Captain America: Winter Soldier — Crafting The Story

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With directors Anthony and Joe Russo on board to direct the film, producer Kevin Feige, explains why the Winter Soldier storyline was one he found very compelling. “One of the best Captain America storylines in the comics over the past 20 years was The Winter Soldier by Ed Brubaker,” states Feige. “It influenced the tone and the texture in the first Captain America film, and we all felt it was time to for the Winter Soldier to be one of the main characters in the franchise.”

For Brubaker, coming up with the Winter Soldier character was something that started in his youth. “When I was 8 years old, I had already been reading comics for about four years and I had every issue of ‘Captain America’ from #100 on,” recalls Brubaker. “I always thought there was an issue #99 where Captain America and Bucky got blown up by Baron Zemo and Bucky died, and then I went to San Diego Comic Con for the first time and I found out that didn’t actually happen and that Stan Lee and Jack Kirby had just decided not to bring Bucky back when they brought Captain America back. I was a big Bucky fan and I thought to myself, ‘If I ever get to write a Captain America comic, I’m going to bring Bucky back.’”

With the filmmakers settling on the storyline for the film, the ball was passed to screenwriters Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely who wrote the first film of the franchise,  “Captain America: The First Avenger.” Speaking about the writing duo, Feige says, “They’re great because they are well versed in the comics. They’re also just incredible screenwriters and very creative. They’ve got one foot outside of the comic world, one foot firmly inside the comic world, and in particular for ‘The Winter Soldier’ that’s what we were looking for. We were looking for a movie that could play to both groups of people—as we do with all of our movies—fans of the properties and people who don’t know them at all.”

For the seasoned writing partners, delving back into the world of Steve Rogers was a welcomed challenge. “We always loved the Winter Soldier because it’s a really cool character and an important piece of connective tissue, from past to present,” says screenwriter Christopher Markus. “Very early on Marvel was a little reticent because they wanted to potentially save the character for the third film or even beyond that. So we outlined a completely different movie without the character, which was fine, but it didn’t quite have the emotional power and levity that the Winter Soldier added. We knew there was this amazing story we could tell and we weren’t telling it, and then finally Kevin Feige came in and told us to go with the Winter Soldier storyline after all.”

“The Winter Soldier is like a negative image of Captain America,” says screenwriter Stephen McFeely.  “Steve Rogers was asleep for 70 years while the Winter Soldier was killing people for 70 years. One represents the government and the other has spent 70 years undermining governments, killing presidents and important political figures.”

Much like the first film, the screenwriters infused the script with strong character arcs rooted in emotion and heart. “We’ve been lucky that in both Captain America scripts, the stories naturally lent themselves to an emotional third act,” adds screenwriter Stephen McFeely. “In the first film Steve Rogers sacrifices himself for the good of others and in doing so, forgoes the opportunity to have a great loving relationship with Peggy Carter. I think it tugged at people’s hearts in a way that most Super Hero films don’t. With this film he’s also faced with the dilemma of trying to save a close friend, so there’s a lot at stake for him.”

For directors Anthony and Joe Russo, not having to deal with the character’s origin made developing the script and story much easier.  “The first ‘Captain America’ was an origin story that embraced the ’40s time period, but the movie ended with the character waking up 70 years later,” says Joe Russo. “I don’t know when the last time that happened in a film, but it allows this film to be unique in the pantheon of sequels over the last 20 or 30 years. In developing the script, it was really nice not having to spend 40 minutes getting to know the character and driving him to the point where he becomes the hero. It allows us to get right into the character’s current crisis as well as the character’s emotion and heart. I think there’s a great deal of depth to this script with a real emotional journey for Steve Rogers. There’s also a modernization of the character so that he thinks and fights more like a modern soldier.”

Adds Anthony Russo, “We thought what would happen if you took a guy who was ten times as strong and the best special ops soldier in the world and put him in today’s world? So now you have Captain America going on S.H.I.E.L.D. missions, which is basically the equivalent of working for the CIA. The screenwriters did an amazing job of taking this dynamic and writing a script that builds towards the conflict of the two main characters. It’s a really elegant script and very smart storytelling.”

With two years passing since the events in “Marvel’s The Avengers,” Steve Rogers has adjusted to the practical changes in his life, but the emotional ones are still causing conflict in his life. “What we really like about where you find him in this film is that it’s not really about catching him up on technology—we breezed through that pretty quickly because we thought that was the less interesting component of the character,” says Joe. “The more interesting component for us was psychologically how do you take somebody from the greatest generation and drop him into this generation, and where would there be conflict, and can that person understand the cultural pessimism that pervades everything we do now. Markus & McFeely wrote a great script and some of the best lines in the movie have to do with Cap’s point of view about that.”


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