Over the weekend, Cleveland natives Anthony and Joe Russo concluded a month-long global publicity tour for Avengers: Infinity War on their home turf. Infinity War, directed by the Russos, is the first part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe's epic finale. Audiences all over the world have been flocking to theaters to experience the spectacle on the big screen — it has already eclipsed $1 billion in global gross, the fastest any film has ever done so. The Russos traveled to four continents in three weeks to publicize the film, but ended their journey at the Cleveland Cinematheque, where audiences saw a special screening of Infinity War and participated in a Q&A with the directors Saturday.
"For us, the Cinematheque was really seminal to our film growth," Anthony told Scene in an interview Sunday. "We didn't grow up filmmakers. We grew up film geeks. We didn't start messing around with filmmaking until we were in our 20s. But we consumed it everywhere, and the Cinematheque became a special place for us because of its unique program. We've seen a lot of our favorite movies there. So the fact that they were going to screen our three Marvel films together was about as thrilling an opportunity as we've ever had."
(In what the Russos described as a "devastating" turn of events, much of University Circle experienced power outages Saturday, and the Cinematheque was unable to screen Winter Soldier or Civil War, the Captain America films that the Russos directed.)
Due to audiences' deep investment in the Marvel cinematic universe — as reflected at the box office — and the prevalence of spoilers online, the Russos saw it as a sacred duty to protect the film's secrets.
"These are really high-visibility movies, and people have spent 10 years of their lives invested in these characters and these stories," Joe said. "So we distributed fake scripts to the cast and very few people knew the actual story of the movie. Nobody wants the ending spoiled."
Anthony said it's no knock on the cast that they wanted to talk about the movies. "They're on set for a year," he said. "This is their life. And people want to talk about their life. It only got crazy when the cast would show up and nobody knew what their lines were."
Joe added, "Loose lips sinks ships, and we had a few loose lips in the cast."
Both brothers said that one of the biggest challenges of shooting a film of Infinity War's magnitude was staying in physical shape. They cited a famous Steven Spielberg story, in which a young director asked him for advice before directing his first major Hollywood movie. Spielberg's response: Get a [physical] trainer.
"Our days were anywhere from 12 to 20 hours," Joe said. "And when you're shooting two films back to back, that was consistent for a year." (They took a two-week break between shooting parts 1 and 2.)
Responding to a question about a proposed increase to Ohio's film tax credits, Joe immediately said the state ought to pass the increase. But they added that tax incentives aren't the only way to entice films.
"Cleveland is missing one essential piece," Joe said. "Modern, dedicated sound stages. The city needs to commit to it, and private capital needs to help out. Once that happens, we could have brought films like Infinity War and Civil War here."
Anthony added, "We obviously have a very strong personal investment in encouraging film production here. So we're into the issue."