Outside of the Avengers films, Captain America: Civil War is arguably Marvel’s most ambitious project to date in their Cinematic Universe. A crossover movie that also tells a personal story of friendship between Steve Rogers and Bucky Barnes is no small feat, which is why it hardly comes as a surprise to learn that Captain America 3 was never supposed to be include the Civil War storyline in the beginning.
Speaking with i09, Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige and Civil War co-writers Stephen McFeely and Christopher Markus admitted that Cap 3 was originally supposed to build upon the relationship between Cap and the Winter Solider that was established in the previous film, but that other developments in the MCU at large convinced them to take things in a more ambitious direction.
“We developed Captain America 3 knowing we wanted to continue the Bucky story,” Feige tells io9. “Is Bucky going to get his mind back? What is Bucky struggling with, after the tag scene on Winter Soldier, and how does Steve’s desire to save Bucky bring him into conflict with something else, thinking about how do the sins of his past sort of affect him? And [writers] Chris [Markus] and Steve [McFeely] came up with a number of cool plots that could’ve worked, but none of them were feeling worthy of a follow up to Winter Soldier.”
“Even before Civil War came down the pike, we were already working on the Bucky part of it all,” says Stephen McFeely. Christopher Markus adds, “Do you put [Bucky] away for a while? Do you bring him back? And how do you not tread the same ground? It would be very easy to bring Winter Soldier back and fight him again. We plotted out a movie that wasn’t Civil War, but that had sort of the central spine that you still see, with Zemo and Bucky and a couple of the set pieces. And the further you probe into the effects of the Winter Soldier on the [Marvel Cinematic Universe], by not bringing in other people, we’re actually ignoring content.”
Although Marvel expanded the size and scope of Captain America 3 quite significantly in pre-production, they quickly realized that it would be quite a difficult task to pull a good Civil War storyline off.
“I thought, if we’re going to do Civil War, which I always wanted to do, this is the time to do it,” explains Feige “All we have to get is this this, this and this. ‘Okay, well the odds of that are very slim.’ ‘Okay, but if we could, what would it be?’ Chris and Steve started to chart out various versions of the movie. [Versions] without Iron Man, [versions] without Spider-Man—but we’re very lucky we got to make the whole one. The one we really wanted do.”
One need only look at how difficult it was to lock down Robert Downey Jr. — who’s a big star and would need a role much larger than a cameo to make his inclusion worthwhile — and the maneuvering required to get Sony to agree to let them use Spider-Man to grasp how miraculous a film Civil War actually is.
“It was not an easy path to get this film to the screen,” admits co-director Joe Russo. “There were a lot of things on this movie we [needed], to will it into existence. [One was] Downey.”
“Then you’re like, well, we should call this thing Civil War,” adds Markus. “Because we just brought the two biggest MCU characters into conflict. You don’t want to blow it off in a scene and [have them] go ‘One day’.”
If there’s ever a Captain America 4, it’s difficult to see how Marvel would ever be able to top themselves with Civil War. Then again, they thought the same thing with Winter Solider and judging by early some early reviews, they more than pulled it off.