Age of Ultron press conference with Joss Whedon and (almost) all of the Avengers
Ahead of the release of Marvel’s latest adrenaline-fuelled blockbuster, The Upcoming caught up with Avengers: Age of Ultron writer/director Joss Whedon and cast members Elizabeth Olsen, Jeremy Renner, Mark Ruffalo, Robert Downey Jr, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Paul Bettany to talk about inspirations, character arcs, bags of cash and talking to tennis balls.
Joss Whedon: Easier and harder, because there are restrictions, but a lot of questions have already been answered. So you know going in what you’ve got to work with, and it’s a bit of a comfort actually.
Before you start filming what do you get most excited about?
Elizabeth Olsen: Um, I get most excited by cooking and eating.
Jeremy Renner: I’m excited about getting to hang out with these degenerates.
Mark Ruffalo: Coming back to the world and seeing where these crazy people that we’re playing are headed, and knowing that Joss is gonna take us there, into his own twisted psyche.
Robert Downey Jr: Probably my first costume fitting. Me surrounded by many full-length mirrors.
Chris Evans: I’ll say a similar response to Jeremy, that Marvel does a great job with bringing a lot of the same people together, not just in front of the camera but behind it. When we come back together as a group, it kind of feels like a family, there’s a lot of familiar faces. It’s like a high school reunion.
EO: I didn’t understand the question.
CE: Yeah, as soon as you said cooking I was like “she doesn’t get it!”
Scarlett Johansson: Um, watching Elizabeth eat, because nobody else does. I guess I would say I get most excited about reading Joss’ script because it’s like the big pay off after a long wait and all the letters.
RDJ: The cover letters.
SJ: Yeah, the cover letters before the script are just so delightful and self-deprecating.
Aaron Taylor-Johnson: Oh, I’m just excited to be a part of it, you know. Joss bought me along on this journey, to this fantastic group.
Paul Bettany: Box office bonuses.
MR: You’ve got box office bonuses?!
JW: No, no, no. I said we should have Ultron as the main villain in the second one before I even started to make the first movie. He’s big, he’s powerful, he’s angry, he’s metal. He’s been angry for so long that I think he might be a little unhinged, and I thought “I can write that”.
You guys have inspired a lot of people around the world. When you were growing up who inspired you?
PB: I’ll go with John Lennon.
ATJ: Um, Gary Oldman’s one of my inspirations.
PB: Sorry, I’ll take Gary Oldman.
SJ: Patrick Swayze in Dirty Dancing.
CE: I think we can all agree with that. Uh, I was gonna go a different way. I was gonna say my old man. To me that’s who I am.
RDJ: Peter O’Toole.
MR: It’d have to be Ghandi.
RDJ: Ben Kingsley!
MR: And Ben Kingsley.
JR: I would have to say my pop.
EO: Michelle Pfeiffer and Faye Dunaway.
JW: Uh, Chris Evans’ dad.
Elizabeth, Scarlett, how empowering does it feel to play two female superheroes in such a male-dominated universe and they seem more prominent in this film, was that intentional?
SJ: How empowering was it? Yeah, I mean I just read the script and skip through and go like, “oh, Black Widow there she is!” Um, those are the only parts I read. But what’s great about playing this character is that she’s based in something deep and something that I can hold onto. She’s very grounded and, to me, very real. She’s experienced a lot of trauma and she’s finally getting to make active choices. You know, I’m looking at this from the point of view of an actor looking for material that’s substantial, not just a female actor looking for a challenge. So thanks, Joss.
EO: I’m just thrilled just to be part of this whole group and this world. It’s a franchise that I’ve been watching since the first Iron Man and they make such great films that are such a balance of depth and humour and action, but within them are these all humans who have weaknesses and strengths. Especially in this film, I think there’s a special highlight on their personal worlds and likes and what makes them human and that’s what makes this film so great. It’s just amazing to be part of this, it’s mind boggling.
RDJ: I’m sorry, it’s been 15 minutes since my last wardrobe change.
Joss, what’s next for you after your long rest? Do you see yourself returning to the Marvel universe one day?
JW: I don’t think I’ll ever get too far away from it because I love it so much. After my long rest I plan a longer rest, possibly an eternal rest. I have no immediate plans, which is the best thing I’ve ever said.
Scarlett, obviously your character could have just been written off as “the sexy one”, so how important is it to you that she’s more than that? Are you livid that there’s not a Black Widow film yet?
SJ: Really? Have you seen Chris Hemsworth? Um…yes. I am angry about that. I think one of the qualities in the Widow that I love and am interested in is that she’s put in the work and she’s kind of at the place where she can do something for herself and maybe even have a relationship with somebody, maybe even open up in that way. There’s this kind of greater calling that’s calling her and she very selflessly chooses that and it’s heroic, in a big way, in a small way. She’s really kind of into herself, which is interesting, because she’s also a very slippery fish for her job. But when you get her she’s in herself, which is kind of cool. In her sexy self. And yeah, a Black Widow movie, that would be cool. I’m always happy to put the cat suit back on and get in front of all those mirrors just like Robert.
Other than your own characters whose arc was your favourite?
