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CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER

Building The Cast
While screenwriters Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely hammered out the finishing touches on the screenplay, the Russo brothers focused their attention on putting together an outstanding cast, which included Chris Evans, who returns as Steve Rogers aka Captain America. "In this film a good amount of time has passed since the events with The Avengers, so Steve Rogers has had time to process what has happened to him," says Anthony Russo. "As the world's greatest soldier, Cap moves on from the U.S. Army and goes to work for S.H.I.E.L.D., which creates a conflict in him because S.H.I.E.L.D. is a complicated spy organization that deals in grays and clandestine motivation, and that's not who Cap really is." For Chris Evans the grounded and gritty tone of the script played to the strength and sensibilities of the title character. "Cap doesn't fly; he doesn't shoot lightning bolts," informs Evans. "He punches and kicks, so with that type of combat, to make it cool you have the liberty to get grittier. It feels a little more voyeuristic, a little more documentary style, and it just has a rougher feel as opposed to most Super Hero films that tend to be a bit glossier."

Evans continues, "As far as the character goes, Steve Rogers is now entrenched in the modern world. All of the people he knew are gone and there are many things that he struggles to understand. I always have interpreted Captain America as having a certain sense of loneliness given the fact that everyone knows who he is, but he doesn't know anyone. Because of that dynamic, I think he's a little suspicious of people's motives when they approach him."

Producer Kevin Feige comments on having Evans suit up again as Captain America: "It's great because Chris Evans is such a good actor and is growing into this part and is embracing this part in such a great way that we get to see those other sides of Steve as he navigates this world of grays when he came from a place where it was very clear who the good guys were and who the bad guys were."

"Chris Evans is one of the more technically gifted actors we've ever worked with; he's easy to direct because he's a self-corrector," comments director Joe Russo. "He's extremely vigilant about the truthfulness of his performance. What I think is almost impossible to convey about Steve Rogers, which I think Chris does amazingly well, is he layers the character with a combination of machismo and morality. He's made the character very complex; Steve craves a simple code, but it's difficult for him to find clarity in the modern world. Chris brought in wonderful layers of confusion and pathos, without losing any of the grit and purpose of the character."

Chris Evans has equal praise for his directors, whose knowledge of both comic books and films impressed him. "They have a real healthy knowledge and love for comic books, which I think is a good foundation, and they have an encyclopedic knowledge of film. When you watch playback and they reference other films in comparison to what this shot looks like, it is spot on. These guys really know their movies and that's comforting."

One person Steve Rogers often turns to is Nick Fury, played again by Samuel L. Jackson. As the director of S.H.I.E.L.D., the peacekeepers of the modern world, Fury faces many challenges following the events of "Marvel's The Avengers." "Nick Fury is back on home soil and dealing with rebuilding," says Samuel L. Jackson. "So he's gearing up to make the world a bit more secure and must bring Steve Rogers into the 21st century. Nick is feeling pretty good about himself and has convinced the World Security Council that Super Heroes can be beneficial in making the world a safer place."

Jackson continues, "Steve Rogers is still not sure about how we run things at S.H.I.E.L.D. or how the government has intruded into everyone's lives and that people's freedoms are being infringed upon. So he's having these moments of introspection."

"Nick Fury's in a place in this movie where the head of any clandestine organization would find themselves-he's having to deal with the security of the world by lying to people and doing things covertly in order to protect them," explains Joe Russo. "He says in the movie early on that he's been motivated to do this because of New York and now he wants to preemptively protect the world; new threats are making themselves known and he feels like he needs new weapons to deal with them."

For Nick Fury, earning Steve Rogers' trust is not easy and the two often find themselves on opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to dealing with outside forces and threats to world security. "Steve Rogers is a little combative with Nick Fury," says Samuel L. Jackson. "He thinks that Nick plays both sides against the middle and so he's a little wary of what he does. So Steve Rogers is trying to find the fine balance between the government, his place in it, and what this shadow world is that he's now a part of."

Feige feels that this film is a "culmination" for Sam Jackson. "He's popped up as Nick Fury many, many times for us now, and in this film we get to see more of him than we've ever seen before," informs the producer. "We get to see him struggle with where he's found himself in his role as director of S.H.I.E.L.D. It's fun to have an actor who's played a character for so long to be able to now sink his teeth into it in another way, and we spend more time with him and alone with him than we have in any of the other films."

