October 28, 2019

How the 'Avengers: Endgame' Editor Created the Best Ending in the MCU

Jeff Ford helped the Russo brothers deliver a spectacular ending to Avengers: Endgame. Hear how his process factored into the biggest franchise of all time. 

Earlier in the year, we learned that an editor came up with the idea to have Tony stark say "I am Iron Man" at the end of Avengers: Endgame. That editor was Jeff Ford, and he's responsible for shaping a ton of the best moments in the Marvel universe. 

Editors are often misunderstood, so it's amazing to see one get the spotlight. 

Collider recently did an incredible interview with Ford, where he not only explained the iconic line, but also talked about the little things done in the edit bay to make the movie sing and to make even the quiet moments echo through Marvel history. 

Let's look at some select quotes to see what he had to say. 

How Editor Jeff Ford Shaped Avengers: Endgame

First, let's hear what Ford had to say about the iconic quote he helped get inside the movie. 

“When we were putting together the end of the movie, when we shot Tony’s last moment in the first round, we shot a bunch of different options. Robert had different ideas…We give him space to do that. Joe and Anthony are great about improv. We shot a run of different performances for that last moment. Some of them were crazy. Some of them we would never have used.”

I think that we often get caught up in these huge movies and forget that they're made by people who have distinct styles. The Russos came from the comedy world, so having a ton of alt lines and takes makes sense. This made me wonder about other scenes in the universe and if they had alt lines. 

Was there something else besides "America's ass?" 

It's also a great lesson on how to work with actors. The best directors hire people they can rely on. They give them the room to perform and room for the other voices in the room to be heard.  

And you need those voices, especially when you're dealing with an intergalactic villain. 

How to edit Thanos

Thanos is such a big presence on screen that it can be hard editing scenes with him in it. They have to have an insane amount of gravity without being melodramatic. For that, Ford had to utilize a juxtaposition between Thanos and other elements. 

"Some of them were jokes. Some of them were obscenities. Some of them were completely emotional, raw, insane things that he was doing. And then some of them were combinations of all three of those things. What we found as we were cutting the scene wasn’t so much that we needed a special last line for Robert, but that we needed a moment between Thanos and Tony. A moment that wasn’t some kind of transaction, but literally ‘this is how I want it to be’ and ‘this is how it is.’ That would give the audience that moment. The exchange where Thanos says ‘I am inevitable’ and Tony says ‘I am Iron Man’, that couplet is what makes that work. When we found Thanos’ line, it led us to Tony’s line. We found Thanos’ line as part of a structure in the script, he says that line three times in the movie. At the beginning, before his head is chopped off, in the middle he hears himself say it again, and then at the end. That symmetry is also why it’s interesting, that was a discovery while we were editing.”

I don't think it's a secret, but I love story symmetry. When I worked on our version of the beat sheet and outline, I spent a long time working out scenes and emotions that felt balanced. 

I love knowing that Ford did that as well. 

Secondary to that, I think humor is an incredibly valuable tool. Especially when you need to diffuse a situation or a heavy emotional scene. In Avengers, it becomes both the backbone and heart of these sagas. 

But it's not all noise; they like the quiet scenes too.

Quiet scenes in the Avengers  

It's hard to imagine the ending of Endgame any way other than the way it is now. But knowing a noisy franchise chased a quiet moment is interesting. Check out what Ford said was the original ending: 

“In that version, Thanos didn’t say anything either. He had the gauntlet. He looked at him like, ‘I got you.’ Snapped. Looked. Couldn’t believe it. Turned to Tony. Tony raised his hand and snapped. It was beautiful. It worked really, really well. But what we found, though, was Thanos needed an arc in Endgame. That arc was his sense of inevitability. The story we’d been telling was that Thanos’ pitch in that movie is ‘no matter how many times you try and stop me, you can travel in time, you can do all these things, you’re never going to win.’ It’s a sense of destiny, of ‘I will always be the one who wins.’ They’re trying to undo destiny. They’re going against what happened. For the movie to have thematic coherence, the end of the movie needed to be Thanos saying, ‘I told you. You cannot win,’ and for Tony to say, ‘But we can’.

I really love the idea of a silent moment amongst this insane battle. Thematically, it did make sense to give an arc to Thanos here. You want to know he truly has lost everything in this timeline and others. 

That's a trick pitch but one that ultimately paid off. 

Again, this speaks to the collaboration of creating a filmone that truly shines in the Marvel world. 

What's next? Read Christopher McQuarrie's Advice to Break In

Christopher McQuarrie fired off an awesome Twitter thread for those trying to "break-in."

Check it out!      

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