We first met the villainous Red Skull, who also goes by the name Johann Schmidt, back in 2011's Captain America: The First Avenger, the sturdy World War II period piece that introduced us to Chris Evans's muscular shield-thrower. (According to this very website, it's the best Marvel movie.) In director Joe Johnston's nostalgic, heartfelt entry in the Cap series, the Red Skull is played by Hugo Weaving, the British-Australian character actor known for playing Agent Smith in The Matrix trilogy and Elrond in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. It's a pulpy performance in a pulpy movie. The Marvel house tone of cheeky irreverence -- which, to be fair, Black Panther recently pushed back against -- hadn't been codified yet. There was still room for ridiculousness delivered without a wink.
If you don't remember, Captain America: The First Avenger ends with a scene that provides some much needed context for The Red Skull's return in Infinity War. During the film's climax, the Red Skull holds the Tesseract (or, if you want to make this slightly less confusing, the Space Stone) that he had been using to power his big, flying ship and gets sucked into space. In the movie, it looks like he disintegrated. A recent Avengers: Infinity War prelude comic offers a more detailed explanation for what happened to the Red Skull. Either way, Captain America then crashes the plane into the ocean, where he takes a long, chilly nap that ends up lasting decades before he's unfrozen in the modern day.
The Red Skull doesn't appear in either of the Captain America movies that followed. He was left in the past as Captain did battle with the Winter Soldier and whoever the primary villain was in Civil War. (Be honest: You only remember the airport fight with the heroes.) In fact, Hugo Weaving has repeatedly hinted that he had very little interest in returning to the crowded Atlanta sound-stages of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In an interview with Collider from 2012, he said he wasn't planning on appearing in any sequels.
"I’m glad I did it," he said at the time. "I did sign up for a number of pictures and I suppose, contractually, I would be obliged to, if they forced me to, but they wouldn’t want to force someone to do it, if they didn’t want to. I think I’ve done my dash with that sort of film. It was good to do it and try it out, but to be honest, it’s not the sort of film I seek out and really am excited by. As an actor, to do all sorts of different films is great. It stretches you in different ways. But I increasingly like to go back to what I used to always do, which is to get involved with projects that I really have a personal affiliation with."