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Interview: Production Designer Charles Wood on the Making of ‘Avengers: Endgame’

July 30, 2019Ben MK

Being named the biggest movie of all time may sound like hyperbole, but Avengers: Endgame fully lives up to this status by being nothing short of epic in every regard — from its impressive, all-star cast and the wall-to-wall visual effects, to its bombastic music score and the mind-blowing production and costume design.

The culmination of over a decade of cinematic storytelling, Endgame brings together characters from all corners of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, as what's left of the Avengers assemble for one final battle against the Mad Titan Thanos and his villainous Black Order, while the fate of the entire universe hangs in the balance. Directed once again by Joe and Anthony Russo, the film shattered global box office records during its theatrical run earlier this year. And to celebrate the fact that Endgame is coming home, I caught up with Production Designer Charles Wood to delve deeper into the making of Marvel Studios' 22nd movie.

You've worked on a number of titles in the MCU — and of course you help bring it all together for Infinity War and Endgame. As Production Designer, how do you approach such a massive undertaking?

Wood: I suppose it's similar to other films, just the scale of it was that much more [bigger]. I've never done a film which was essentially two films rolled into one, so we obviously had to put a very big department together very quickly, just to handle the volume of work we thought we were going to be getting into. Because we shot for 210 days or something in a row.

Certainly from a concept stage, we had to produce a huge amount of concept art very quickly — to start to lock into what these worlds were, because a lot of other stuff was coming out of it. Meaning where we were going to shoot the movie, what countries we were going to shoot it in. So just to manage the concept art for the film — for the first few months — was a huge endeavor. Our team had never produced so much concept art, and I'm sure probably never will again.

And then obviously when you go into a world this big, the construction crew, the paint crew, the set design crew — all of those crews were twice what they would normally be, because you're probably doing twice the amount of work. The art department was probably a third larger, I would say. I don't actually know the numbers, but they're pretty huge crews.

In creating the whole world of Endgame, what kind of inspiration did you draw from the comics?

Wood: Actually, we probably drew less from the comic book world. The inspiration for the film, in a sense, came more so from the script and the written word. And also, to some degree, tangents of previous films, meaning we started at the place where we got the script and we wanted to put the threads together from all of the other films. And that was basically achieved through a lot of concept design from a very early stage.

The thing about the comic book influence is that Joe and Anthony [Russo] certainly passed that onto us, where we needed it. But a lot of these worlds — the actual look of these worlds — aren't so necessarily clearly defined in the comic. So this is stuff which really I suppose we did ourselves, but the studio [also] sometimes guides you [with regards to] things that are specific to an environment that should be seen in the film.

One of the most crowd-pleasing sequences in the film is the "Time Heist," which involved recreating portions of the earlier movies. What was the most fun aspect of working on that whole sequence? And what stood out for you about the overall production, in general?

Wood: A lot of that [sequence] was just actually very nostalgic for us. It was nice to go back into the same worlds, but with sometimes new characters within these same places. And often we try to change up the environments just a little bit, [to] see if anyone noticed.

The third act — the whole fight at the end of the film — was gargantuan and a very complicated thing to put together. So that required a huge amount of work and a lot of very big set pieces to put together. But every part of [the entire film] was interesting, because all of these environments are so different [that] we didn't regurgitate anything.

Last but not least, what advice would you give to someone hoping to break into your industry?

Wood: The best advice I would ever give anyone is to try and get on a film — to actually start to work within an art department, which is what we've all done. We've all worked our way up, and I think there's nothing like being in an active art department — being on a proper shooting set — so I would say just get into it straight away. Some of the people whom I've met along my path, that's exactly what they've done.

Avengers: Endgame is now available on Digital HD and is available on 4K, Blu-ray & DVD August 13th. For more behind-the-scenes talk about the film, also see our interview with Marvel Studios' EVP of Production, Victoria Alonso.

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