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'Captain America' screenwriters reflect on its tenth anniversary

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Captain America screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely reflect on the movie on its tenth anniversary.

Video Transcript

[MUSIC PLAYING]

KEVIN POLOWY: How did you guys first come into the Marvel fold? Like, how did that start with the very, very beginning?

CHRISTOPHER MARKUS: It started with a theoretical conversation before Marvel was even making movies, where we said, wouldn't it be neat to make a comic book movie starring a superhero at the time when they were actually created?

STEPHEN MCFEELY: Our agents said, hey, they're going to make a period Cap movie. Are you interested? And as Chris said, that rang a bell for us we had already been thinking about it. So we then chased Cap all year.

CHRISTOPHER MARKUS: It was a very collaborative process. It wasn't going-- Us going and going, this is our take on Captain America. If you don't like it, we got to go.

STEPHEN MCFEELY: And remember, like, these are early days for that studio, right? Like it's-- There's just six people in the whole building. Like, they're above a car dealership. They're not the Marvel we think of now.

KEVIN POLOWY: Are you guys present for any of the infamous Cap auditions? I mean, did you see anybody else? Like, did you see John Krasinski or Wyatt Russell go out for the part?

CHRISTOPHER MARKUS: I think we saw Sebastian Stan go up for it, if I remember. I mean, they didn't have a Cap for a long time. So we were drafts. They had a production office--

STEPHEN MCFEELY: With various pictures of other actors wearing-- Like, you know, because they would do sketches, you know? The costumes, and sometimes they'll just pick an actor and put them in the-- put them in the costume. And maybe it's a wish fulfillment thing or something. So I remember a lot of Jake Gyllenhaal as Cap costume pictures, you know?

KEVIN POLOWY: What did Sebastian's Cap look like?

CHRISTOPHER MARKUS: Well, he carried some of what he carried into Bucky, which then carried into Winter Soldier, which is he has a darkness to him. That's a more troubled Steve Rogers than I was counting on. But we do have a guy who could be trouble right over there. His troubled-ness has played off in spades.

KEVIN POLOWY: I would say so. Bucky, I mean, basically a glorified sidekick at this point. Let's be honest, maybe not even that that glorified in this film.

But I know Sebastian Stan, what-- He was multi contract, right? So how did you envision his future? Like, were there plans in place for him at that point to ultimately become as essential to the MCUs?

STEPHEN MCFEELY: Again, remember, we're the-- This is Marvel where there are no guarantees, right? Where even we are going, really, you're going to make the Avengers? I hope-- I don't know if that's going to work out. So the idea of that, well, you know, we locked him up for nine movies because we absolutely knew. You know, I think Sebastian Stan was at a level of acting where you could lock him up for nine movies.

You know? Like, it's not like he had-- You know, he was early in his career, right? I knew that he was a haunted sort of actor that could play a Winter Soldier. But like, we did not assumed that there was a Captain America 2.

CHRISTOPHER MARKUS: He's very haunted, like a-- like a vet would be. Like a-- you know, like someone who's been in a prison camp would be. And it's, I mean it's fascinating when you think about the fact, later on that we say that Zola may have experimented on him. But it's also this great contrast to eager beaver Steve who isn't having-- You know, it's not taking the toll on Steve that it's taking on regular guys.

KEVIN POLOWY: Tell us about the first time you met Chris Evans. I assume you had a script in place at that point when he came on. How did he influence or sort of reshape it in any way?

CHRISTOPHER MARKUS: I do think he was very conscious of not wanting snark. It was a very good understanding of Captain America, which is that, if this guy is going to fly, as a character and as an authority figure eventually, he's got to have the gravity sort of right away, no matter what the situation. Which is what we all came to realize, is that Steve Rogers was born Captain America.

He just didn't have the body for it. And Evans got that. And it was like, I don't want-- You know, I think he may have taken a joke or two out, is what I remember.

KEVIN POLOWY: How would you say that the script for first Avenger changed most dramatically from your first draft to what we saw on the screen?

CHRISTOPHER MARKUS: There was a huge, hydro robot.

STEPHEN MCFEELY: Oh yeah.

CHRISTOPHER MARKUS: It was a large chunk of the third act, was Cap fighting this big robot.

STEPHEN MCFEELY: Panzer Max. He was alongside Red Skull.

