CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER
Does Anyone Want Off This Elevator?
On April 1st, 2013, principal photography started on Marvel's "Captain
America: The Winter Soldier," but for
the actors in the film, the action began many weeks prior in preparation for the
exciting elevator fight sequence
shot in the first few days of production. The scene finds Steve Rogers being
attacked in a very crowded elevator
by several agents. The intense fight sequence would become a trailer moment and
showcased the stunt and
fight training that Chris Evans and all of his cast mates studied and learned in
preparation for the film.
"It was very important to us that all of the actors trained rigorously for the
film because we wanted the
audience to see our actors executing the action in the film," says Anthony
Russo. "Audiences want to feel that
energy and see a fluid fighting technique up on the screen."
"These guys worked their butts off training for this film, training for
months and training for these specific
sequences, over and over," relates Joe Russo. "Everything you see in the film,
any time their faces are on
camera, those are the actors and they're actually doing the things that they're
doing. We have a great stunt
team that works with them and obviously we have to protect our actors, so for
things that are too aggressive
they're replaced, but all that fighting in the film is our guys."
Chris Evans' desire to take Captain America's
fighting ability to the next level led him to
expand the scope of his training for the
film. "One of the things we all agreed on
was stepping up Captain America's fighting
ability," says Chris Evans. "In the first film
he had just achieved the strength, power
and prowess, but we didn't get the chance
to give him any training. In 'Marvel's The
Avengers' there were so many new characters, abilities and relationships that
needed to be established so you
couldn't afford much screen time individually to any one character. On this
film, though, we really get to show
Cap advancing in his skills and stepping up the fighting techniques much more."
Evans describes the fighting scenes in the film as having a more "acrobatic
approach," requiring Captain
America to be able to move fluidly. "The Russos and I decided that I should
start taking gymnastics training,"
says Evans. "And it was really great and had a big impact when it came time to
shoot fight sequences like the
Director Joe Russo points to a big action scene on the ship, Lumerian Star,
early in the film that highlights
Captain America's new, advanced skills: "You'll also see in this sequence that
Cap's been training with modern
techniques since The Avengers, like Krav Maga-real-world techniques developed to
deal with enemy
combatants in close quarters. One of our favorite moments from a
character-defining standpoint, in terms of
moving Cap employing modern techniques, is that he takes a knife from one pirate
and throws it through the
hand of another, because the second pirate is reaching for the alarm and it's
the only way Cap can stop him.
Using your assailant's weapon against him is a main tenant of Krav Maga."
Anthony Russo informs that it was also important that Captain America figure
out new ways to use his shield,
in the spirit of being a modern warrior. "During WWII, a lot of folks fighting
in the war had been on the streets
of Brooklyn, or wherever they came from, just a few weeks earlier," explains
Anthony. "Very few soldiers were
career soldiers. The same with Cap. He was transformed into a super soldier and
then called into action before
he had any significant training. He had a John Sullivan style of fighting, which
was endearing in its simplicity.
But now as the decades have progressed, and we've turned warfare into a science,
Cap has a lot more tools at
his disposal to turn him into a modern warrior. We wanted to be very inventive
in conceiving new ways for him
to use the shield. Conceiving new fighting techniques, we went through months of
staging fights and shooting
them and thinking about what excited us about them."
Joe Russo adds, "What's great about Cap,
and I think what people really respect about
him as a Super Hero, is that he has a code
and that code is represented by his shield.
Steadfast, immovable. The shield is primarily
a defensive weapon, but we also wanted
to explore its offensive capabilities in this
movie. There are two handles on it, so Cap
can hold one of the handles and snap it at
his opponents, in a manner inspired by an eastern style of fighting. Not unlike
a nunchuck. The shield really
represents who he is. How he uses it expresses his psyche."
Stunt coordinator Thomas Robinson Harper explains the styles of fighting used
in the sequence and the film.
"The fighting techniques that we used in this are a mixture of Parkour,
Brazilian Jujitsu, karate and boxing," says
Harper. "So it's truly a mixed martial arts that we had Chris training for
because part of bringing the character
into modern day is that Steve Rogers has studied and mastered these modern
fighting styles and techniques.
