There are few Marvel Cinematic Universe mysteries that lasted as long as the question of Red Skull's whereabouts post-Captain America: The First Avenger. The character was clearly sent somewhere by the Tesseract in the third act of the 2011 movie, and it wasn't until Avengers: Infinity War that we finally got the answer. Still, it makes you wonder if there were ever moves to try and bring him back earlier -- but Joe Russo has confirmed to us that the answer is a firm no:
No, actually it just didn't fit the storytelling. Winter Soldier was clear that Hydra was the villain out of the gate. I mean, that was a commitment, and the story was that SHIELD kills Hydra, and I think we developed the [Robert] Redford character so that we had a personification of Hydra. In Civil War it was always going to be Zemo.
With Avengers: Infinity War making its way to the home video market, I recently had the opportunity to send along questions about the movie to directors Joe and Anthony Russo, and one of my queries was about the return of Red Skull. Given that they had directed both Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Captain America: Civil War, I felt it appropriate to ask if they had considered bringing the legendary Hydra leader back sooner in the franchise, but apparently that was never on the table.
At the end of Captain America: The First Avenger, Red Skull (played by Hugo Weaving) picks up the Tesseract after it gets knocked out of its containment unit, and audiences got a very clear look as to why the element is also known as the Space Stone. It was assumed by fans that the villain had been transported to someplace on the other side of the galaxy, but Marvel made 13 movies before referencing it again, so there wasn't a ton of evidence to go on in terms of speculation.
Of course, Avengers: Infinity War finally addressed Red Skull's disappearance when it hit theaters earlier this summer. Hugo Weaving didn't return for the performance, instead leaving the job to skilled impressionist Ross Marquand, but the movie very clearly explains what happened to Johann Schmidt -- the movie written by the same writers (Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely) as Captain America: The First Avenger. According to Red Skull, he was deemed unworthy of possessing an Infinity Stone, and so it dropped him on the planet Vormir to become the Stonekeeper for the Soul Stone. He would stay there to explain the rules of the ingot to anyone who wished to possess it -- specifically that they would have to sacrifice what they love.
The presence of Red Skull in Avengers: Infinity War is immensely satisfying for Marvel fans, and one of the many reasons why it is one of the franchise's best offerings to date. You can rewatch the movie now at home, as it is available for Digital HD purchase, and physical copies -- 4K, Blu-ray and DVD -- will be on sale August 14th.