of person are you?
On the possibility of tackling a side character for one of the Marvel One-Shot films made for the home video releases:
Markus: There are a lot of characters who you can't quite get over the hump to get into a full-length movie that it would be great to roll out into a short. Some of them are too effects heavy. I don't know if you could afford Modok in a 12-minute movie.
Fandango: Do a Shandling story. All the horrible stuff he's orchestrated over the years.
Markus: Batroc and Shandling in a car.
McFeely: Road trip!