News » Features

Sons of Cleveland, Men of Hollywood

The Russo Brothers come home to helm Captain America 2, and to screw with your morning commute



Anthony Russo and Joe Russo are Lake Erie offspring, and they're both psyched to be back in town shooting Captain America 2: Winter Soldier. On a Saturday afternoon in the thick of production, we caught up with them at the Black Pig in Ohio City. Joe's wife and daughter were in town, and the Russos were enjoying a rare reprieve from their 16-hour workdays on set. So, naturally we bothered them to chat.

Sam Allard: Sixteen hour workdays? For real?  

Joe: Oh yeah, and the physical rigors of directing a movie like this aren't always visible. We shoot all day and then we've got to edit afterwards.

You edit as you go?

Joe: Absolutely. Especially when you're in a really expensive location like, you know, the Shoreway, it's not like we can ever go back and get extra footage.

To be there for two weeks is pretty insane.

Anthony: It really is.

Can you give us  a hint at what's happening there? I'm assuming some magnificent car chase?

Joe: I mean we can't say. Marvel would kill us.

Anthony: It's great though. It's gonna be an amazing sequence. And look, the upside is Cleveland looks great. It shoots great. It's got great art, great infrastructure.

Speaking of infrastructure, this traffic situations is bananas.

Joe: Look, we couldn't be more apologetic for the traffic issue. We feel horrible about that. At the end of the day, we're sons of Cleveland. We write movies that are love letters to the city. Welcome to Collinwood was our self-effacing love letter to Cleveland. And we've been fighting really hard to bring production work here over the years because the film business is a recession-proof industry. It works all the time. It doesn't matter, people always need entertainment. Also, you look at the set photos going out every day from the shoot, going all over the world, and they all say "Cleveland," "Cleveland," "Cleveland." It's branding. With a big movie shooting here, you associate things that you like or think are cool with Cleveland. We think it's invaluable, but obviously we're biased.

Anthony: Look, the more that comes here, the more that will end up being based here. And this has been Ivan Schwarz's agenda for many years—to develop the crew base here in Cleveland. The people who are based here, the more experience they'll gain and the more likely that they'll be hired on productions that come here.

Ivan Schwarz at the Greater Cleveland Film Commission?

Anthony: We worked really closely with Ivan.

Joe: Who, by the way, is probably the best film commissioner in the country. Cleveland is really lucky to have a guy like him.

Anthony: Without a doubt.

Joe: And I'm not just saying that to toot his horn because he's under a lot of pressure right now. He pulled the Avengers and Captain America here over a two-year span, two of the biggest films in the business to the same city. That's very difficult to do.

Anthony: And we scouted a lot of cities. It wasn't like just because we were from Cleveland we could steer the production here. We considered probably about a dozen locations, including London, Philadelphia, Boston, Baltimore.

So downside is traffic, upside is jobs?

Anthony: I mean, this is like many times past anything we've ever done, in terms of size. Definitely the most amount of people we've ever worked with.

Joe: I think we have like 300 people right now in Cleveland.

Anthony: It's just so big.

Joe: And then I imagine by the time it's done—you've seen the credits at the end of a film like this—more than a thousand people will have worked on it.

Anthony: The earliest people we hired here in Cleveland were location scouts, because even though one of the appeals to Marvel of us coming here certainly was the fact that we've already shot two movies here, we're from here and we know the city really well. They knew that we'd be able to find what we're looking for quickly and that was definitely an upside. But you need location scouts because there are always gaps to fill in and it's just a lot of work.

(Anthony orders a Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA)

This Black Pig place is great. This whole West 25th strip has blown up in the past few years.

Joe: Ohio City—it's a great area. Really amazing what's happened here.

Anthony: Detroit Shoreway. That's a cool neighborhood too.

Joe: And Tremont of course. Tremont is, like, one of the coolest neighborhoods in the country. It's like Abbot Kinney/Venice, the sort of hipster neighborhood in L.A., but with better restaurants.

Anthony: I love the Towpath bike trail too. The other day I went on like a 30-mile ride down by Shaker Lakes and it was perfect.

And the reception from Clevelanders has been positive.

Joe: So positive. Definitely.

There's been this growing ambivalence I think. And part of it has to do with pretty deep-seated emotional scars. But people seem to be really excited that a big film is shooting here. At the same time, though, there's all this 'never again' talk because people hate the inconvenience and the idea of being used.

Joe: Man, the thing about Cleveland is, we came here with the greatest of intentions. We couldn't be more dedicated Clevelanders. Our father fought for the city in the '70s. He was a city councilman. We grew up here in the worst of times. All our memories about this town are Johnny Carson making jokes about the river catching on fire. I'm a sports fan, I read like an hour's worth of Brown's news a day. I'm a die-hard fan. I've had my heart broken a thousand times. I could've written the Whore of Akron.  When we came here and brought the film here, we did it with the best of intentions, so it's a little heartbreaking that people look at it as us using the city.

On to the important stuff. Thumbs up or down on Arrested Development Season 4?

Joe: We haven't had a chance to watch yet. I was trying to stay up til 3 a.m. the night it came out, but I just couldn't do it.

It's definitely different. The episodes are like 10 minutes longer and moving much more slowly.

Joe: It's interesting, there's something about having parameters on your creativity, being forced to deliver an episode in 20 or 21 minutes. It creates a rhythm and a pacing that people are used to when they watch television. We notice this when we deliver pilots sometimes. If you deliver a pilot long, three or four minutes longer, it feels long because you've seen thousands of hours worth of television and you have this innate sense of rhythm in comedy. When you extend beyond that, it throws you off.

Much harder to binge on, I'll say that much.

Joe: Unlike House of Cards. What a great show. One of the better shows I've ever seen.

And can you say whether or not you'll be back at all for Community Season 5?

Joe: We'd love to for sure.

Anthony: A lot will depend on our post-production schedule for Cap. But I think if we could each squeeze in an episode, that'd be great.


We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Cleveland Scene. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Cleveland Scene, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club for as little as $5 a month.