Feige continues, "In a lot of ways, he is what drives this story forward. He is-as Nick Fury always is-behind the scenes manipulating the agenda and the plot of the film, but in this one it's really a character turn for him. He gets to motivate much of what Steve Rogers does. They have a real philosophical difference and we get to see how Steve is changed by Nick over the course of this movie, but even more importantly how Nick is changed by Steve."

For Samuel L. Jackson, putting on the long black jacket and eye-patch of Nick Fury is a labor of love for the actor. "I really enjoy going back into this world and putting my scar on and becoming Nick Fury," admits Samuel Jackson. "He's a know-it-all, impervious-to-the-world kind of dude who's a real patriot but has his own view of how things should be run and how the country should be protected. He has his people around him whom he's learned to trust, and they trust him as well. His leadership ability is impeccable. So it's always a joy to come back into this character in this space."

Another familiar face at S.H.I.E.L.D. for Steve Rogers is Natasha Romanoff aka Black Widow. Natasha has become Steve Rogers' closest ally in the organization as she helps him adjust to his new role. "When we first meet Natasha and Steve, it's kind of in real time, so a couple of years have gone by and they have worked on many different missions together," informs Scarlett Johansson. "They have gotten to know each other better, so they have more ease and banter to their conversations. I really like the dynamic because their friendship is far more interesting to me than if they were to have a romantic relationship."

The actress continues, "Natasha is a very strong-willed, thoughtful, intelligent woman, but we don't really know if she is capable of a romantic relationship as she has so many trust issues and the last thing on her mind is getting a boyfriend. Obviously Steve Rogers is an attractive guy, but I think she's still learning how to be herself-whoever that is-and she's starting to realize new things with her friendship with Steve Rogers being the catalyst that allows her to be self-reflective and understanding."

For Evans, having his longtime friend Johansson as his costar makes it easier to ground the characters' relationship in reality. "I've known Scarlett for over 10 years now. She's like a sister," says Evans. "We've done four movies now, and it's just so nice having a history with someone off camera because I think that bleeds onscreen. Cap and Black Widow are very different people; it's kind of like this odd pairing. Her morality is questionable and Cap's a Boy Scout. She makes her living by lying and Cap couldn't do it if he tried. When they are at the point where they really can't trust anyone, it becomes an interesting relationship because it involves trusting someone you don't know that well."

Samuel L. Jackson agrees with his co-star's assessment of Black Widow. "Natasha does things that Steve Rogers won't do," informs Jackson. "Natasha doesn't ask questions; she just follows orders and there's no line that she won't cross for Nick Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D. Natasha's relationship with Nick Fury is very special. They've been through some things together and he knows a lot more about her than most people. In this film their bond is tested in an interesting way."

For Johansson, the film was an opportunity to delve deeper into the character's cryptic past, which has only been glossed over in "Iron Man 2" and "Marvel's The Avengers." "We continue to open up the story and give little tidbits and throw the bone out once in a while as to where she came from and what her background is," relates Johansson. "There's a lot to explore in the past but certainly where she's going too. When you take a character who's had the past that she's had, who has seen the darkest places, over time she appreciates what the right thing is in her mind and starts to understand humanity."

Describing the relationship in the film between Black Widow and Captain America, Joe Russo adds, "We were gifted by Joss a very complex, fascinating character in Black Widow that we could use to push against Cap and bring different colors out of him. Cap's got a very clear goal that he wants to achieve but it becomes more complicated when other characters intersect him and he has to work off of them. Scarlett and Chris have a great relationship because they've done a lot of movies together. Their chemistry is fantastic in the film and they both deliver amazing performances. I think it's because of the depth of character, and the contrast that they present to one another. One craves the truth, the other couldn't be more facile with it."

Adds Anthony, "We couldn't resist the idea of putting those two characters together because Cap has such a strong moral code and Black Widow lies for a living; it's fire and water. To force those two into a situation where they have to engage each other and trust each other made for some great drama."

There have been many award-winning actors who have been showcased in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" continues the lineage with the casting of Academy Award winner Robert Redford as Secretary Alexander Pierce, a top government official.

For Robert Redford, becoming part of the Marvel Universe is something that goes all the way back to his childhood. "When I was a kid, I read comic books and I imagined competing with Captain Marvel," says Redford. "I loved them, but my parents were against me reading comics because they wanted me to read something 'substantial.' So I used to go into my closet with a flashlight and read them. They were a big part of my childhood and I can fully understand why that kind of animation and short storytelling is so appealing to a young kid. I think because of my love for comics, I went on to really appreciate literature in a greater sense."

