Captain America: Winter Soldier — Building The Cast: Robert Redford

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There have been many award-winning actors who have been showcased in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” continues the lineage with the casting of Academy Award® winner Robert Redford as Secretary Alexander Pierce, a top government official.

For Robert Redford, becoming part of the Marvel Universe is something that goes all the way back to his childhood. “When I was a kid, I read comic books and I imagined competing with Captain Marvel,” says Redford. “I loved them, but my parents were against me reading comics because they wanted me to read something ‘substantial.’ So I used to go into my closet with a flashlight and read them. They were a big part of my childhood and I can fully understand why that kind of animation and short storytelling is so appealing to a young kid. I think because of my love for comics, I went on to really appreciate literature in a greater sense.”

“The character was a smaller role, originally, and it developed over time,” says Joe Russo. “As it developed into something much bigger, we knew we would need an actor of significant heft to carry the part. Being film buffs and guys who grew up on 70’s thrillers, there’s a great symmetry in approaching Robert Redford for this film. The roots of ‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’ lie in ‘Three Days of the Condor.’ Cap goes on a similar journey as Redford’s character in that film and from a cultural standpoint we knew it would be incredibly exciting to see Redford in a comic book movie. Not to mention, he’s one of the coolest people you’ll ever meet.”

Anthony Russo adds, “Redford had great ideas for the part. He’s politically inclined, and he only responds to material that motivates him. So even though the movie’s this giant Super Hero tent pole film, and it’s unlike anything he’s done before, he gravitated toward the themes, and toward the character’s place in the world. Alexander Pierce is the head of the World Security Council and very close friends with Nick Fury. He’s Nick’s mentor. Pierce understands bureaucracy as well as anyone on the planet, and he tries to help Cap come to terms with his new place in the world.”

Explaining his character, Redford says, “My character, Alexander Pierce, is a minor character in the overall scheme of things, but considering the plot, he is an important one. I think there’s a certain amount of mystery that emerges about the guy that you don’t expect in the beginning. I like that. I like the fact that all is not revealed in the first part of the film, and when it is, it’s pretty strong and it affects the plot and it affects Nick Fury in a very major way. I like the idea also that Fury and my character are really close, and you have to sell the idea that that’s important. I like that challenge.”

Describing the relationship between Nick Fury and Pierce, Jackson says,  “They’ve been friends forever. Fury knows Pierce and he’s trusted him. They have a level of camaraderie, and in the service of their country they both had a like mind for a long time.”

For two of Hollywood’s most successful actors, working together for the first time was an experience they both found very rewarding.  “I like Sam,” says Redford. “Sam’s really a good actor. He’s done a lot of films and has many, many dimensions to him, which I think is wonderful.”

For Samuel L. Jackson, the feeling was mutual.  “I’ve been watching Robert Redford for a long time, and I’ve auditioned for films that he did and missed a couple opportunities to do some films that people offered me, so it was a great opportunity to stand there and actually work with somebody that I’ve admired for a very long time,” says Jackson.

Acting again with Robert Redford was a highlight for Scarlett Johansson, who last worked with him on “The Horse Whisperer” when she was 12 years old. “I was really just surprised that we were here working on this Marvel film with this different dynamic between us now. He’s such a class act and, of course, it was just like the old days. It brought me back 15 years. He was there in the trenches like the rest of us, working those long hours and delivering mouth-loads of dialogue, and he just plowed through it. It was as if Alexander Pierce was a character that he’d been playing for years.”

For the directing duo, working with Redford was a “dream, a career highlight.” Anthony Russo comments, “Pierce is a very complicated character and the great thing about having Robert Redford in the role is that when Pierce says something, it’s true, because Robert Redford is saying it. That was very useful in terms of the storytelling and the emotional and dramatic dynamics of the film.”

While Alexander Pierce and Nick Fury try to keep the world a peaceful place, a new threat comes into the fold that seems to be unstoppable—The Winter Soldier—a super-soldier who is the world’s greatest assassin. “Winter Soldier in the movie is perceived as a ghost ops character,” informs Joe Russo. “An infamous assassin that intelligence agencies throughout the world have never been able to identify; like Bigfoot, there are only blurry, inconclusive photos of his existence over an inexplicable 60-year period. The big reveal in the movie to Cap is that this ghost is his supposedly deceased best friend from World War II.”

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