Avengers: Infinity War marks the 10-year anniversary of the Marvel Cinematic Universe

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An unprecedented cinematic journey 10 years in the making with the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe in play, Avengers: Infinity War brings to the screen the ultimate, deadliest showdown of all time.

The eagerly anticipated Avengers: Infinity War, the third installment in the “Avengers” franchise and 19th Marvel Studios film to date,  marks the 10-year anniversary of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which began with the release of “Iron Man” in 2008.

Marvel Studios’ Avengers: Infinity War is directed by Emmy Award-winning directors Anthony and Joe Russo from an original screenplay by Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely.

Based on the Marvel comic franchise first published in 1963, Avengers: Infinity War, continues the lineage of epic big-screen adventures chronicled in  Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Thor, Captain America: The First Avenger, Marvel’s The Avengers, Iron Man 3, Thor: The Dark World, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Guardians of the Galaxy,  Avengers: Age of Ultron, Ant-Man, Captain America: Civil War, Doctor Strange, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Thor: Ragnarok, and Black Panther.

Avengers: Infinity War picks up as the Avengers and their allies have continued to protect the world from threats too large for any one hero to handle, but a dangerous menace has emerged from the cosmic shadows: Thanos. A despot of intergalactic infamy, Thanos will stop at nothing to collect all six Infinity Stones in his quest to wield unimaginable power and his twisted will on all of humanity.

Assembling a team that includes members from every Marvel Cinematic Universe franchise, the Avengers and their Super Hero allies must sacrifice like never before in an attempt to defeat the powerful Thanos before his blitz of devastation and ruin puts an end to the universe.

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Marvel Studios’ “Avengers: Infinity War” is the preeminent collection of iconic Super Hero characters in one film and stars Robert Downey Jr., as Tony Stark/ Iron Man, Chris Hemsworth as Thor, Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner/The Hulk, Chris Evans as Steve Rogers/Captain America, Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow, Don Cheadle as Colonel James Rhodes/War Machine, Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Strange, Tom Holland as Peter Parker/Spider-Man, Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa/Black Panther, Zoe Saldana as Gamora, Karen Gillan as Nebula, Tom Hiddleston as Loki, Paul Bettany as Vision,  Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch, Anthony Mackie as Sam Wilson/Falcon, Sebastian Stan as Bucky Barnes/Winter Soldier, Idris Elba as Heimdall, Danai Gurira as Okoye, Benedict Wong as Wong, Pom Klementieff as Mantis, Dave Bautista as Drax, featuring Vin Diesel as Groot, Bradley Cooper as Rocket, with Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts, with Benicio Del Toro as The Collector, with Josh Brolin as Thanos, and Chris Pratt as Peter Quill/Star-Lord.

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Celebrating 10 Years Of The Marvel Cinematic Universe

On May 2, 2008, the Marvel Cinematic Universe began with the release of Iron Man. The film was a worldwide blockbuster hit with fans and critics, and would serve for years as the cornerstone from which Marvel Studios would build an empire that has produced many of the top-grossing films of all time. In the ten years since the film’s release, Marvel Studios has opened a record-breaking 18 consecutive films at #1, with five films grossing over a $1 billion dollars and a collective total of over $13 billion at the worldwide box office.

In February 2018, with the release of Black Panther, Marvel Studios continued its box office domination. From the time of its release, the film has risen to become both a massive cultural phenomenon and a financial success. “Black Panther” recorded the fifth biggest opening weekend of all time with $202 million and is the highest grossing superhero film at the domestic box office. The film has grossed over $1.3 billion worldwide to date.

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Black Panther

President of Marvel Studios and“Avengers: Infinity Wa” producer Kevin Feige explains how Marvel has been able to continue its unprecedented box office and critical success within its ever-expanding franchises and characters.  “We were hoping ‘Iron Man’ would make enough money that we could make another movie,” recalls Feige.  “If that film didn’t work, there would not be an MCU as we know it today. But it was during production of the film that we had our first glimpse of what we were building towards when we shot the end credits tag scene with Samuel L. Jackson and Robert Downey Jr.”