RDJ: Whose arc do we like besides our own, correct? Uh, Hawkeye’s got a heck of an arc this time. And also, I think I can say, obviously Paul has a very interesting turn, as well as Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch. I feel like Paul and Lizzie and Aaron came out and they exceeded expectations, left, right and centre field and watching the film I was like wow.
CE: I liked Scarlett and Ruffalo, you know?
RDJ: Eh, well…
CE: (laughs) It was just nice seeing the intimate moments between Scarlett and Ruffalo and this kind of like, challenged relationship involving a team of superheroes where you don’t really get to see romance. Especially within the group.
SJ: I thought Joss’ arc was really interesting.
ATJ: I’d probably agree with Chris. It was great to dive into Mark Ruffalo’s character and see such a sensibility in him, that beast; it was quite an emotional journey.
PB: Hawkeye. For me it was really the heart of the movie, it was really moving and he’s fantastic in it.
MR: I would also have to say that I found Hawkeye’s storyline great. As an actor who is often away from home fighting imaginary evil guys with a wife who’s at home saying, “where the hell are you and why aren’t you here?” I’m very sympathetic to that arc.
JR: No, I like them all, I’m not going to pick. I think it’s a huge testament to Joss to be able to write all these characters, who are all extremely interesting and flawed and fantastic. I think you could say it’s like a chess board and you need all these pieces for any of them to make sense. I’m just very appreciative that we’re able to dive in so deep into the characters a bit more.
PB: You should totally have picked me though, because I picked you.
Mod: Joss, is this what it’s like on set?
JW: Uh, no. Some of them are paying attention.
RDJ: I feel like I help you wrangle them!
MR: He does! He helps!
Mod: Back to you, Olson.
Joss, the Avengers films are like Marvel’s Super Bowl. How much of that is a constraint to you as a writer, to make a billion dollars, and how far do you think the superhero genre still has to go with so many movies planned?
JW: If I had a key on my computer that said a billion dollars I would press it, but I just try to write it as well as I can, I don’t really think about those things. Restrictions, as I said before, are sometimes frustrating, sometimes very useful because the page is not so blank. The thing I love about comics is the thing I love about what Kevin Fiege is doing with the Marvel universe, which is that he approaches every movie as a completely new idea, as a movie of some particular genre that happens to have superheroes in it. He’s not interested in creating a formula; he’s interested in creating a universe. So as long as he can stay alive – which is I think, probably a few months more – I think it has legs. I think as long as somebody who really cares is at the head, trying to create new versions of the superhero film and not just fall into a pattern then we can sustain it for quite a while.
All of you are famous for your character-driven parts. Do you approach a movie like this differently? Do you have more fun or is it the same?
CE: In an action movie there may not be as many opportunities to play off as an actor, so naturally where the reality is a little more grounded, along with the environment and the characters you’re playing off of, you may have more to pull from. In a movie like this you might be sitting in a green screen or talking to a tennis ball, but I think everyone up here has a very healthy imagination. I think everyone up here grew up running around in their backyard with a cape around their neck, so it’s a different muscle but I think it’s a very similar approach. Nailed that one, too.
RDJ: Can we all agree that Evans is on fire today? Evans you’re on damn fire.
JW: And Chris, you were the only one sitting around talking to a tennis ball. We know it comforts you but it’s a little weird.
Mark, Joss, considering where Hulk is at the end of the film, do you take that as Hulk disappearing for a while, or is he going to come back in a bigger way?
MR: (to Joss) Do you wanna tell them?
JW: No, it’s – you go.
MR: I can’t. Sorry, it’s too amazing.
Jeremy, your role in this film is a lot bigger than in the first. Would there be any comic book storylines you’d like to expand for your character?
JR: I don’t really read comics so I can’t answer that part of it. I let writers who know what they’re doing do that part of it, I try to do what I gotta do. Yeah, I remember talking about, not the specifics of but the ideas of what happens to Hawkeye in this movie with Downey and Joss and Ruffalo. There were some very cool ideas and we were able to implement them in this film, which was very, very exciting.
Paul, you’ve been part of the Marvel universe since Iron Man, but what’s it like now being physically on screen and not just a voice?
PB: Hot. It was lovely to finally be on set with a bunch of people that I’d been supposedly working with for ten years but never actually met. It’s a double-edged sword. Initially, my job was turning up at the end of the movie with the superhero power of if anything was still unclear I could clarify it by just talking and they would give me a big bag of cash! I couldn’t imagine that the contract would ever be better than that. But it was a dream, honestly. Everyone was so welcoming, a bunch of really lovely, happy, well-paid actors.
MR: You got a big bag of cash?
PB: Well, when I was doing the voice it seemed like a big bag of cash for me.
Joss, maybe you could clean up the rumours about the scene at the end of the credits with Spiderman in the background?
JW: Yeah, that’s not real. I don’t know where it started, it is not in fact part of the movie and I don’t know who came up with that. We wanted to be clear that there was no tag scene at the very, very end of the film because after sitting through 40 minutes of credits and not seeing anything people would become irate, so.
Avengers: Age of Ultron is released nationwide on 24th April 2015.
Watch the trailer for Avengers: Age of Ultron here: