The Russo Brothers on character sacrifices in Avengers: Infinity War

May 7, 2018 Jeff Goldsmith

Please enjoy the below excerpt from Backstory’s Avengers: Infinity War interview article with directors Anthony and Joe Russo from The Backstory Marvel Article Archive.


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***This excerpt is SPOILER HEAVY – please only read if you want SPOILER SPECIFIC insight***

The theme of self-sacrifice is prevalent in plenty of superhero flicks, but the Russos worked with Markus and McFeely to focus on a different type of sacrifice, that of losing someone you love to ensure the greater good in the universe. The act of sacrificing a loved one is discussed and occurs multiple times from varying points of view during Infinity War. Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) is asked by Vision (Paul Bettany) to destroy his Mind Stone if Thanos (Josh Brolin) comes for it, which would kill Vision; Gamora (Zoe Saldana) asks Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) to kill her so she won’t divulge where the Soul Stone is hidden; Thanos kills his stepdaughter Gamora to get the Soul Stone; and finally, Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) seemingly destroys half the lives in the universe to play out the one scenario wherein the Avengers can defeat Thanos. It’s a lot of death for one film, but it’s tied together amazingly well. “One thing we learned about these characters is we know these people are the first in line to sacrifice,” Anthony says. “They’ve gone through their growth arcs to put themselves first in line to sacrifice themselves. But how does it become more complicated when the choice becomes having to sacrifice someone you love for the greater good? It’s more complicated than just sacrificing yourself. That is definitely an idea we’re playing with: the willingness or the ability to do that—what does that say about them, and what does that mean to these characters?”

The weight of having Red Skull (Ross Marquand) forced into service as the keeper of the Soul Stone meant there would likely be no believable scenario where Thanos could get away with faking his love for Gamora. He truly had to love her as a daughter in order to sacrifice her. It’s something the directors successfully pulled off, and showing a tender side to the universe’s most powerful villain was no easy task. “I think he ascribed something to her—and God knows it might be incredibly personal, narcissistic love, but there’s some sense of love there,” Anthony says. “Who knows how to quantify love or what love actually means? But whatever the test was, he passed it. What’s interesting is that somewhere deep down inside of him still exists some semblance of humanity—which is not the correct term because he’s not a human but some semblance of optimism and hope. He has convinced himself this psychopathic mission he’s on is what’s required for the universe to survive. So he’s an incredibly complicated creature, Thanos. The mission of the movie was to make him as complicated as possible so that the audience felt conflicted feelings for him. You hate him, but he’s charismatic. He’s not wrong in that resources are not infinite, it’s just that his solution is psychotic.”

While the Russos have worked previously with much of the cast, this was their first time working with Saldana as Gamora but the actor easily connected with her character arc and death scene. “We had one talk with Zoe about what we required from her performance at the beginning of the shoot, and we rarely needed to direct her past that,” Joe says. “She understood the emotional stakes. She understood her paternal connection to Thanos was this love-hate relationship with an abuser. It created a level of truth for her that she could access for the rest of the shoot.”

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Backstory’s Marvel Article Archive includes feature length spoiler specific interviews with Avengers: Infinity War screenwriters Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely and directors The Russo brothers—plus read over 25 articles featuring interviews with the creators of past  films from the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

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