With The Falcon and the Winter SoldierFriday launch on Disney +, the public has once again reconnected with our old buddies Sam Wilson and Bucky Barnes. With a first episode that offers a lot of table setting for what is to come, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier promises to be a whiz-bang, smash-’em-up six parter, as well as a surprisingly deep and emotional look at what it really means to be Captain America. To get a better idea of how the show has played out, we caught up with the director of all six episodes, Kari Skogland, to talk about Bucky Barn.Her time in therapy, being a woman working in a “muscle space”, and why she thinks there are too many shootouts in entertainment.
The AV club: Wandavision was a huge success for Disney + in terms of fan involvement in the show. Did this pressurize your expectations? I actually spoke to [showrunner] Jac Schaeffer the Wandavision about that, but can you please everyone all the time when it comes to a Marvel project?
Kari Skogland: I’m sure we can’t. I’m just trying to stay true to the story we’re telling.
Wandavision rocked out of the door, and that’s fantastic. I was thrilled for them because it’s such a creative and unique and different show. As far as I know, it couldn’t have opened up the entire Disney streaming schedule for Marvel better. They set the bar high, though, and how exciting is that for us?
Hope fans embrace our show. We love doing this show. We are very, very proud of it. I hope the fans will accept it as much as we love to. I am on [Jac] would say the same. I just hope our fans are also engaged.
It’s spectacular that the fan base is so invested in these characters and is so interested. I think it’s extraordinary.
AVC: I’ve heard the show compared to an action comedy with friends, and some premieres have mentioned that it is reminiscent of some beloved action movies. Did you watch anything in reference? What was on your mood board?
KS: This is a great way to put it. The way I try to get inspired and come up with ideas, etc., comes from a really, really wide range of different genres, even though I watch a particular performance, mainly because I want it to have a certain originality. I wanted the show to not only have my personal voice but also embrace other ideas that I can bring to the genre. So it’s all about nurturing those synapses, shaking the pot, and pulling out something that hopefully is original.
So I’m looking at a wide, all-cinematic range from a David Lean to a movie that Lina Wertmüller made. More recently, The Untouchables, 48 hours, and Deadly weapon were some of the classics that we watched for sure, because we were in that kind of arena. But the goal was to really embrace all aspects of relationship movies as much as possible, because we had so much more real estate and a lot more time to explore with these characters.
However, I wanted to be informed, so I put it all together, “put it there, put it there”, and I hope it becomes something new.
AVC: There are huge chunks of action in the first episode. You’ve worked on action projects before, but I have to imagine there’s still a learning curve when it comes to, say, shooting an air combat in a canyon. What was the most difficult centerpiece for you to understand?
KS: I think all the action sequences have to serve the character and the story and the story of the character. So I saw each of them as having a unique angle and a unique perspective. I wanted each action sequence to have its own unique DNA at its core. So we really looked at how to blend that in a way that was not only visually satisfying from a certain point of view, but really from a character location.
I look at the action sequences much like you watch a dramatic sequence: there is always a beginning, a middle and an end, and there is violence in a form based on the character.
I guess one of the things I did as sort of a big picture was that we reduced the weaponry. This means that all of the things that we’ve choreographed come from a different kind of mentality, and that by definition brings a different flavor to a scene.
AVC: Why did you decide to do this?
KS: For obvious reasons. I think we have to think of guns in entertainment as too big a crutch. We wanted our characters to be smart and interesting and not just based on taste.
AVC: Watching the first episode, I was really struck by the emotional state of these guys when we meet them. We lost two Avengers. Half the people in the world – including some of our characters here – had been gone for a full five years. Many things have changed. Bucky has been a hit man for decades! He should definitely be in therapy, so I’m glad he was, frankly.
KS: I think all of these characters have seen or been involved in some very traumatic events, and I don’t think Marvel has ever shied away from exploring the aftermath of some of those events. We just have a little more time to do it. In our case, we can explore it on a more detailed character level just because we have the time.
So, yeah, I’m looking at the aftermath, looking at, you know, he’s left a trail of casualties behind and there’s collateral damage. What does it look like and what does it look like for a guy who has to deal with what it’s like to move on? He’s going to have to do something to be able to find some relevance to his future over his place because of his past.
Stroke: In previous interviews, you talked about the glass ceiling for women directors. What does it mean to you to have this chance on a massive scale, and how do you help other women along the way?
KS: It was a huge opportunity. If Captain America comes knocking on your door, you answer the door.
I was excited to tell the story, because I think it truly is one of the most important stories of this century because of the themes and the relevance of what is happening in our world right now. So it was very much in line with my political thoughts and opinions and what I like to incorporate into entertainment. So I was absolutely delighted.
I think in the future what I’m hoping for is that I can be part of the wave because there are a number of women who make great movies and shows like this. Marvel has been at the forefront of promoting this as well.
Very soon, I hope that we no longer say “female directors” or “male director” or “black directors” or “Chinese director”. Hopefully soon we can say just direct or write so labels, genres, and ethnicity matter less.
I obviously like to work in a muscular space. I like working in a world which is very stimulating and which is not what we think of as stereotypical as feminine. I think men can do the same. This is the passion of the filmmaker. This is the sensitivity of the film. So I would hate if the world had come to a place where only women can tell women stories. Only men can tell stories of men. I think it has to come from the heart and the skill set and hard work it takes to get to where you are successful and let it be instead of mingling with other politics.