As the lights dimmed in the Ray Stark Family Theater Wednesday, chatter faded away and all eyes were glued to the screen for two and a half hours of action and epic storytelling. Following a screening of the “Avengers: Infinity War,” the School of Cinematic Arts hosted a Q&A session with writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely.
The pair has also worked on many other Marvel favorites including all three “Captain America” films, “Thor: The Dark World” and the short-lived “Agent Carter” television series. Markus and McFeely got their start with the popular television film “The Life and Death of Peter Sellers,” for which they won an Emmy Award.
As the signature Marvel Cinematic Universe post-credits scene rolled, Markus and McFeely proceeded to the front of the room. The filmmakers first joked about their writing process and said they began by “writing down the names of everyone in the MCU and sticking them to the wall.” They discussed the rudimentary yet organic ways the story came to life, as well as how Marvel Studios creates original stories by taking ingredients from the comics and giving writers free rein over the direction of the franchise.
Markus and McFeely started their Marvel careers when they came together to write the first “Captain America” film. Having just left the “Narnia” franchise over a writers’ strike, the two wanted to do something new.
“We pitched for it for months … we even gave Kevin [Feige] money,” McFeely said.
When they eventually got the film, they had the difficult job of making Captain America seem “cool” for a modern audience.
According to Markus and McFeely, they worked well with directors Anthony and Joe Russo. No one claimed stake over the work, but they did joke about their initial skepticism over the choice of directors.
“The guys from television comedy — yeah good choice,” Markus said. That skepticism quickly disappeared when the Russo brothers filmed the elevator fight sequence in “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” in the first four days of production.
Before “Civil War” wrapped up, the Russo brothers approached Markus and McFeely about writing the next Avengers films: “Avengers: Infinity War” and “Avengers 4.” Upon accepting the offer, the two spent four months workshopping the basic plot and writing the two scripts, which they turned in one week apart.
On the topic of fake scripts, the two discussed how each of the film’s departments received altered versions of the scripts to avoid spoilers. In one funny case, the props department was not aware theirs was a decoy, so the crew brought six bananas instead of infinity stones to set.
As the Q&A session came to an end, the writers shared some tidbits on how “Avengers 4” will be connected to yet separate from “Avengers: Infinity War.”
Markus and McFeely also described writing the character of Captain America in “Avengers 4” as a difficult process because it was the first time they held him back. The two writers also hinted that the impact of the story’s failure on these heroes may not necessarily be traditional growths or anything good in “Avengers 4.” And they made sure to mention the status of Marvel’s beloved fallen heroes: “Dead is dead.”