Whether you’re a fan of the MCU or not, nobody can deny that at the very least, Avengers: Endgame is a triumph of organization and project management. This might be the most star-studded movie of all-time, and the mind boggles at the logistics of getting all these actors in the same place at the same time. In fact, I had assumed that getting everyone together in the same place would be so tricky that some key shots were assembled through digital compositing rather than getting this enormous cast together.
But, as revealed in new comments by the directors, they did indeed manage to assemble practically the entire cast in the same place for one of the movie’s final scenes. I’m talking of course about the very moving lakeside funeral of Tony Stark, in which practically the whole MCU turned out to pay their respects to the hero whose sacrifice saved the galaxy.
Here’s the pair on how they pulled it off:
“Once we conceived the shot, early on we realized we were going to get all of those people on set at the same. And we thought, we gotta do something really interesting that works with the story, to show the incredible amount of star power being together. It’s really an homage to the universe at that point, groups of characters from every franchise. Pretty staggering. So we conceived this one that made its way up from the flowers and Tony’s [arc reactor] all the way up to Nick Fury.
We rehearsed it the entire day before. Because you’re gonna get a group like that, and they’re gonna stand in front of a camera for about two hours without speaking. We knew we had a limited window to in which to execute the shot. We shot it at least 30 times with stand-ins, so the next day, when they got there after three or four hours of hair and make-up, you got everybody out there. I think it took about 10 takes. I don’t remember which one [made it into the final cut], but it was early, so it might have been take four or five.”
Then there’s the climactic final battle with Thanos, which they describe as the most difficult scene to film in the history of the MCU. I can only imagine the time it must taken to block out so many characters, each using their own superpowers against Thanos’ army, and each hero getting their moment in the limelight. That the scene makes sense on a spatial and narrative level is nothing short of astonishing.
Here’s their take on its filming:
“I’ll be honest, it was probably the hardest thing we did in all these films. The end of January 2018, after a year of shooting, we had to stop the third act of Endgame because we had to get Infinity War finished to release the movie. So we came back [this past] September, in the fall, and did two months of work on that ending. That third act was really down to the wire. Some of those last shots, actually the last shot that got delivered, was “I am Iron Man.” That was the last shot that came in from VFX. Interestingly enough, the last shot that we shot ever for Marvel, as directors, was “I am Iron Man.” And that was done in January, I think, when we did our traditional pick-ups.”
And finally, they reflected on the marathon shooting schedule of working on both this movie and Infinity War back-to-back:
“It was hard. It was very emotional, as you can imagine. To be able to work with these characters again after what’s happened was a very cathartic experience for us as filmmakers. When we set out to shoot these movies, we scheduled these movies back to back, which is a very unusual way to shoot movies. So we shot Infinity War, we literally went down for two weeks, and then we started shooting Endgame. The proper time between these movies would have been more than a year, if you’re doing it the normal way. So it was already a challenging way to approach it.”
Avengers: Endgame might be the Russo Brothers’ final MCU movie (for now, at least), but I hope they get a well-deserved holiday and a nice bonus from Disney. They’ve almost singlehandedly taken the MCU to new heights, and much of its current world dominance can be laid at their feet. I doubt they’ll get a nod come awards season, but they deserve some kind of recognition dammit.