Captain America: Civil War is a 2016 American superhero film based on the Marvel Comics character Captain America, produced by Marvel Studios and distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures. It is the sequel to Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) and Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014), and the 13th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). The film was directed by Anthony and Joe Russo from a screenplay by the writing team of Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, and stars Chris Evans as Steve Rogers / Captain America alongside an ensemble cast including Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Don Cheadle, Jeremy Renner, Chadwick Boseman, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Rudd, Emily VanCamp, Marisa Tomei, Tom Holland, Frank Grillo, Martin Freeman, William Hurt, and Daniel Brühl. In Captain America: Civil War, disagreement over international oversight of the Avengers fractures the team into two opposing factions—one led by Steve Rogers and the other by Tony Stark (Downey).
Development of Civil War began in late 2013 when Markus and McFeely began writing the screenplay, which borrows concepts from the 2006 comic book storyline “Civil War” while also focusing on story and character elements from the previous Captain America films to conclude the trilogy. Following positive reactions to The Winter Soldier, the Russo brothers were brought back to direct in early 2014. The film’s title and premise were revealed in October 2014, along with Downey’s involvement as Stark; additional cast members joined in the following months. Principal photography began in April 2015 at Pinewood Atlanta Studios in Fayette County, Georgia, and continued in the Metro Atlanta area before concluding in Germany in August 2015, with the film being the first to use IMAX’s digital 2D cameras (for the film’s central airport fight sequence). Visual effects were provided by nearly 20 different studios.
Captain America: Civil War held its world premiere at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles on April 12, 2016, and was released in the United States on May 6, as the first film in Phase Three of the MCU. The film was a commercial success, grossing over $1.1 billion worldwide, becoming the highest-grossing film of 2016, and received positive reviews, including praise for the performances (particularly Evans and Downey), action sequences, and themes. A fourth film, Captain America: Brave New World, is set for release in May 2024, which is a continuation of Marvel Studios’ Disney+ series The Falcon and the Winter Soldier (2021), following Mackie’s Sam Wilson as Captain America.
In March 2014, Anthony and Joe Russo confirmed that they had signed on to return as directors for a third Captain America film, along with Chris Evans as Captain America, Kevin Feige as producer, and Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely as screenwriters. Markus and McFeely had been working on the screenplay since late 2013, while the Russo brothers began work in February 2014. The re-hiring of the directors, three months before the release of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, came as a result of Marvel executives being impressed with test screenings of that film. Evans earned $15 million for the film.
In an April 2014 interview, Joe Russo described the project as a continuation of the story from Captain America: The Winter Soldier: “What’s nice about the film is that … it’s a two-parter. There’s a journey that the Winter Soldier goes on that isn’t complete yet.” That month, Marvel announced a release date of May 6, 2016, and Trent Opaloch, who was the cinematographer on The Winter Soldier, said he would return for the sequel. In July, Markus and McFeely stated that they were midway through a first draft for the film, on which principal photography was expected to begin in April 2015. The following month, they stated that they were looking to make the tone of the film “an amalgam” of The First Avenger and The Winter Soldier, with the Russos likening it to a psychological thriller, citing Seven, Fargo, and The Godfather as influences, along with westerns and Brian De Palma’s films. The Russos also stated that “a good portion of actually funnier than Winter Soldier” with a more comedic tone and lighter moments throughout.
In August 2014, the Russos stated that the film would be set “a couple years” after The Winter Soldier, and would continue to focus on Steve Rogers’ relationship with Bucky Barnes as well as the political themes related to Captain America. Anthony stated, “The character was invented for an explicitly political purpose. So it’s hard to get away from that nature.” The Russos also said that they would be “bringing some new elements to the table that will give us a twist on Winter Soldier”, and indicated that filming was scheduled to begin in Atlanta. They described themselves as “ecstatic” with a first draft of the screenplay submitted by Markus and McFeely, and also stated that the film’s title would be announced “in a month or so at most”, and that the concept and title for the film came from Feige, who had it “for a while”. In September, Joe expanded by saying the film would have another “big idea that alters the universe as a whole in some way” similar to S.H.I.E.L.D. falling in The Winter Soldier. The rest of the film, such as the characters, story, and tone, would be left open to the Russos’ and writers’ interpretations.
