Captain America: Winter Soldier — Character’s Looks

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With the production completing its first week of production in stellar fashion, the cast and crew got its first look at Chris Evans in the new Captain America stealth suit. For Evans the look and feel was a big improvement from “Marvel’s The Avengers.” “The new suit is great and I really love it,” says Evans. “It’s this kind of cool navy blue that looks really utilitarian and moves very well, which really makes shooting the film a much more enjoyable experience.”

“Marvel is efficient and organized and there is an incredible design team here that works hand in hand with the costume department,” comments Joe Russo. “Costume designer Judianna Makovsky did an exceptional job on this film. It was very important to us that the costumes have as much texture and grounding as they could.”

“We wanted Cap’s outfit to feel like it had a Kevlar component to it that would protect him; functional body armor, not a costume,” adds Anthony. “If he were going into combat situations in the real world, what would he be wearing? Military armor.”

Marvel’s internal visual developer Ryan Meinerding elaborates on the process of bringing Captain America stylistically into present day. “For Captain America’s stealth suit, a lot of it came down to taking another suit from the comics—the super soldier suit —and just trying to make that into a reality,” says Meinerding. “We don’t usually try to take too many liberties with the costume design, so when the comics present a more realistic take on a look, we just usually jump on that and make it a reality. The stealth suit is a little bit easier in terms of design because it’s not as brightly colored and it’s a little darker.”

Meinerding continues, “With a traditional Captain America suit you’re dealing with red white and blue and stars and stripes and it really becomes all about the midsection which makes it’s hard to draw your eyes anywhere else. With the stealth suit you have stripes and the star across the chest, which really makes him look broad and big without really having to work too hard at it. It’s actually kind of an easier costume to work on than a traditional Captain America costume and I think it’s a really great look for him.”

Commenting on Captain America’s look this time around, Kevin Feige says, “We like giving him an unmistakably contemporary outfit for much of the movie to represent his new role in the new era in which he’s found himself and is forced to live in, working alongside the other agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. It’s sleeker; it’s a little tighter and it’s much more modern.”

Another challenge for the filmmakers was creating the look and design of its newest Super Hero, Falcon. A longstanding and beloved character in the comics, Falcon’s look in the comic books was one that the filmmakers knew would have to be updated.

“If you look back at the older characters, they are typically a bit harder to design because it usually doesn’t work to just straight up use references from the comics,” explains Ryan Meinerding. “Joe and Anthony were really interested in trying to add more of a tactical design to the Falcon costume. So we incorporated a lot of real world webbing, straps and gear. So we ended up taking the iconic parts and just stripping away the more ridiculous parts that would never work in modern day.”

The look really worked for Anthony Mackie who laughingly confesses, “Every time I put on the costume, I just want to go outside and smack some bad guy. So that’s what’s a little weird to me. It’s like being this Super Hero for real. But I don’t think I could be a Super Hero in real life because I’m pretty sure I would be a bad guy; I would use my abilities for the right reasons but in the wrong way. If I could fly in real life, it would be a big problem for everybody involved.”

For directors Anthony and Joe Russo, the look and feel of Falcon’s costume was a very important component of how the character was framed in the film. “In the story, the halls of power have become corrupted and that’s what Captain America is having a problem with when the movie begins,” says Joe Russo. “So he finds this character far away from the halls of power, which is Sam Wilson, an everyman who has a very specific and unique talent and has access to some very interesting technology.”

“It was important that Sam was grounded as a character and that the technology was vaguely plausible, that it responded in some way to the rules of physics, so that the character would fit into the tone of this movie,” continues Anthony. “It was also important that his abilities be unique and special. It’s not the suit that’s special; it’s him. It was paramount that the magic in the suit isn’t its wings and thrust. The magic is in how Sam uses it. That’s what helped define the choreography of how he flies, how he uses both air and thrust to maneuver. He’s a human fighter jet.”

