"Avengers: Endgame" directors Joe and Anthony Russo spent the weekend in shock as their final installment of the Avengers franchise smashed multiple records. The film shattered the record for biggest opening weekend, selling $356 million in domestic ticket sales and $1.2 billion worldwide, becoming the biggest Marvel film to date.
When the Cleveland-born brothers directed their first Marvel film, "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" in 2014, they never anticipated that they would be a part of a global box office phenomenon.
"At the end of the day we just focus on telling the best story that we can," Joe said in an interview with WUSA. "Just being able to work on these movies is reward enough for us."
The brothers have been self-described "pop culture fanatics" since childhood. They grew up playing "Dungeons & Dragons" and video games and were avid comic book readers. Their nerdy childhoods became the fuel for the movie.
"Joe and I have such a passion for the material," said Anthony. We were in the right spot to execute it and we were carried through the process by our own passion."
Their process has been meticulous. "Avengers: Endgame" is the culmination of 22 films, four of which the Russo brothers directed. A decade's worth of plotlines wrap up in the three-hour long film.
"We've done four movies now for Marvel and every single one prior to this we were always thinking about the future, where the story can go moving forward" said Anthony. "This movie, we didn't look forward at all. This movie was all about how do we simply bring to a close this journey for over 10 years now."
Being huge fans of the comic books characters themselves, the brothers have remained connected with fans of their films on social media. After the global success of "Endgame," they wrote a heartfelt tweet to their fans.
"We want to thank everyone who's been on this journey with us," they said. "We grew up in a big, loving family where stories were told at the dinner table to entertain each other. We now get to tell those stories to the world. All because of you..."
The brothers are active on social media, often posting funny behind the scenes videos or sharing fan-art.
"We want to engage because we were fans," said Joe. "We understand what it's like and what it feels like and the energy and excitement behind it."
More than anything, the brothers like being a part of the dialogue.
"Growing up film geeks, as much as we loved going to movies, we loved the dialogue around those movies," said Anthony. "The miracle of today is that we now have a global community that can have a dialogue about these movies, which is an amazing thing, and a really hopeful and inspiring and empowering thing."
Their social media presence has produced a community of highly devoted fans. When "Avengers: Infinity War" came out, Joe and Anthony asked fans not to spoil the films before everyone got a chance to go to the theaters. Their request made the hashtag #ThanosDemandsYourSilence viral. This year, they asked fans again not to spoil the film, and the hashtag #Don'tSpoilTheEndgame quickly spread through Twitter and Instagram.
The amazing part? Fans actually listened.
"I think people were just really being respectful of other people getting the same opportunity to not have 10 years worth of emotional investment ruined by someone else," said Joe.
"It's a troll culture on the internet so you have to be careful. But we were really surprised and pleased that so many people were respectful."
The community that the brothers have fostered spans generations. Many fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe were only children when the first film came out. A decade later, some are watching "Endgame" with children of their own.
"It binds people. It becomes a big family experience," said Anthony.