ECCC 2021: How The Russo Brothers Are Building Universes With AGBO Films

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AGBO Films, the production banner launched by Joe and Anthony Russo, is gearing up for a wealth of film and television projects in the coming years. This year’s Emerald City Comic Con featured a panel with AGBO’s co-founder  Mike Larroca, its vice-president of IP/development Albert Kim, and its vice president of creative Kassee Whiting. The panel, moderated by Comic Book Resources associate writer Brandon Zachary, briefly touched upon AGBO’s previous projects, including Netflix’s action-thriller Extraction and the Apple TV+ drama Cherry, before revealing what AGBO has on its plate for 2022 and beyond.

Next year will see the release of another Netflix film, The Gray Man, based on the espionage novels by Mark Greaney and directed by the Russo Brothers; it also features a star-studded cast headlined by Ryan Gosling and Chris Evans. AGBO Films is also producing an espionage television series called Citadel for Amazon Prime, which stars Richard Madden and Priyanka Chopra Jonas. Production on an Extraction sequel is underway, with both Chris Hemsworth and director Sam Hargrave returning. Finally, the Russos are slated to direct Electric State for Universal, which is based on the graphic novel of the same name by Simon Stålenhag and starring Millie Bobby Brown.

When discussing the necessary ingredients for shaping AGBO Films’ slate, Larroca discussed having a clear line of sight for the story and any future sequels a project could yield. “We don’t take it for granted. We understand that the first movie or the first show has to be successful for it to warrant that treatment. But we want to be thinking ahead and planning for success.” He also said that each film has to be distinct and stand on its own two feet. Whiting also stressed that character and theme were important factors in AGBO’s projects, as that is what audiences connect to. Kim discussed having cohesion within the different franchises so that viewers can follow along with each film or television series.

Talk turned to Extraction‘s success, as it became one of Netflix’s most-viewed original films. Larroca discussed the film’s origins: it was based on a graphic novel called Ciudad, which the Russos co-wrote and was shopped around at Paramount Pictures. At the time, the Russos’ career mostly consisted of comedy work, so they weren’t at the top of anyone’s Rolodex. Production soon moved to Netflix, which was perfect for the sort of mid-budget action movie that’s become a rarity in theaters. “Could we deliver an undeniably insane action experience?” was the driving force behind Extraction, according to Larroca; he and Whiting also discussed how Hargrave’s experience in stunt work led him to meet the Russos and push himself for the Extraction sequel.

While discussing how actors like Gosling and Evans sign on to projects like The Gray Man, Larroca discussed how the Russos’ work in the Marvel Cinematic Universe helped them build connections with actors. The biggest draw, however, is a good script. Next up was the genesis of Electric State, written by the Russos’ frequent collaborators Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely; Markus discovered the project when it first debuted on Kickstarter. It also marks a departure from the gritty espionage of Extraction and The Gray Man; Larroca described it as having an “Amblin feel.”

The Russos are also slated to direct an adaptation of the classic anime series Battle of the Planets. Dan Casey, who wrote F9: The Fast Saga, has partnered with AGBO to write the script. Kim briefly discussed how the project would have a universal appeal similar to the original Battle of the Planets show. “You sort of have to develop everything for a global audience,” he said while also stressing that the film would stay true to the core of the original series. Kim, Whiting, and Larroca also discussed how AGBO approaches crafting franchises, with Whiting aiming for a “holistic experience” that would build organically upon films rather than attempting to pump out sequels.

Even though their time with Marvel Studios has come to an end, the Russo Brothers are continuing to aim high with their upcoming slate of projects. I’m looking forward to The Gray Man and Battle of the Planets and hope that AGBO Films continues to develop projects that draw all kinds of creators and talent to their doors.


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