6. The Winter Soldiers are The Avengers you never knew
Chris Evans and his fellow Avengers actors may get all the credit, but they’re not the only ones who bring Earth’s Mightiest Heroes to life. The actors get to look good and super badass in action scenes thanks in large part to the amazing stunt performers. The work of the stunt team often goes unnoticed since the trick is for the audience to never actually know when they’re onscreen. By design, they are faceless, until now.
The Russos found a cool way to get their stunt performers’ faces in front of the camera in Captain America: Civil War. Those other Winter Soldiers Bucky tells Cap and Falcon (Anthony Mackie) about are played by some key members of the stunt team. Heidi Moneymaker, the stunt double for Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow, is the first to appear. She is soon followed by Jackson Spidell, who doubles for Cap, and Aaron Toney, who doubles for Falcon.
Spidell gets the starring role in the scene, as he is the one who actually beats Bucky up in their one-on-one fight. It just goes to show that when push comes to shove, the actors don’t stand a chance against the stunt crew.
5. Robert Downey, Jr. covered for Tom Holland and made their scene better
The first meeting of Tony Stark and Peter Parker (Tom Holland) is a popular choice for “favorite scene” in Captain America: Civil War and with good reason. It’s a fantastic piece of character work laced with hilarious moments. Perhaps the funniest of all the moments in the scene and in the entire film never would have happened, though, if Tom Holland had remembered his blocking and moved his leg when Downey was supposed to sit next to him. Anthony Russo credits Downey’s improvisational skills in the commentary.
“This line right here about the leg. Tom forgot the blocking of the scene and of course that’s Robert staying in character telling him ‘You’re supposed to move now so I can sit on the bed.’ Not only does he use it, but he uses it in a way that’s really entertaining and fun. That’s such a dexterous and inventive move on an actor’s part.”
Though most great movie moments come about through skillful planning and execution, some of them are just happy accidents. The Peter/Tony scene in Civil War was a mixture of both, as Downey’s contribution went beyond the fantastic “move the leg” line, according to Joe Russo.
“There’s been many, many a moment where I went ‘That’s why Robert Downey is Robert Downey,’ but no moment more so than when we blocked this scene with him and with Tom Holland. We knew how important this scene was and we showed up to start blocking the scene and we knew we had about an hour and a half, two hours to do it because we were gonna take the time to get it right. It’s a very small space so it’s not a lot you can do in the scene, but if you notice, they move quite a bit in the scene and after about 15 minutes of blocking, I saw Downey and this was when I went ‘This guy is an absolute genius.’ He really understands movement and spatial relationship to camera. Starting moving around the space and Anthony and I just kinda stepped back. And we watched as he encouraged Tom’s blocking throughout the whole sequence and making suggestions. The whole scene developed between he and Tom and we’ve seen the movie with a lot of audiences now at the premieres. It’s always regarded as one of the favorite scenes in the film and a lot of credit goes to Robert for helping Tom craft a star-making performance in the scene.”
As far as Anthony Russo is concerned:
“You’re never gonna be a better actor than when you’re acting across from Robert Downey, Jr.”
4. The airpot fight was, of course, the hardest scene to make
Hailed by many as the greatest piece of superhero action spectacle ever, the “airport sequence” was understandably the hardest scene to put together. It ended up being a living, breathing thing that had to be shot in pieces throughout the rest of the shoot and continued to evolve even through post-production. Anthony Russo describes the process of assembling the sequence.
“If you look at the final version of the script that we went into production with, it’s remarkably similar to the final cut of the movie. This scene is probably the biggest exception from that dynamic in the sense that this scene was so hard. Much of this scene was made throughout the post process like Joe was saying earlier and you guys [Markus and McFeely] were writing new lines, new dialogue several times throughout the post process as we continued to evolve and shape the sequence. From the time we were all developing the story until the time the movie was locked, this sequence was basically being made that entire period.”
Working in new dialogue was fairly easy for the scene’s many helmeted and masked characters. This was essential, though, in accomplishing the writers’ and directors’ goals for the scene. It wasn’t simply about creating big action moments, but having the scene continue to explore the arcs and objectives of each individual character involved. It’s all grounded in character while being driven by the main plot.
If you feel like the fight seems a little friendly at times, that’s by design, as Anthony Russo and Christopher Markus explain.
Anthony — “One reason I think we could all have so much fun with it was this is not a life or death fight. They don’t want to kill each other. They want to win. They want to defeat each other, but nobody wants to kill each other, so it changes the tenor of the fight. With the exception of Panther wanting to kill Bucky.”
Markus — “As they punch each other, they get angrier. People are willing to do things near the end of the fight that they wouldn’t have done at the beginning.”
Of course, as brilliant of a job as the writers and directors did in crafting this extraordinary sequence, Joe Russo was sure to credit the visual effects team for taking their ideas and making them look so great. The “airport sequence” is the product of a lot of very hard, very smart work by a lot of brilliant, creative people.