Although Mackie did not do any specific training or any skydiving to play the airborne Falcon, he did work out a regimen that simulated the feeling of flight. “I did a lot of diving into swimming pools,” says Mackie. “I would go up 10-feet, 20-feet and dive off of diving boards, just to get that feeling. At certain heights water is very forgiving, and at other heights it’s not. So I had to figure out where that threshold was to where I could enter the water. That helped me a lot.”

“We flew Anthony Mackie quite a bit,” says stunt coordinator Thomas Robinson Harper. “Once we hit our stride we could fly him from 70-feet in the air and land him on this little tape mark and he would walk right out of the wires and into the scene. It took a little bit of time to figure the rigs out and bring Anthony up to speed, but he’s athletic as well and super coordinated. So it worked out real well that he played the character as it made our job so much easier.”

All of Mackie’s and the production team’s hard work paid off when the filmmakers saw the finished look of The Falcon, Marvel’s first African American Super Hero character to the hit the big screen. Feige says of Anthony Mackie, “It’s a very important mantle to put on when you take on any beloved Marvel character, and the Falcon is one of the most beloved Marvel characters going back for years and years. So it’s always a big responsibility for us to find the right actor. One of the ways we know they’re the right actor is when they realize what a responsibility it is, and Anthony Mackie embraced this part right alongside all of the great actors that have inhabited our world.”

The Winter Soldier’s costume did not present the same challenges for the filmmakers because it was so well conceived in the comic books. “The Winter Soldier design is so good in the comics that we didn’t think we could improve upon it, so it was more about bringing that costume from the pages to the big screen,” says Anthony Russo. “Barring a few tweaks we all felt like the Winter Soldier is a great contemporary character design that was very translatable.”

Recalling the first time he saw the Winter Soldier, Frank Grillo says, “There was something oddly real when I saw Sebastian Stan as the Winter Soldier. There’s something kind of dark and menacing and unknowing about him and it actually was a frightening thing just to see on set. I don’t think there is an antihero in any of these films quite like the Winter Soldier.”

Comments Sebastian Stan, “It was a really cool experience for me to walk onto the set wearing the Winter Soldier costume and seeing everyone’s reaction. Thankfully everyone liked the look as it looks just like the character in the comic books. I think you also have to credit Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting because they conceptualized a really cool costume in the comic books.”

Although there were different costume designers on this film, Black Widow’s famous suit remained relatively the same. Describing it, Johansson says, “I get a couple of flashier panels on this one. Each costume designer wants to put their stamp on the suit, of course, but the suit above all things needs to be functional. The seams have to be a specific way and the fabric has to move a specific way. I have probably the most comfortable suit of anybody; I can’t really complain. It’s kind of like a wetsuit. For this film, the costume designer went black and it’s got those real sleek leather panels. It’s a little bit sharper and a little bit more fashionable and not as utilitarian as the last suit.”

In this film, however, Johansson does not spend a lot of time in her suit, opting for functional street clothes in many scenes. Remarking on her look, Johansson says, “What was interesting to me was to be able to create the look that Black Widow has as Natasha. Like, who is Natasha outside of her costumes, her disguises, her suit, what does she look like regularly? What does she look like day to day? We decided she definitely drives a black Corvette and she definitely wears tailored leather jackets, with very sleek no muss, no fuss, no fancy anything. Everything’s just badass and simple.”

Explaining the evolution of her costuming, Johansson says, “Working with Jon Favreau, it was very much about creating that iconic first look. Then Joss Whedon wanted the punches to hurt and he wanted to see the sweat and he wanted to see the battle. In this film, we really see Black Widow as a very functional character who is fighting to survive. That gets you out of that posey world to begin with because there’s no time to stop and strike a pose.”

For this film, Johansson also went with a new look for her hair. “I think that the look should change as we change over a couple of years and certainly the last look was a bit more of that kind of ‘Ultimates’ look and this time around I wanted it to be a bit more contemporary and maybe have a little bit of a late ’90s reference that’s come back, which I feel is relevant to today’s trend,” says Johansson. “But the red is always fun to play with—to find the deeper tones and the things that flash and what’s going to look good for all that movement.”

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