I met Joss Whedon. The legend. The brilliant mind. And when he said “Let’s cross our arms” for a group shot, that’s exactly what we did. Because…Joss Whedon.
I was invited to Los Angeles to participate in the Avengers: Age of Ultron press event, where I was able to see the movie and interview the people involved in making it. Travel and accommodations were covered by Disney and Marvel, but all thoughts and experiences are my own.
It still blows my mind that I met Joss Whedon, writer and director of Avengers: Age of Ultron. Have you looked over his resume lately? Take a look at a few of his career accomplishments: Scripted Marvel’s “The Avengers” which set the all-time 2-day box office record at $207.4 million (that’s JUST opening weekend). Creator of the hit tv series, “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “Angel” (a Buffy spin-off), and “Firefly.” Earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Screenplay for “Toy Story.” And so much more.
Not only does Joss Whedon have a brilliant, creative mind, but he is a fascinating person to talk to and very down-to-earth and approachable.
We started off asking him about another famous family member – his brother, Jed Whedon, is the co-creator of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and we had just interviewed Jed the day before.
Do Joss and Jed have late night phone calls and strategizing sessions?
WHEDON: “Well, I just made a movie and he just had a baby, so not lately. But, we did, when we were first starting out, but at some point this movie consumed me not unlike a whale.”
How did the iconic shot of the Avengers jumping in slow motion come to be?
WHEDON: “We just caught it by accident. I hadn’t even said action yet. They were just clowning around and somebody had a phone, so that was great. (He was joking!) [In reality…] that was the last shot we got finished, ‘cause it’s over a minute long and I wanted to create some frames that were just unabashedly comic book frames that would speak to our love of the thing and that one took longer to create than anything else.
But it was important to me to have that right away, like first up in the movie. Not to say, now we’ve got to get everybody back together and let’s go find them, now we find Captain America and he’s digging in a trench and now we find… instead just go boom, we’re back. This is what you love. Are you having fun? Good. Now we’re going to tear it apart.”
There are so many amazing characters with great stories in The Avengers. Was it hard to give everyone enough screen time?
WHEDON: “Um, yes. [LAUGHS] Yeah.
It’s hard. What’s important is making everybody integral to this story and not just have it sort of be a roll call where it’s like, ‘and I’m also in the film.’ Making sure that the twins’ story was part of Ultron’s story and making sure that their perspective on the Avengers had something to do with Ultron’s and so that there was always a reason for everyone to be together.
The good thing they worked so well against each other so when you’re giving somebody their moment, it’s usually with somebody else. It’s usually playing against somebody else, either arguing with or having fun with or teaming up with and so it creates its own little web, so it’s difficult.”
What were the challenges with filming the epic Hulkbuster versus Hulk battle?
WHEDON: “There is some slight enormous difficulties in the fact that neither of those people exist, so there’s a lot of ‘guys, we’re here. Now he’s over there.’ We had the thing mapped out very carefully, so it was, in a way, simpler because they weren’t like I need another. I need to go again, but, uh, you shoot all of this stuff sort of with the faith that this will work physically and then the hard work comes, up at ILM where they’re dialing in this action you’ve described in a way that looks human and believable, yet completely over the top, and the work they did with those guys and with the Hulk, in particular who’s not just the Hulk there, but he’s angry even for the Hulk. He’s unhinged and it’s a different performance than he’s given before and the way they captured that, to me, was breathtaking, but it took a little time.”
What was it like to film in various countries?
WHEDON: “Fun. I mean, I got to (visit) a lot of countries I’ve never been to and see these beautiful cities and these places and eat really good food and generally, I don’t get to take vacations. Location scouting is definitely the next best thing.”
What was it about Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen that made them perfect for the roles of Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch?
WHEDON: “I didn’t want anybody else. I just wanted them. Aaron is too pretty to live, but I’ve dealt with the Hemsworth problem, so I can forgive. He’s somebody that I just saw, even in Kick-Ass where he’s playing kind of a weak character, that he just commands the screen and it was, I think, Nowhere Boy, where I just said, ‘oh, this is my guy’ because he’s an old school movie star. He’s that commanding and beautiful.
But he also looks like he could be kind of arrogant. He’s not. He’s the sweetest puppy I know, but he’s great at playing (an arrogant character). Quicksilver is always hotheaded, he’s always being a pain for everyone, but is essentially very cool. And Lizzie, I sat down with Lizzie ‘cause you spend two minutes with Lizzie and you not only don’t want anybody else for the role, you think maybe she should play all of them.”
What was the hardest scene to shoot?
WHEDON: “I would say probably after the first attack by Ultron. Everybody’s in the lab kind of trying to figure out what’s going on. It was just very difficult for me to put together. It’s hard to explain why. There’s something about the way the light in the room, I could not find the focus of where everybody should be and how they should move and Robert had to do something really difficult which was start laughing in the middle of this scene, and sincerely like, become a little unhinged.
And getting there and making that work, that was one that I struggled with. I struggled very much with the party scene. The after party scene, we shut down during shooting early one day because I was started shooting it and I hated everything I was doing and then was like what should I do? What’s wrong? And then I realized, wait a minute. Didn’t I just make an entire movie where people sit around and drink? Wasn’t that Much Ado About Nothing? Ohhh, and then I called. I was like ‘give me some, I need cards, I need beers.’
Anyway, I get all these things and we’ll do it all handheld and we’ll just let them go and as soon as I remembered how to shoot a party, it became a party.”
Was the party scene completely scripted or were the actors ad libbing at all?
WHEDON: “There’s a little, they’re throwing stuff out. With Robert in a situation like that, I’ll usually give him five or six options just to see what tickles his fancy and he’ll sort of run through them. Most of it is scripted, but I like to leave a little room for those guys. First of all, they’re all funny, articulate people who really know their characters and second of all it sort of helps the flow particularly in something like that. You don’t want to feel camera moves or dialogue. You just want to feel like you stayed at the party. I’m glad.”
Ultron says, ‘Upon this rock, I shall build my church,’ and The Vision says, ‘I am.’ Was there a significance to having these forms of artificial intelligence speak those Biblical terms?
WHEDON: “Yes. It’s not necessarily specific in the sense of we are saying this about this person. To say Ultron has a bit of a God complex is….and that was all James, by the way. We are talking about new life and we are talking about the Vision in particular as something sort of more than man and that iconography is deliberate, but it’s open to interpretation. I’m not saying that they are one thing or another. I’m saying that our response to them contains some element of that understanding of ourselves and our history.
I mean, it’s a Frankenstein story as much as its anything else and the Frankenstein story is, ‘Who made me? Why am I here? And I guess I’m kind of pissed about it.’ So that iconography rolls into that very naturally, I think.”
Be sure to check out the rest of my Avengers posts and stay tuned as I add more exclusive coverage in the coming weeks!
- Avengers: Age of Ultron Movie Review
- Producer and Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige Chats About Avengers: Age of Ultron
- When Joss Whedon says cross your arms, you cross your arms (and other Avengers-speak!)
- That Time I Was Sandwiched Between Thor and Captain America (Chris Hemsworth and Chris Evans Interview)
- Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch Join The Avengers: Exclusive Interview With Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen
- Avengers: Age of Ultron Coloring Pages #Printables
- Avengers Easter Eggs
Follow Avengers on Twitter: https://twitter.com/avengers
Visit the official website: http://marvel.com/avengers
Like The Avengers on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/avengers
….and then be sure to catch it in theaters this coming weekend (opens May 1!).
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