CHRISTOPHER MARKUS: He belonged to the Red Skull. This giant super robot, Nazi super robot.

STEPHEN MCFEELY: I braves to Cairo.

CHRISTOPHER MARKUS: But I think eventually it was a budget and time thing, where it was like, we really can't be spending that much time.

KEVIN POLOWY: Well, we must hit on the most important issue with this movie. Did you guys at least ever talk about Cap losing his virginity in this?

STEPHEN MCFEELY: I think he loses his virginity. Why do people think he's a virgin? I think if you look like that and you're going city to city and you're signing autographs--

KEVIN POLOWY: Right.

STEPHEN MCFEELY: --for the likes of the ladies that he's signing the autographs for, I got to imagine that.

CHRISTOPHER MARKUS: Yeah. And, I mean, the thing to remember is Steve Rogers isn't a prude. He may be occasionally presented that way, but he's-- he's a guy who believes in right and wrong and all these things, but he's not a choir boy. He's a World War II veteran.

KEVIN POLOWY: I'm just telling you, you guys-- You guys said it. It's canon now.

CHRISTOPHER MARKUS: And I'm going to say it right now. We shot it, we filmed it, we have it.

KEVIN POLOWY: The film was being developed in the Middle East. The US, just in terms of the sort of sociopolitical climate. US still deeply engaged militarily, right, in the Middle East? George W. Bush is facing accusations of lying over WMD's that got us there.

I mean, it was so heavy on our minds that, at the time, Kevin Feige was being asked if he was, like, worried about anti-American sentiment affecting the film's global reach. You guys were brought on right around the time of the '08 election. I mean, do you ever remember that being, like, a concern on your side?

CHRISTOPHER MARKUS: Only theoretically, of people going-- Are people in-- You know, pick your country. Are people in Italy are going to go see "Captain America"? Or are they going to go, we've had enough of America. To the point where in a lot of foreign territories it was called "Captain America: The First Avenger".

STEPHEN MCFEELY: You're right. It's called that here, but it-- And they did that very much on purpose. They had that-- that hyphened title, with the idea that every country could decide which was the title and then which was the subtitle. And I believe only three countries took them up on flipping it. But I think-- I certainly think people were aware that it may not be the-- a great selling point.

CHRISTOPHER MARKUS: It quickly became apparent that almost as it is in the comics, people don't link Cap with the country, with the government. He's the theoretical spirit of America, which everybody can agree was probably a good idea.

- You gonna OK?

- Yeah. Yeah, I just--

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- I had a date.

KEVIN POLOWY: How good that last line on paper? Because it obviously, ultimately, became pretty iconic. I had a date.

STEPHEN MCFEELY: I don't have an emotional attachment to the Times Square scene. I have an attachment to the Peggy and they're-- and the going down radio scene.

- Just be there.

- You'll have the band play something slow.

STEPHEN MCFEELY: That's, for me, the end of the movie in many ways. And then the next chunk is, how we get to the Avengers. We never know what's going to be iconic, so it's not like we-- We don't-- We don't put that on the board and go, they'll be talking about that one. You know?

KEVIN POLOWY: It's obvious that Steve Rogers would inevitably evolve over the course of a decade and however many film appearances, at least seven. Just looking back at that character now, 10 years later, obviously you guys-- you guys formed his essence in that film. How do you see him sort of then versus how he ultimately wrapped up his story in "End Game"?

STEPHEN MCFEELY: He matured in a way that not many characters get to do on screen. That he got to make sort of informed personal growth decisions over the course of blockbuster movies. Which seems weird to say, but like, I think psychologically, he's pretty healthy.

CHRISTOPHER MARKUS: What's interesting is he makes-- They're mostly healthy decisions, but he makes increasingly-- I don't want to say selfish, but--

STEPHEN MCFEELY: They're self-interested. I mean, but again, being a healthy person sometimes means doing what's right for you.

CHRISTOPHER MARKUS: It's incredibly satisfying to look back on it as a whole, as a-- as something with a beginning, middle, and an end. You know, how often you get something with a beginning and an end? Like, I mean, a character.

It feels like you wrote a series of books or a TV show. I'd say it's more satisfying than any one movie, is that, like, there is this track-able life until he's 100-something-years-old. That he's there and works pretty damn well.

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