When Avengers: Infinity War writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely dusted half of the universe – and half of the Avengers – at the end of the film, audiences the world over suddenly knew: anything was possible now. The duo had done what few other blockbuster film writers had done before: massacred multiple popular characters in the blink of an eye (or, as it were, the snap of some fingers).
While most fans knew some of those deaths were likely to be reversed, the countdown to Avengers: Endgame has been filled with as much dread as excitement. The question on everyone’s mind: Who else were Markus and McFeely going to off?
The writers were, as expected, not going anywhere near that question when they both spoke with Rotten Tomatoes ahead of Endgame’s release. But they did reveal the places where they’ve drawn some deadly inspiration.
Joel Meares for Rotten Tomatoes: You guys have totally broken the world’s hearts, and fans expect you might do it again. But what TV or movie deaths have affected you the most?
Christopher Markus: I mean, the most prominent killers of our popular culture today – they’re not killing the popular culture – but it’s Game of Thrones. I still feel disturbed about… what’s his name?
Stephen McFeely: Pedro Pascal.
Markus: When Pedro Pascal died versus the Mountain. Yeah, that wasn’t supposed to happen. That was very disturbing.
McFeely: The easy answer for me is the Han Solo in Carbonite. I was not quite prepared for the movie to end that way.
Rotten Tomatoes: You guys have adapted C.S. Lewis with the Narnia films, and worked with the characters of Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, and Marvel here. What’s your approach to working with such storied and beloved works?
McFeely: As you said we sort of dealt with it in Narnia. We try to put aside the pressure and the obligation in a way and just try to satisfy us as fans and writers. Assuming that the 12-year-old Steve would appreciate this, then perhaps other 12-year-olds would – or 82-year-olds.
Markus: I think if you have respect for the underlying material then you just have to go forward and trust that you’re not going to betray it. If you find yourself with a writing gig where you don’t respect the underlying material, you might want to think about not doing it.
Rotten Tomatoes: The beloved character you’ve worked with the most is Cap’. [The duo co-write all three Captain America movies.] Did you want to give him – regardless of what happens in the movie – some kind of special moment, sendoff, or closure?
Markus: I mean, I definitely have a special affinity for him. He’s a guy who we’ve put through a lot of hell and [Chris] Evans does a great job of showing that on his face. He certainly… I don’t want to say he looks tired, [but] I want to say he looks like there’s is a battle-weariness to him. And I find it very satisfying to sort of think of all of that while putting him through yet another trial, like Hercules.
Rotten Tomatoes: So, we know that the movie is just over 3 hours long, which makes us wonder: How many pages was your screenplay?
Markus: Well, [the length of the script] varies depending on how elaborately we described the action. The script actually gets longer as we’re in production, because we need – for the service of various departments – to really describe things that we wouldn’t ordinarily describe. So it does tend to balloon at a certain point in an unrealistic manner. I would say the operating script was, what, 130 pages?
McFeely: 130, yeah.
Markus: Yeah, that’s probably where we started. We generally assume a page a minute and so we try not to turn in things that are much more than 120 pages. It just was everyone understood it was going to be perhaps a little bigger. Our first drafts were undoubtedly bigger than that, you know? But as we got closer to production and we made hard choices it was probably 130.
Rotten Tomatoes: Speaking of the script… there was a lot of talk last year when the Academy announced they were going to do an Achievement in Popular Film category [which never went ahead], that they should instead honor stuntwork. And we’ve seen recently that more popular movies, like Black Panther and Mad Max, are getting Oscar recognition, as are their directors and the people who work on costumes, special effects, music… Given the feat you’ve pulled off balancing so many storylines and characters in Infinity War and Endgame, do you think writers of movies like these deserve more awards recognition than they get?
Markus: [Laughing] I’m glad you’ve asked the question. I feel if I answer it too honestly I’ll look like a jerk! My hope is that whether or not people realize it now, I think people later might look back at the Marvel Cinematic Universe and hopefully they’ll look at the last four we’ve done with the Russos. That’s pretty special storytelling. This cumulative serialized storytelling and the high-wire act that it required of all of us is pretty special.
I think to maintain a certain level of character within that, so it’s not just a series of explosions… Far be it from me to say what recognition it deserves, but I would love the Academy to be perhaps less knee-jerk in its lack of recognition. I would just say, you know, in all categories, these movies re incredibly hard work. For the industry to write them off as a puff piece seems to deny the incredible amount of technical labor that the people making the movies are putting in. They seem to me a much higher bar to achieve than your average drama. So, there you go.
Avengers: Endgame is in theaters April 26, 2019