- Chris Evans as Steve Rogers / Captain America:
The leader of a faction of Avengers against regulation; a World War II veteran who was enhanced to the peak of human physicality and frozen in suspended animation, before waking up in the modern world. Director Anthony Russo described Captain America’s character arc in the film as taking “him from the most ra-ra company man” to someone who is “a somewhat willing propagandist” to “an insurgent” at the end of the film. Unlike the comics’ Civil War, the film was never going to kill Rogers, as the directors thought that was “an easy ending … The more difficult and more interesting place to leave a family fight is: can these important relationships ever be repaired? Is this family broken permanently?” Evans’ training regimen to get in shape for the role included weight lifting, which consisted of “the classic bodyweight and bodybuilding stuff”, gymnastics and plyometrics, while staying away from cardio-based exercises, along with a high-protein diet. His costume in the film received “subtle changes to all the details and cut” as well as its color, becoming a combination of the stealth suit from Winter Soldier and the Avengers: Age of Ultron suit.
- Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark / Iron Man:
The leader of a faction of Avengers in support of regulation; a self-described genius, billionaire, playboy, and philanthropist with electromechanical suits of armor of his own invention. Anthony Russo said that Stark’s egomania allowed the writers “to bring him to a point in his life where he was willing to submit to an authority, where he felt it was the right thing to do.” Joe Russo added that because of the visions Stark saw in Age of Ultron, he now has a guilt complex which “drives him to make very specific decisions,” calling his emotional arc “very complicated”. Downey’s personal trainer Eric Oram stated that the trick to pitting Rogers against Stark, “is to show Iron Man using the ‘minimum force’ necessary to win the fight”. Marvel initially wanted Downey’s part to be smaller, but “Downey wanted Stark to have a more substantial role in the film’s plot.” Variety noted that Downey would receive $40 million plus backend for his participation, as well as an additional payout if the film outperformed The Winter Soldier, as Marvel would attribute that success to Downey’s presence.
- Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff / Black Widow:
An Avenger allied with Stark; formerly a highly trained S.H.I.E.L.D. spy. Anthony Russo noted her torn allegiances in the film, saying “her head is with Tony’s side of things, but her heart is with Cap in a lot of ways.” Johansson added that Romanoff is “looking to strategize her position, putting herself in a place where she is able to let the powers that be fight it out” in order for her to “have a better perspective of what’s really going on.” Describing her character’s situation after the events of Avengers: Age of Ultron, Johansson said, “I think that the Widow’s past will always haunt her. She’s trying to move forward, she’s trying to pick up the pieces of her life.” She also said that Romanoff is at a point in her life where she can make choices herself, without having others have a hand in the decision process. On the continuation of the relationship between Romanoff and Rogers from The Winter Soldier, Joe Russo said that they wanted to “test it” by having Romanoff point out to Rogers the mistakes the team have made and convince him “that it might not be as black and white as he sees it” and that the Avengers must “find a way to work within the system so that [they] aren’t disbanded.”
- Sebastian Stan as Bucky Barnes / Winter Soldier:
A physically enhanced brainwashed assassin allied with Rogers; his best friend who reemerged after being thought to be killed in action during World War II. This portrayal is an amalgam of Barnes and the Winter Soldier, with Stan saying, “here’s the guy when you merge the two. This is what came out. To me, he’s never really going to be Bucky Barnes again. There’s going to be recognizable things about him, but his path through the [experiences of] Winter Soldier is always going to be there, haunting him.” Because of this, the character has more lines in the film than in Winter Soldier.
- Anthony Mackie as Sam Wilson / Falcon:
An Avenger allied with Rogers; a former pararescueman trained by the military in aerial combat using a specially designed wing pack. Wilson is aided by a robotic drone named Redwing. Discussing the relationship between Wilson and Rogers, Mackie said, “With Falcon and Cap, what’s so great is there’s a mutual respect. There’s a soldier respect. What’s great about … [Captain America: Civil War] is you get to see their relationship grow,” adding, “He respects and admires Cap because Cap earned his rank as opposed to sitting in an office and just delegating orders.” Joe Russo stated that the inclusion of Barnes to Rogers’ side forces Wilson to question the dynamic and relationship he has with Rogers going forward.
- Don Cheadle as James “Rhodey” Rhodes / War Machine:
A close personal friend of Tony Stark’s and an Avenger allied with Stark; an officer in the U.S. Air Force who operates the War Machine armor. Cheadle called Rhodes’ appearance in the film a “bit more intense and pivotal” compared to his previous appearances.
- Jeremy Renner as Clint Barton / Hawkeye:
A master archer allied with Rogers; a retired Avenger and S.H.I.E.L.D. agent. On Barton’s reasons for joining Rogers’ side, Renner said, “Cap was the first guy who called. Let’s just get the job done so I can get home to the family,” along with feeling an obligation to side with Wanda Maximoff, since her brother, Pietro Maximoff, sacrificed himself to save Barton in Avengers: Age of Ultron. On how he and Barton fit into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Renner said, “I’m happy to be the ensemble. I’m not scratching or clawing to do a solo movie by any means … I think [Barton’s] a utility guy that can bounce around into other people’s universes a little bit”.
- Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa / Black Panther:
The prince of the African nation of Wakanda allied with Stark who gains enhanced strength by ingesting the Heart-Shaped Herb. Producer Kevin Feige explained that the character was included “because we needed a third party. We needed fresh eyes who wasn’t embedded with the Avengers and who has a very different point of view than either Tony or Steve.” T’Challa is in the “beginning phases of taking on” the Black Panther mantle, and appears in more than a cameo, with a full arc and character journey with “his own conflict and his own people that he’s looking out for.” Boseman did not audition for the role, instead having a “discussion about what [Marvel] wanted to do and how I saw it and what I wanted to do.” T’Challa is torn between needing to live up to traditions and the legacy of his father and Wakanda, and how things need to happen in the present. Boseman developed the Wakandan accent himself, and used it during the entire production “whether he was on camera or not”, while the Wakandan language was based on the Xhosa language, which Boseman was taught by John Kani (who plays T’Challa’s father T’Chaka). The Black Panther costume is a combination of a practical costume and visual effects, featuring a vibranium mesh weave similar to chainmail. Costume designer Judianna Makovsky called the Black Panther costume “difficult” since “you needed sort of a feline body, but it’s hard and practical at the same time. You needed a feeling of some sort of ethnicity in there, but of a world [Wakanda] we weren’t really creating yet, so you didn’t want to go too far and say too much about that world.” Additionally, Makovsky felt creating T’Challa’s royal look was “a bit of a challenge”, avoiding African robes after learning actual African royalty are generally “educated in the West [and] get dressed in Savile Row.” Boseman signed a five-picture deal with Marvel.
- Paul Bettany as Vision:
An android and Avenger allied with Stark; created using the artificial intelligence J.A.R.V.I.S., Ultron, and the Mind Stone. Because the Vision was only created in the previous film, Age of Ultron, Bettany said, “you see my character get born… He must be both omnipotent and yet totally naive at the same time. And experiencing the world in real time and his place in it. Is he going to be a force of good or a force of evil?” Bettany also said he was interested in exploring “what it means to be human and what love is” with the character, as “The only way one can guarantee one’s loyalty is love.” This is exhibited in the connection Vision begins to form with Wanda Maximoff, with Bettany commenting, “They both have these new burgeoning powers that they don’t understand … I think he’s worried that they’re both dangerous. So he feels this real connection with her.” As the Vision has the ability to create a projected disguise, he chooses to dress similarly to Howard Stark’s attache, Edwin Jarvis.
- Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff:
An Avenger allied with Rogers; she can engage in hypnosis and telekinesis. According to Olsen, the character is “coming into her own and starting to understand and have conflict with how she wants to use her abilities.” As such, Maximoff’s costume was “relatively casual” and “more clothes-based than superhero-based” according to Makovsky, since the Russos believed Maximoff was not a full-fledged Avenger yet. When asked about the relationship between her character and the Vision compared to the comics, Olsen said, “You learn a little bit more about what connects [Scarlet and Vision] in this film. And I think there’s some really sweet moments between Paul and I, and it’s more about how they relate to one another and their similarities just based on their superpowers.”
- Paul Rudd as Scott Lang / Ant-Man:
A former petty criminal allied with Rogers; he acquired a suit that allows him to shrink or grow in scale while also increasing in strength. Rudd’s suit “is streamlined and more high-tech” than the one seen in Ant-Man. Ant-Man director Peyton Reed had discussed the character and the way that the Ant-Man production had shot certain sequences with the Russo brothers, saying, “As we were doing [Ant-Man] and we were in post and they were getting ready to head out to Atlanta to do Civil War, we had a lot of conversations … It’s important because there’s this continuity that has to happen in this universe.” On the decision to have Lang grow in size to become Giant-Man in the airport battle, Feige said, “It was just a great idea to turn the tide of the battle in a huge, shocking, unexpected way. We have a lot of ideas for [Ant-Man and the Wasp], none of which are contingent upon revealing Giant-Man, so we thought this would be the fun, unbelievable unexpected way to do that.” Anthony Russo added that the transformation was the continuation of Lang’s character arc from Ant-Man, saying “He’s just really impressed with Captain America, he just wants to deliver and he figures out a way to deliver where he might actually tear himself in half but he’s willing to do it and it works.”
- Emily VanCamp as Sharon Carter:
A former agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Peggy Carter’s niece who now works for the CIA and supports Rogers. VanCamp stated that her character sides with Rogers because they both have “similar moral compasses”. On a potential relationship between Rogers and Carter as in the comics, Evans said, “he’s certainly open to it. Sharon is obviously relevant, but … we don’t have to tie it up in one movie. So they have time.” VanCamp added, “We get to explore… I can’t say we are going to that extent of it, but they are certainly getting to know each other.”