It's very hard to integrate all those fighting styles and techniques together
because one generally doesn't work
with another, but we figured out a way to make it flow and show that he has
learned these things, and that's
how he has to fight in a modern world."
Harper also brought in some of the best fight specialists in the business
including Chris Carnel and James
Young to help train and choreograph the visually dynamic fight sequences
throughout the film. "The first fight
sequence we shot was the elevator fight, which included Brock Rumlow and 10 guys
in a crowded elevator
with Captain America, and the challenge was how much choreography could we
squeeze into a very small
space," explains fight coordinator Chris Carnel. "We built in some great gags as
we let Cap use his hands and
feet a little bit in close quarters with the idea being that these guys know
what they're doing and have a plan
when they come in the elevator, so Cap is on the defensive first and foremost."
"Once Captain America gets a little bit of room he can do a lot of damage
very quickly and that's when it gets to
be a really fun fight," adds Jeet Kune Do fighting expert James Young. "The
scene is definitely the most chaotic
fight I've done and it's pretty incredible."
For Harper and his fight coordinators, getting the cast ready for the fight
sequences was made easier by the
fact that they had actors to work with who were willing to put in the time and
effort to learn. "All of the actors
came in every day at different times during pre-production
to learn and train in the various disciplines," says the stunt
coordinator. "It really helps that they come in pretty psyched
up about the whole thing and then we get them sweating and
teach them the choreography and show them video of our
stunt performers doing what they will eventually be doing."
"Chris Evans picks up fight choreography faster than anyone
I've ever seen," adds Chris Carnel. "Watching him do a fullon
fight while maintaining the character qualities of Captain
America was really impressive and we were absolutely blown away. The elevator
fight is a very difficult fight
with just being one-on-one, but then throw in 10 guys in the elevator and it
gets incredibly difficult very
quickly. But he got it straightaway and he's just phenomenal to work with."
Harper and his team were equally impressed with the fighting prowess of Frank
Grillo whose character Brock
Rumlow goes toe-to-toe with Captain America in the elevator. "We called Frank
Grillo Frank the Tank, because
he has the heaviest hands for an actor that I have seen in a long time," says
Harper. "We knew that he had
boxing experience, but he came in on his first day and was crushing the heavy
bag in half."
"The building vibrated when he hit the heavy bag, and we're
all like 'wow,'" adds Chris Carnel. "The other funny thing about
Frank Grillo is you can tell him to throw a punch at quarter
speed, or half speed, but when it comes time to put it on
camera it's always 110% no matter what speed you say. He's a
hell of a fighter and it's impressive to watch him box."
"When you have two actors who are really fighting each other,
it brings an authenticity to the film," says Frank Grillo. "When
you have Chris Evans or Anthony Mackie and me fighting, you
can't manufacture being hit-you just have to get hit. I think people are going
to really fall in love with this
style of fighting in the film."
The stunt team's fight training also included Sebastian Stan who enjoyed his
Winter Soldier fight training
immensely. "I really got into the fight training as it was important for me to
feel comfortable with that dimension
of the character," says Sebastian Stan. "When you start training, it really
feels like Cowboys and Indians that
you played when you were 6 or 7 years old.
It actually took me a while to stop making
sound effects noises when I was getting hit."
The actor took a lot of good-natured kidding
from his friends for his dedication to learning
how to handle a knife. "During my fight
training for the film my friends would make
fun of me because I would walk around the
house all day flipping this plastic knife around and practicing my moves,"
laughs Stan. "I wanted my movements
to feel natural and I wanted to be able to perform these sequences without
thinking about it."
For Scarlett Johansson, her role as Black Widow in the film involves a lot of
running, wire work and rappelling.
"A lot of the fighting that I do is basically reaction stuff like taking
punches, throwing punches, that kind of
thing, and then I leave it up to my stunt double, Heidi Moneymaker, to bounce 20
feet in the air and do four
But the actress says that, with her stunts, the envelope is always pushed in
each film, and there are certain
signature moves that the fans like to see. "There already are established moves
that people recognize and are
really into, so we get to play with that a little bit. Having done three films
so far with Marvel with the same
stunt crew I know the ins and outs; I feel way more comfortable in my body and I
feel way more comfortable
fighting. I even feel way more comfortable hanging 60 feet in the air. I trust
these guys with my life and that
trust is something I think you establish over time."
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