Frank Grillo Says Captain America: The Winter Soldier Is The MCU’s Best Movie
After seven years, Frank Grillo says Captain America: The Winter Soldier is still the best movie in the MCU – and the elevator fight has yet to be topped.
Grillo’s relationship with Marvel hasn’t always been harmonious. Having been hired to play Brock Rumlow in Winter Soldier on a seven-film deal, he saw a clear path in the Marvel Cinematic Universe: his betrayal of Cap, his evolution into Crossbones and then causing all sorts of problems for the Avengers.
The reality was a bit different: Cap dropped a building on his face, and he later appeared as the villain in the opening to Civil War, before blowing himself up. He initially felt bitter about it, even refusing to return for Endgame – until his son made him see the bigger picture, and he’s since come full circle.
Now, he’s reprised his first role for an episode of What If…?, the franchise’s first animated series, presenting strange, sometimes unnerving alternate universes with the Earth’s mightiest heroes. We sat down with the star to look back on his time in the MCU, revisiting Crossbones and that ‘iconic’ elevator fight.
Can you think back to your first reaction to being cast in the MCU?
Frank: Wow, nobody’s asked me that. I was on another film called Homefront with Jason Statham. The Russo brothers had called me up and asked if I would fly in to Los Angeles and do a screen test.
At the time, Marvel really wasn’t as big as it is now. So I was like, ‘Well, should I do this?’ [Laughs] I went up there, and there were like 10 guys testing for the role, I knew them all. I was the last one to go, and when I finished, Joe Russo came up to me and said, ‘That was it.’ I kind of knew that I had the job.
I know your relationship with the MCU hasn’t always been peachy, but having returned for Endgame, how does it feel being part of movie history on that scale?
Frank: That’s another great question. You know, I didn’t realise how big of a deal it was until years later, and how it changed my career. I was just an actor going about my business. The power of Marvel around the world is so incredible, and even a secondary character in those movies is a big deal. I learned over the years, that had I not done it, my career would have been different, and not for the better. The Avengers thing was me being a little petulant, because they killed off Crossbones, and my son said, ‘Dad, you’re going to do the movie.’ I went and did the movie.
You say you still get reactions to Crossbones… would you hope to play him again?
Frank: I have come full circle, and I’m so grateful to the Russo brothers and to Marvel, but I would love to come back in some shape or form if they wanted that. I would be totally open to it. I don’t see that happening, maybe in the What If…? series. I often say: if Marvel calls, I pick up the phone. When they call, I go. Who knows? You never know.
In the spirit of What If…?, if Crossbones had managed to kill Cap in Lagos, what do you think he’d be doing now in the MCU?
Frank: I think Crossbones would take the whole thing over.
Are there any villains you think he’d team up with?
Frank: I’d have to go into the villain catalogue, I like to find the obscure ones.
Had Marvel forecasted the trajectory of your character?
Frank: It was all very secretive. It was all kept under lock and key from the start. In the beginning, I think they were really talking… nobody knew how successful the films were going to be, but I think they were sticking to the actual comic. Crossbones had a much more important role in all of it, so them asking me to sign on for six or seven films kind of insinuated this guy was gonna be around a minute.
But lo and behold [laughs], it never went down that path. Then they got really into the Avengers, and it became so successful. Kevin Feige is a genius. I’m looking at what’s going on now with the movie this weekend, Shang-Chi, and the guy just does not miss. He knows what he’s doing, and it was unfortunate for Crossbones, but look where Marvel is now.
If we turned back time and you were offered the crop of the Avengers, who would you choose to play?
Frank: Wow… I have to tell you, I loved Crossbones so much, I love that character. Believe it or not, he’s been on-screen for eight minutes or so, and people love Crossbones. I went to a funfair this weekend with mostly kids, and you’d think Crossbones was in the movies like Captain America. So, I would have loved to see more Crossbones.
I think it’s similar to why people love The Punisher, in that he’s just brutal.
Frank: That’s what I loved about the idea of playing him; I wasn’t a supervillain, I was just a badass [laughs].
You’re now clearly affectionate towards your time in the MCU, what’s been the personal highlight?
Frank: I’ll tell you, and I don’t think any of us knew at the time, how iconic that elevator fight scene was going to be. I think it holds the test of time still, that was a big, big six-day extravaganza of a scene and it’s done practically, no special effects. I think it’s still up there as one of the favourite fight scenes in any of the Marvel movies.
That scene always tops lists, always top five minimum.
Frank. I gotta tell you something. As far as the real, true cinematic experience, I think Captain America: The Winter Soldier is the best Marvel movie – and not because I’m in it. I just think the way it was executed, the script, all the actors in it, I just loved the story. It was, to me, a near-perfect film – not superhero film, film.
Winter Soldier has a degree of tension you don’t get in other superhero films – it’s a government thriller with Captain America in it!
Frank: That’s it!
I’m curious to know, again in the spirit of What If…?, would you ever go to DC?
Frank: What’s DC? [Laughs] My allegiance is to Marvel and certainly the House of Feige. If you go against Feige, you tend to disappear.
But speaking of The Punisher, and it’s no secret I always wanted to play that role. I always wanted to play The Punisher. It always felt like a custom suit, from the hair to the look, it felt right. But Jon Bernthal looks as much like my little brother as my little brother, so it worked out.
Marvel’s What If…? is streaming on Disney+ now.
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