Feige continues, “I have said this from the beginning, but it still holds up, there is no magic formula that we duplicate. Each film is a separate entity that must work on its own merit as well as work within an interconnected narrative. The strength of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is the depth and complexity of its characters, all of which are imperfect in some way. That’s what makes our stories and characters interesting and why they have withstood the test of time.”

With the success of“Marvel’s The Avenger” came a realization for Marvel Studios, as Feige explains, “‘The Avengers’ taught us that audiences really enjoyed the cross-pollination of all the different franchises and were unequivocally going to support us if we continued to make quality films. This has allowed us to plot out everything that we’ve done over the last ten years and build to ‘Avengers: Infinity War,’ which is the biggest collection of Super Heroes ever assembled in one film.”

For Marvel Studios co-president and executive producer Louis D’ Esposito, part of the secret sauce has been in populating the Marvel Cinematic Universe with what is undeniably the most talented ensemble of actors assembled under one brand, with 16 Academy Award® winners and 22 Academy Award nominees.

“As you look back at ‘Iron Man,’ the casting of Robert Downey Jr. and hiring of Jon Favreau were probably the most important decisions we’ve ever made,” comments D’Esposito. “By casting Robert Downey Jr., not only did we get a great actor who portrayed one of our most iconic characters, it told the industry that we were serious about hiring great actors. Robert attracted Jeff Bridges and Gwyneth Paltrow, and we already had Terrence Howard on board. For ‘Thor,’ it was Sir Anthony Hopkins and Natalie Portman, and it just snowballed. So, we quickly became known as a studio that is going make superhero movies, but also tell great stories with the most talented actors possible.”

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“With Jon Favreau and Robert Downey Jr. we really found and developed and honed what would become the in-house style of Marvel Studios, both tonally in our filmmaking and behind the scenes in our process,” adds Kevin Feige.  “‘Avengers: Infinity War is our 19th release, and we’ve carried that with us. Over the last ten years Robert has become a creative collaborator and partner across all our films and is a great supporter and mentor to all the actors that we have populated our films with.

“We often say he’s the chairman of the acting department because on the ‘Avengers’ sets he’s the biggest star that we have, but he welcomes every actor with open arms into the MCU, behind the scenes, in the press, and on set when he’s working. He really puts our actors at ease and allows them to then do their best work. So, it can’t be understated what Robert has done for us. There would not be an MCU without Robert Downey Jr.,” concludes Feige.

From Page To Screen: The Directors And The Writers

While Avengers: Infinity War, has been ten years in the making, selecting the greatest ensemble of superhero characters for the film fell squarely into the laps of directors Anthony and Joe Russo, who were tapped by Kevin Feige to helm the studios biggest film to date.

Feige explains why they were the first choice to direct the film: “From the first film they did with us, ‘The Winter Soldier,’ which I believe is one of the best films that we’ve made, Joe and Anthony Russo showed an uncanny ability to bring out the best in these characters. They also have the ability to tap into deeper themes and take characters to unexpected places and to do it with a flair and a style that people come to expect from a Marvel Studios production.”

For the Russo brothers, the opportunity to direct “Avengers: Infinity War” was the opportunity of a lifetime that they had been building towards since they stepped into the MCU on “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.”

“It was a very personal journey for us in being given the opportunity to direct these films,” says Joe Russo. “We started a story in ‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’ that we wanted to finish in these two films. It is a story that consumes the entire Marvel universe and it has one overarching theme to it, which is ‘what does it cost to be a hero in a world where there are no easy answers?’ That is the theme that ties together ‘The Winter Soldier,’ ‘Civil War,’ ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ and the next ‘Avengers.’ So, what we were looking to bring to this film is the next chapter in the journey of the Avengers as they struggle to define themselves as heroes and what it means to be a hero.”