- Marisa Tomei as May Parker: Peter Parker’s aunt.
- Tom Holland as Peter Parker / Spider-Man:
A teenager allied with Stark; he received spider-like abilities after being bitten by a radioactive spider. Feige said that Parker would be torn between superhero ideologies, saying, “Does he want to be like these other characters? Does he want nothing to do with these other characters? How does that impact his experience, being this grounded but super powerful hero? Those are all the things that Stan Lee and Steve Ditko played with in the first 10 years of his comics, and that now we can play with for the first time in a movie.” On aligning with Stark, Anthony Russo said that, despite entering the conflict after the two factions have formed and not having much political investment, Parker’s choice comes from “a very personal relationship” he develops with Stark. The Russos hoped “to take a very logical and realistic and naturalistic approach to the character” compared to the previous film portrayals. Anthony Russo added that the character’s introduction had to fit “that specific tonal stylistic world” of the MCU, as well as the tone established by the directors in Winter Soldier, saying, “It’s a little more grounded and a little more hard-core contemporary.” That was “coloring our choices a lot” with Parker. On the Spider-Man suit, Joe Russo described it as “a slightly more traditional, Steve Ditko influenced suit,” and that the film would explore the way the suit operates, particularly the mechanical eyes. Holland chose not to read the whole Civil War script in order to avoid potentially leaking plot information publicly. He was initially signed on for at least three films, not including his Civil War appearance. Holland later expanded, saying he was signed for “three Spider-Man movies and three solo movies”.
- Frank Grillo as Brock Rumlow / Crossbones:
Former commander of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s counter-terrorism S.T.R.I.K.E. team who was revealed to be an agent of Hydra. On returning to the character, Grillo said “He’s a badass. He is just vicious. I like the idea that it’s no holds barred. I was 15 pounds bigger when I did Cap 2, and I’ll put another 15 pounds on to do Cap 3.” However, he cautioned that “This movie is such a big movie with a lot of people in it, so you don’t get as much of the time that you’d like to have. Grillo stated that Rumlow’s main objective in the film is to seek revenge—”Whatever Rumlow was feeling as far as being torn between which side he should be on, which I think he was, is gone now.”
- Martin Freeman as Everett K. Ross:
A member of the CIA’s Joint Counter Terrorism Center and a character associated with Black Panther in the comics. Freeman described Ross as someone who “works for the American government … [and] works in conjunction with the superheroes, and certain agencies that help to tame the superheroes’ power”. Feige added that Ross would appear briefly in the film, with the intent being to expand on the character’s role in future films; Freeman signed a three-film contract, for this film, Black Panther (2018), and its sequel (2022).
- William Hurt as Thaddeus Ross:
The United States Secretary of State and a former U.S. Army general. Hurt, on returning to the MCU after appearing in The Incredible Hulk, said, “I don’t think it’s a reprise, I think it’s a new iteration completely,” adding, “what [the writers have] done is they’ve taken a character … and made a new version… a more modernized style.” Joe Russo added that Ross was the perfect character to use because he has “a fanatical anti-superhero point of view” and has “become much savvier and more political and has put himself in a position of power, not unlike a Colin Powell. He’s cornering the Avengers politically now, he’s out-maneuvering them.” Joe also added that Ross was included because the Russos felt it was important to make The Incredible Hulk “relevant again within the [MCU]” since it “may have been forgotten about a little bit”.
- Daniel Brühl as Helmut Zemo:
A Sokovian colonel-turned-terrorist who is obsessed with defeating the Avengers. Zemo, who goes by multiple names in the film, does not wear his signature mask from the comics. Brühl said the version appearing in the film is “loosely connected” to the character from the comics and that was a reason he liked Marvel, as “some of the characters and things they’re dealing with always reference to current events so my character is from a different area than you would think.” Feige described the character as “very much a product of the Cinematic Universe and all that has occurred within that universe up to this point”, while Anthony Russo called him “an everyman. His approach was: I’ve seen these guys fight enough to know I can’t win. But what I can do is figure out ways to undermine them. He’s emotionally driven and he finds a weak spot.” Brühl, who was cast due to his German accent, did not feel the role was a stereotype, saying, “It’s not a guy who’s mean and sinister, but he’s actually very clever—a very smart guy who does everything out of a very understandable reason and motivation.” Brühl also stated that Zemo may re-appear in future MCU films, with Moore adding that, while Zemo has a purpose in this film, it is more to set up a future film.
May 6, 2016
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