Winter Soldier directors speak of “two-year long” process for pivotal scene

'Winter Soldier' Mondo Movie Poster by Rich Kelly Credit:
‘Winter Soldier’ Mondo Movie Poster by Rich Kelly

I’ve just gotten back from watching Captain America: The Winter Soldier for the first (and definitely not the last) time and I am utterly blown away. To borrow from an oft-used superhero movie quote, Winter Soldier wasn’t the superhero movie I deserved, but it was the superhero movie I needed. As a lifelong Cap fan, this movie gave me everything I could’ve thought to ask for, and more.

In so many ways, Winter Soldier took the first step in proving that the “superhero movie” is no longer a separate genre in itself, but in the right hands, it can encompass multiple genres without missing a beat. Sibling directors Joe and Anthony Russo definitely pulled out all the stops in making sure this movie not only remained grounded in the general “reality” of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but also remained true to its comic book roots without losing the plot or their mainstream target audience.

One pivotal scene, in particular, had the potential to be so very, very wrong for the rest of the movie, but the finished result was not only perfectly integrated to the plot, it made this rabid Cap fan immensely pleased. Find out which scene it was, and who exactly was responsible for it.


With all the speculation about the identity of Alexander Pierce, plucked from comic book obscurity to be played by Robert Redford, I had clean forgotten that Toby Jones had already revealed to almost a year ago that he would be reprising his role as Nazi scientist and Red Skull ally Arnim Zola from Captain America: The First Avenger, and that fans “won’t be disappointed with the way [his return]’s been treated in [The Winter Soldier]”.

Zola as seen in 'Winter Soldier' Credit: Marvel Cinematic Universe Wiki
Zola as seen in ‘Winter Soldier’
Credit: Marvel Cinematic Universe Wiki

In an interview with Vanity Fair, co-director Anthony Russo admits that the scene revealing that Zola was still “alive” in the present day took almost two years to get right, saying “It was a very difficult scene”. Joe Russo adds that they “re-wrote his dialogue and restructured the scene and kept digging at it—because suddenly it becomes a science-fiction film, right? You’re in this very grounded thriller for about 55 minutes, and then this guy shows up on a computer”. Still, as Anthony admits, “we love the scene! We wanted to hang onto it. We wanted to find a way to make it work because we like the weirdness of it.”

Thank you for keeping it in, Russos. It not only worked, but showed a clear level of respect for Zola’s comic book origins, and a desire to be as faithful as the movie was able to allow. As it turns out, however, we have the screenwriters to thank for even suggesting the scene in the first place! In an interview with Vulture, Christopher Markus reveals that “the S.S.R. being under Camp Lehigh, Zola being in a computer down there, that’s all stuff that [Markus and fellow screenwriter Stephen McFeely] pitched hard and eventually [the producers] said, ‘Let’s run with that.'”

Arnim Zola as depicted by Steve Epting Credit:
Arnim Zola as depicted by Steve Epting

While in the cinema during that scene, I remarked to my friend that I would geek in the worst way possible if Zola’s representation with the camera and computer screen turned into the android body. As it turns out, that was actually suggested by the screenwriters! Markus tells Vulture, “There were various things we pitched that didn’t make it in, like before the missiles go off, Zola’s computer just stands up and walks away. We always wanted to get him in his robot body, but everyone was like, ‘He’s a talking computer. Can’t we leave it at that?'”

Admittedly, with all the fanservice the movie already gave us, expecting a mobile Arnim Zola would have been asking for way too much. Still, that whole pivotal scene was such a great moment in a very brilliant film. Thank you, Joe and Anthony Russo! Thank you Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely!

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