By Jeff Otto | The Playlist July 17, 2011 at 2:03AM
Paramount and Marvel clearly have high hopes and strong confidence in their forthcoming release of “Captain America: The First Avenger,” which hits screens July 22nd. They’ve already deployed screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely to begin work on a sequel, which will most likely follow the release of Joss Whedon’s ambitious “The Avengers” movie in 2012.
The Playlist spoke with McFeely and Markus this afternoon about their plans for the sequel and how the modern-day setting and “The Avengers” will affect the cinematic future of the muscle-bound man in red, white and blue.
Were you given a list of things that had to be in 'Cap' to connect it with “The Avengers”?
Marcus: Not really. Because we’re chronologically first, we didn’t have to pick up any threads. We planted a couple. We have Howard Stark, we have an Asgardian object. The main writing challenge was, because we knew we had to put him in a deep freeze at the end in order to get him out for 'Avengers,' he had to be a fully-fledged vet by the time he went into the water. You couldn’t just do your classic origin story where they have one fight and look to the future where they will hone their skills and become a great hero. He had to be Cap, the world’s greatest leader, by the end of the movie.
McFeely: And have the story open-ended enough that if you wanted to go back and tell another WWII story in whatever capacity, you could still do it. There are more adventures that you didn’t see.
You guys are writing the sequel now. How much do you have to hold off on aspects of the storyline and see what happens with the “The Avengers?”
McFeely: We read “The Avengers,” so unless things are changing on set, we have a sense of what Joss is doing with the Steve Rogers character and what he’s doing with the universe. But, you know, the sequel isn’t for sure. It depends on how well this is received and we’re hopeful. It’s sort of in the outlying “What If?” stages now.
Marcus: In a way, it’s a lot like how the comics function. 'Avengers' comes out with like two other 'Cap' titles every month. They all work together in way, but they’d be fighting 24 hours a day if you really parsed out the time. All of these things can exist together.
I know you can’t say who the villain is and maybe you haven’t fully decided, but do you guys have a short list of Cap villains you’d like to tackle should this franchise go on for a few sequels?
Marcus: Oh yes, there are some very sweet targets out there.
Can you mention a few names without necessarily confirming their inclusion in this sequel?
SM: Ohhhhh... (Laughs). You know the names.
You’re not going to say them though, I get it.
We know the sequel will be present day, but you mentioned these past adventures we didn’t see. Can you expand on that?
McFeely: When we sit down with Marvel every couple weeks, that’s what we talk about. Is it all present day? Is there a flashback structure? Is that what people want to see? I think there’s a great way to do both and to make sure that you’re not taking away from the story itself. But I think there’s value to it. I mean, that’s what separated Cap from all the other comic book heroes. The things that have affected him in the past sometimes crop up in the present, whether that’s emotionally, whether that’s an actual villain or a MacGuffin or whatever.
You’ve mentioned that the period setting was one of the primary elements that appealed to you about writing a “Captain America” movie. Did that give you pause any pause on agreeing to this largely modern day sequel?
McFeely: Oh, now that we’re out of our element? (Laughs)
That, and the fact that he’s got this Gung-ho Americana persona and, especially at the beginning, there has to be an element of mockery or, at the very least, cynicism around that kind of attitude.
Marcus: Now that he’s well established, I’m actually looking forward to taking him into the modern world because we don’t have to sort of give short shrift to WWII and, you know, back-explain it. I don’t think it will be like “Encino Man” where Cap’s holding a cell phone and going, “What the hell is this?”
God, I hope not.
Marcus: But that’s the Cap people know. By and large, people know Cap from ’63 on. He’s the man out of time, so we are looking forward to giving people the Cap that more or less dominated the comics for the last 50 years. We liked the fact that Marvel was willing to do both.
Assuming this opens and succeeds, it seems likely you might have the chance to tackle some other comic characters. Are there other characters you’d be interested in?
Marcus: There’s a lot out there. Whether or not they can sustain a movie and more than 200 people have signed onto their fan clubs is a different question. We feel some possessive of Cap and we’ve done a franchise before, so our goal was not just to jump around franchises. We chased this one because it was Cap and we were really intrigued by the character. We’re not intrigued by all characters. We were intrigued by this one.
We’ll have more from The Playlist’s exclusive interview with screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely on Captain America this coming week. "Captain America: The First Avenger” hits theaters July 22nd.