"The character was a smaller role, originally, and it developed over time," says Joe Russo. "As it developed into something much bigger, we knew we would need an actor of significant heft to carry the part. Being film buffs and guys who grew up on '70s thrillers, there's a great symmetry in approaching Robert

Redford for this film. The roots of 'Captain America: The Winter Soldier' lie in 'Three Days of the Condor.' Cap goes on a similar journey as Redford's character in that film and, from a cultural standpoint, we knew it would be incredibly exciting to see Redford in a comic book movie. Not to mention, he's one of the coolest people you'll ever meet."

Anthony Russo adds, "Redford had great ideas for the part. He's politically inclined, and he only responds to material that motivates him. So even though the movie's this giant Super Hero tent-pole film, and it's unlike anything he's done before, he gravitated toward the themes, and toward the character's place in the world. Alexander Pierce is the head of the World Security Council and very close friends with Nick Fury. He's Nick's mentor. Pierce understands bureaucracy as well as anyone on the planet, and he tries to help Cap come to terms with his new place in the world."

Explaining his character, Redford says, "My character, Alexander Pierce, is a minor character in the overall scheme of things, but considering the plot, he is an important one. I think there's a certain amount of mystery that emerges about the guy that you don't expect in the beginning. I like that. I like the fact that all is not revealed in the first part of the film, and when it is, it's pretty strong and it affects the plot and it affects Nick Fury in a very major way. I like the idea also that Fury and my character are really close, and you have to sell the idea that that's important. I like that challenge."

Describing the relationship between Nick Fury and Pierce, Jackson says, "They've been friends forever. Fury knows Pierce and he's trusted him. They have a level of camaraderie, and in the service of their country they both had a like mind for a long time."

For two of Hollywood's most successful actors, working together for the first time was an experience they both found very rewarding. "I like Sam," says Redford. "Sam's really a good actor. He's done a lot of films and has many, many dimensions to him, which I think is wonderful."

For Samuel L. Jackson, the feeling was mutual. "I've been watching Robert Redford for a long time, and I've auditioned for films that he did and missed a couple opportunities to do some films that people offered me, so it was a great opportunity to stand there and actually work with somebody that I've admired for a very long time," says Jackson.

Acting again with Robert Redford was a highlight for Scarlett Johansson, who last worked with him on "The Horse Whisperer" when she was 12 years old. "I was really just surprised that we were here working on this Marvel film with this different dynamic between us now. He's such a class act and, of course, it was just like the old days. It brought me back 15 years. He was there in the trenches like the rest of us, working those long hours and delivering mouth-loads of dialogue, and he just plowed through it. It was as if Alexander Pierce was a character that he'd been playing for years."

For the directing duo, working with Redford was a "dream, a career highlight." Anthony Russo comments, "Pierce is a very complicated character and the great thing about having Robert Redford in the role is that when Pierce says something, it's true, because Robert Redford is saying it. That was very useful in terms of the storytelling and the emotional and dramatic dynamics of the film."

While Alexander Pierce and Nick Fury try to keep the world a peaceful place, a new threat comes into the fold that seems to be unstoppable-The Winter Soldier-a super-soldier who is the world's greatest assassin. "Winter Soldier in the movie is perceived as a ghost ops character," informs Joe Russo. "An infamous assassin that intelligence agencies throughout the world have never been able to identify; like Bigfoot, there are only blurry, inconclusive photos of his existence over an inexplicable 60-year period. The big reveal in the movie to Cap is that this ghost is his supposedly deceased best friend from World War II."

For Sebastian Stan, transitioning into the role of The Winter Soldier was an opportunity that he hoped would materialize with the success of the franchise and popularity of the storyline. Offering some background on the character, Stan says, "The Russians found Bucky Barnes and they saw a great opportunity to use him as a weapon to target Steve Rogers' weak spots, his emotions and past. I have always been very fascinated by the Winter Soldier and was just thrilled to get the opportunity to play this complex character."

Says Kevin Feige, "Sebastian Stan is now playing a completely different part than he played in 'Captain America: The First Avenger.' It's great seeing him grow as an actor and seeing him embrace Bucky in a way that is completely different, inspired directly from Ed Brubaker's Winter Soldier comic run."

Director Anthony Russo points out that bringing a sense of brutality to the Winter Soldier was crucial to setting up the relationship between Captain America and Winter Soldier. Anthony explains, "Cap is like Rocky; he's a character with a clear code and a strong drive. He's at his most compelling when you take him to the 12th round. When he's beat up, bloody, stumbling-will he stay on his feet? That's when you feel the real victory in him. Our thought process was, if the villain's his best friend, then let's make the villain as brutal and aggressive as we possibly can, so that it presents the greatest challenge to Cap. So that the distance Cap has to pull the character back from is so significant that as audience members we're not sure whether he's going to get there or not. Winter Soldier is a very tragic, empathetic villain. There's something good inside of him that is potentially salvageable, and only Cap can recognize that."

