In the past, you both have discussed how audiences are increasingly seeking out "event-size" films. The scale of 21 Bridges is right there in the title -- it's a lot bridges. Did you think of this movie as a way to event-size the traditional cop thriller?
Anthony Russo: We're really into New York films and New York City itself. The concept that you could close Manhattan completely was such a risible and epic concept. It's one that I can't remember ever hearing, but it also sounds plausible. It sounds like there could be a scenario where you would accept it. So there's clearly a grandeur to that concept that's relatable and exciting, and I think that was part of the appeal to the movie for us from the get go. And, yeah, giving the audience a unique experience when they go to the movie theater is part of it; again, to bring audiences to the theater you've got to be bringing something to the table that's very singular and unique. You've gotta give them a reason to leave the house. With 21 Bridges we aspire to give the audience that type of experience.
Recently, Martin Scorsese made a comment in an interview and later wrote an essay in The New York Times about Marvel movies not being cinema. What was your initial reaction to his remarks and the larger conversation that followed?
Joe Russo: I think that the comments are understandable. In a way, the next generation has elbowed its way into the driver's seat with the tidal wave of enthusiasm about how they prefer to digest narrative. However, it's very difficult to have an intellectual dialogue with someone who has admitted that they actually haven't seen the films. We prefer to define cinema as a film that brings together people and fosters a sense of community, where they can all share in a common and profound experience together. That's why you go into a theater with hundreds of other people. They're looking for a pure experience.
We don't look at the box office success of a movie like Endgame as a signifier of economic success. We look at it as a signifier of emotional success. Very few films in cinematic history have had an impact on a global audience the way that film had. We were in those theaters. We heard the cheers and the audible sobs, and saw the audience reacting in a way we'd never seen in a movie theater.
Anthony Russo: Like Joe said earlier, it's hard to address the issue too deeply because again it goes back to the fact that it doesn't feel like he's actually seen the films. So it's hard to have an actual dialogue about them because of that fact. Also, it's hard to have this conversation because any time you try to put art inside a box, art is going to defy you. Any artist should know that. The reason cinema is as vibrant and relevant as it is today is that it's constantly evolving. If it can simply be confined to some conventional idea, it flatlines at that point and stops being vital and growing.
Joe Russo: And it can be dismissive of an entire generation. But also, at the end of the day, what do we know? We're just two guys from Cleveland, Ohio and cinema is a New York word. In Cleveland we just call them movies.
I know you're shooting Cherry in Ohio now, but were you following the debates online or were you mostly just consumed with work?
Anthony Russo: Yeah, we're shooting a movie right now, so we're very focused on that. We read through various things, but it didn't seem like the kind of thing that needed addressing right away because of the lack of validity in his point of view. It wasn't something where we were like, "Oh we need to pay attention to this."
This interview has been edited for clarity and condensed.