Anthony and Joe Russo

The Russo brothers were born a year apart in Cleveland, Ohio, where they grew up on the east side, and graduated from Benedictine High School before embarking on their film careers (Anthony in ’88 and Joe in ’89). In 1994, they used credit cards and student loans to finance “Pieces,” an experimental comedy about a criminally inclined trio of brothers. They shot the film in and around Cleveland with the help of numerous friends and family. Their gamble paid off when the film screened at both the Slamdance and American Film Institute festivals in 1997, earning Joe a Best Actor award from the latter.

“When we came onto ‘Winter Soldier,’ Marvel had this ‘one movie at a time’ philosophy, which Joe and I really admired,” adds Anthony Russo. “Even though there is certainly a plan and ideas about where things can go, the focus is always on the film you’re making, as it’s our job just to make that movie the best it can be regardless of any other film in the universe. You want to find the potential in that particular story and that is how we came to our process.”

Russo continues, “Our experience of working on ‘Civil War’ was really helpful in getting us prepared for this film because we knew that there was a culmination coming when we were shooting that film. We thought it was such a great place to leave the Avengers divided at the end of ‘Civil War’ because we knew the greatest threat they would ever face would be coming in ‘Infinity War.’  In storytelling, you always want the most extreme and want your heroes to be at their lowest point when they meet their worst threat. That’s a great jumping off point for a story. We were smelling that as we were working on ‘Civil War,’ and that’s when I think Joe and I began to start thinking about how to carry it forward.”

For executive producer Trinh Tran, who collaborated with the Russos on “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” and “Captain America: Civil War,” reteaming with the brothers was the right choice given the size and scope of the film.  She offers, “‘Civil War’ was a big testament to what the Russos could accomplish considering the large amount of characters in play. We laugh now because we all thought that 16 lead actors were a challenge. But on this film, we have a story that includes over 30 integral characters. But Anthony and Joe proved that they really understood each character and were the best at their craft in seamlessly integrating all of them together in a way that feels authentic.”

Helping the filmmakers develop and craft the story were screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, who had previously collaborated with the Russo brothers on “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” and “Captain America: Civil War.”

Christopher Markus & Stephen Mcfeely are the screenwriters behind several Marvel Studios films, including Captain America: Civil War, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Captain America: The First Avenger, Thor 2: The Dark World and the upcoming fourth installment of the “Avengers” franchise on May 6, 2019.

Christopher Markus & Stephen Mcfeely

The writing duo also recently penned Michael Bay’s controversial true crime film, “Pain & Gain” and have taken moviegoers to the land of Narnia for all three big-screen adventures, most recently “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader,” after co-writing the adaptation of the global box-office hits, “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” (which earned them nominations for the Saturn, Hugo and Humanitas Awards) and “The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian.”

Markus and McFeely have been writing together since 1995. Their first screenplay, You Kill Me, was directed by John Dahl in 2007. They also penned the original screenplay for the critically acclaimed HBO feature The Life and Death of Peter Sellers. Markus and McFeely won the Emmy for Outstanding Writing for a Miniseries, Movie or Dramatic Special, as well as a Writers Guild Award.

“Markus and McFeely understand the voices of each of the characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe about as well as anybody,” comments Joe Russo. “It really was a unique challenge to try and bring together these many characters into one film, combined with the scale and bringing closure to ten years of this grand experiment that has been the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It is both alluring and daunting. We wouldn’t have gone into the trenches to tell a story like this with anyone else besides Markus and McFeely because you need a very tight team whose compasses are all pointing in the same direction to pull off a story like this.”

“I loved our story development process with Kevin and Markus and McFeely,” adds Anthony Russo. “We spend months in the room with Markus and McFeely just telling each other about potential stories. Sometimes we would run with a character for a little while, and think of big events that can involve several characters. Then we’ll trace out how that affects everybody on a narrative level or where that allows us to take the characters and the story. So, it’s really this very exciting process of pitching one another stories and then seeing which ones we start to respond to. From that, it begins to give us the ability to spin and build a larger narrative.”