While the Winter Soldier proves to be a mysterious and lethal threat to Nick Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D., Steve Rogers gets some assistance in battling the deadly assassin from Sam Wilson aka Falcon, played by Anthony Mackie. The film marks Falcon's cinematic debut and the filmmakers had years of source material to draw from in developing the character for the big screen.

Anthony Russo explains how Sam Wilson fits in: "In the film, Cap suspects the halls of power have been corrupted. His bosses deal in shades of gray, and he's not comfortable with those shades. Then he finds Sam, a character far away from the halls of power, an everyman vet whom he trusts, who has a very specific talent and access to some very interesting technology."

Comments Anthony Mackie, "The filmmakers did a good job of making Falcon his own entity. I feel like when you look at Sam Wilson and when you watch this movie, there's nothing unforgiving or cheap about him. I feel like he's a standup guy. He's morally sound and he works with Captain America and follows him through it all because he believes in him, in the American dream and what America stands for. So I think that says a lot about him."

Describing the friendship and bond that develops between Steve Rogers and Sam Wilson in the film, Mackie says, "Basically Cap and Sam Wilson connect on the idea that they were both at war and came home, and have to deal with the ramifications of waking up every morning knowing that they lost a comrade in battle. Sam works at the VA. He counsels and helps soldiers who have come back from war, and he brings Cap into that so he can see that he's not out there on his own. Sam can empathize with the idea of what he's going through, so they become friends on that level. Sam admires him; he admires the legend; he admires the stories of Captain America. It's his admiration for Cap that puts them in a position for friendship."

For Chris Evans, that personal relationship between the characters is essential to counterbalancing the larger-than-life aspects of the genre. "In these types of films you have to work hard to ground every character," says Chris Evans. "My character is a guy that's wearing a red, white and blue suit, so you really have to make the Super Heroes very self-aware, otherwise it's kind of silly what they're doing. I like the relationship between Steve Rogers and Sam. I think they each have trust issues. They've each been on the frontline; they've seen battles and lost friends."

Joe Russo comments, "Mackie has great integrity as an actor. That's what we love about him. He has incredible screen presence. We wanted Falcon to be part of a team with Cap, not a sidekick. In order to do that you need an actor who can hold the screen opposite all the other great actors that are in the film. You need somebody who can flesh that character out with limited screen time in a very three-dimensional way-that's Mackie. The tone was really important to that character as well, because Sam is a guy who's his own person who can challenge Cap when he needs to challenge Cap and can support Cap when he needs to support him."

A new character in the franchise is agent Brock Rumlow, who provides the muscle for many S.H.I.E.L.D. missions and operations. For the role, the filmmakers chose Frank Grillo who breaks down the intense character. "Brock Rumlow is basically a Navy SEAL," says Grillo. "He is an elite special-ops guy who works for S.H.I.E.L.D. and takes care of business. When Captain America goes on a mission, he's the guy by his side backing him up."

Adds executive producer Louis D'Esposito, "When we are developing the screenplay we look at the story and ask ourselves if it makes sense for this role to be a character from publishing," says Louis D'Esposito. "If it doesn't, then we make up a new character, but if it does, that's a great opportunity because it adds an extra layer for the people who already know the history of comics and will get more excited because it's Brock Rumlow and they want to know what's going to happen to this character. Is he going to become Crossbones in this film or is it something that is going to happen in future films? Because of Brock Rumlow's history in the comic books, Frank Grillo was a perfect fit for the role and is a great actor. "

Another new face on the S.H.I.E.L.D. landscape is Agent 13, played by Emily VanCamp. For VanCamp, entering the Marvel Cinematic Universe was an entirely new experience. "I have to be honest and say I was not a massive comic book reader growing up, so I had to do a lot of homework to get caught up on all of the adventures of Captain America," admits the actress. "It was actually really fun to read them and it made me realize that there's this whole other universe out there that's really exciting."

Cobie Smulders is back and reprises her role as Agent Maria Hill, Nick Fury's trusted, go-to agent at S.H.I.E.L.D. Rounding out the talented cast of Marvel's "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" are Hayley Atwell as Peggy Carter, Toby Jones as Dr. Arnim Zola, Maximiliano Hernandez as S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Jasper Stillwell and Georges St-Pierre as Batroc.

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