Russo Brothers Reveal How The Gray Man Connects to Captain America: The Winter Soldier

The Gray Man is making its way to Netflix later this month. Releasing in July of 2022 was not how this one would have gone if Anthony Russo and Joe Russo had more free time on their hands in the past decade, though. The directing duo began adapting Mark Greaney's novel while working on 2014's Captain America: The Winter Soldier. From there, Marvel Studios asked them to come back for not one, not two, but three massive ensemble films which consumed their schedules through 2019's Avengers: Endgame. Now, the directing duo has their Netflix title ready for release and they spoke to ComicBook.com about the project which reunites them with Captain America star Chris Evans.

"We read it years ago while we were making Winter Soldier, and we actually I did the first adaptation of it in between takes while we were directing Winter Soldier as a potential movie to direct after we were done with it," Joe Russo explained. "But then we got asked to do Civil War and then Avengers, so we put this on the shelf for a few years." 

As the story goes, working on The Gray Man while directing The Winter Soldier is how Joe and Anthony Russo came up with the idea of showing him as a villainous character who is quite the opposite of the Marvel hero Evans is best known for. "Getting to work with Chris for so many years through those four movies on that specific character of Captain America was such a thrill," Anthony Russo said. "But of course, you know, we started to develop a sense of Chris is like, you know, his capacity as an actor clearly goes way beyond all the wonderful things he brought to that character. And we wanted to do something with him that, like, brought him as far away from that character as you possibly could. I don't know if you could get farther away from Captain America than the character he plays in The Gray Man."

Evans fully "embraced the role," for The Gray Man, Joe Russo explained with pride. he embraced that. "He understood the assignment and he ran really hard at this notion that he was an agent of chaos," Joe Russo said.

"Also, you know, Chris is a very sophisticated filmmaker, not just a sophisticated actor," Anthony Russo added. "He understands storytelling on every level. And he knew that the entire movie is designed around a conceit where the character that Ryan Gosling plays and the character that he plays are polar opposites. And the more we could push those two characters, the further from one another that we can get those two characters in terms of their qualities and their energy, the more interesting the movie would be."

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Fittingly, The Gray Man brings the directors back together not only with Evans who starred in the beloved Winter Soldier film but also its scribes, Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely. "It's easy for the four of us to get together and work together," Joe Russo said. "We codified a process that we built our company AGBO around and it's a process we employ with everyone we work with here. That's a very disciplined, you know, script focused approach to storytelling. It's something we used with the Daniels for Everything Everywhere All at Once where they would work on the script and then come sit with us in a room and we would all read it out loud together and talk about the narrative. 'Hey, what if this happened here? What if there was more emotion there?' That's our process of of story development. So we found that it can be applied to commercial or arthouse or, you know, drama, comedy, whatever it is that you want to do."

Those disciplines were applied to The Gray Man, a film which pits Ryan Gosling against Evans as a some international assassins hunting one another down. When Gosling's Court Gentry stops listening to and starts questioning the authorities directing him, Evans' Lloyd Hansen is brought in to clean up the mess. It's a story pulled straight from Greaney's novel with some creative liberties taken for what Markus, McFeely, and the Russo Brothers thought would make for the best film on Netflix. "We like to be inspired by the material because we want to bring our own flavor to it, our own ideas to it, our own thematics to it," Joe Russo said. "We loved this book. It was incredibly propulsive when we first read it."

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