“The story of “Avengers: Infinity War” is the result of everything we’ve ever done to this point,” says Kevin Feige. “It is the unprecedented culmination of a series of storylines interlinked together over 10 years and 18 films.”

“We’re big structure guys, so first we lay out all the possible people that could be in the movie and then whittle it down to who are the people who have arcs and stories to tell,” says screenwriter Stephen McFeely. “Then we figure out how we can group them in such a way that they all get enough time to explore those arcs, but without dominating the entire movie.  So, in the structure of ‘Avengers: Infinity War,’ you’ll see that it is woven into four or five parts, and we’ll be cutting back and forth between those parts.”

“This film is not one long scene with thirty-five people in it,” adds Christopher Markus.  “The characters are woven in the story in a particular way so it allows us to take smaller bites at telling the story in the film. You make someone fightable and beatable by making them human with complexities and emotional life. This allows you to poke and dissect them in ways that aren’t just, ‘I can punch you in the face really hard.’”

“Markus and McFeely have been with us since the earliest days of the studio,” says Kevin Feige. “Stephen Broussard brought them in for a meeting in probably 2008 on what would become ‘Captain America: The First Avenger.’ They were the sole writers on that film, ‘The Winter Soldier’ and ‘Civil War,’ and helped us on ‘Thor: The Dark World’ and ‘Guardians of the Galaxy.’ They really are amazing writers as you can see by just how diverse and tonally different the ‘Captain America’ trilogy is. Markus and McFeely thrive on changing tones. They are also very deft at handling many characters and weaving them into a singular storyline, which was critical on ‘Avengers: Infinity War.’”

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Commenting on the Russos’ style of filmmaking, screenwriter Christopher Markus says, “Joe and Anthony are big cinephiles, so they are able to match the style of movie to the story of the movie. Not all directors can do that. You can hand some directors a story, and they can only do it the way they always do it. But through the years I’ve been fascinated with Joe and Anthony Russo because they really nailed both ‘Winter Soldier’ and ‘Civil War,’ which are similar in their style in that they’re a little cinema verité with a bit of a washed-out look and very grounded in reality.”

But for the directors, a shift in style was necessary to bring “Infinity War” to the big screen. “Joe and Anthony understood from the outset that this film could not be in the same style but they are equipped and talented in being able to adapt their filming style to fit the film story’s tone and visual style,” explains executive producer Trinh Tran.” “In this story, you’re going to get a much lusher look and feel. It’s also a bit of a space odyssey as well. There are certainly amazing fights that will still be visceral, but we didn’t force a style on a story. They are choosing the style to suit the characters and actors, which ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ has in spades.”

“The most important thing for any of our Marvel Studios’ films is character and story and how we can bring to light what makes these characters so entertaining and beloved over the course of this ten-year cinematic saga,” says Kevin Feige. “What’s always the most fun about an ‘Avengers’ film is seeing characters that have never before interacted with each other interacting for the first time. So now in ‘Infinity War,’ we will have for the very first time some of the Avengers meeting Spider-Man, the Avengers encountering Doctor Strange, a character that wasn’t on their radar, and they also meet the Guardians of the Galaxy for the very first time.”

Screenwriter Stephen McFeely adds, “It is a challenge to make sure that we’re always on story and that there’s a big nasty threat coming, but we also have a lot of funny characters and humorous beats in the film. When you have characters meeting for the first time and they rub up against each other, you really want audiences to enjoy themselves. You don’t want it to be a dour moment. We we’re very cognizant of modulating the story and tone to make sure that every scene had enough room for editing so that we keep reminding people that there is some potentially bad stuff going on in the background.”

Summing up the symbiotic relationship that the directing duo shares with the screenwriters, Anthony Russo says, “Markus and McFeely have an incredible sense of character and character is always king in anything we are doing. We always build our action around character. We always design our comedy around character. And Markus and McFeely have a remarkable grasp on developing well-rounded characters, which is why they’re able to deal with so many different characters in the MCU. They’re the greatest partners we could possibly ask for in these films because they understand this vast universe perhaps better than anybody on a storytelling level.”