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Elizabeth Olsen Age Of Ultron Interview

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When Elizabeth Olsen signed on to play Scarlet Witch in Marvel’s “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” she was unfamiliar with the comic-book character, so she knew immediately that she would need to do some research. “I asked Marvel to compile a bible of the comic books that were centered on her,” says Olsen. “It’s just unbelievable the amount of material there is to draw from. All of the stories that are already in the comic books are so interesting. I like the journey that she goes on and how she develops her skills and how much power she has without realizing it. She is connected to the universe and has the ability to manipulate minds. Her powers create a huge plot point in this film.”


Once she read the screenplay, Olsen was totally drawn into The Avengers’ world. “There are so many things to play with in this script and there’s nothing simple about it. It continues to be interesting and the dynamics between the other characters regarding Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver are so much fun. It’s been really exciting to have a role in one of these films and have so many plot points and such a deep story.”


In the story, Scarlet Witch and her inseparable twin brother Quicksilver, played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson, have a deep-seated resentment of Tony Stark/Iron Man. “Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver basically think that Tony Stark, Iron Man, is one of the worst people on Earth because of his connection to the bombs that destroyed their town when they were younger and their parents died because of it,” explains Olsen. “Stark was the name that they grew up with that they associated with the most evil person on Earth. That ‘snarkiness’ that is his thing always made Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch feel that he was just the most irreverent human being and the most careless and had no idea what his impact is in the world.”


The villain Ultron, played by James Spader, does not fare much better in the twin’s opinion, though at first his true motives were obfuscated. Olsen relates, “When Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver meet Ultron, their first instinct is that he is just another power-hungry being. Then they start to believe in his idealism, which ends up being completely flawed. He believes that The Avengers will eventually abuse their own power and they won’t end up doing good. They believe that he is here for peace. He ends up not having any moral compass whatsoever.”


But Olsen has nothing but praise for the work of her co-star in bringing the evil Ultron to life. “James Spader was so fun to work with because he really embraced the creativity of being a robot,” says Olsen. “I wasn’t there for his first entrance shot, but when Ultron came in kind of half-made, he was explaining how he filmed it with his arm in a sling and he decided he was left handed, so that he would just continue to gesture with his wrist and his arm just dangled. He became so creative with how it would end up looking later on, after motion capture was done. He was constantly just trying to make it better and he was such a perfectionist. It was fun to work with someone who treated Ultron so preciously.


Olsen was pleasantly surprised to discover that Scarlet Witch is emotionally vulnerable, despite the fact that she is blessed with super powers. “Joss Whedon and I talked a lot about her vulnerability,” comments Olsen, “and I was thinking that Super Heroes are not that vulnerable. But throughout filming, I started to understand a bit more about how they are so responsible for all this devastation and destruction. I didn’t really think of it as her taking it so personally in a sensitive way but more in an aggressive way, so that’s nice because I also felt that for these films you don’t take it in a sensitive way. But Scarlet Witch is much more connected emotionally and her power I think comes from her emotions. Her emotions are her anchor and so to be able to be emotionally vulnerable as well as strong was a nice reminder.”


Describing the look of her character, Olsen offers, “Scarlet Witch and her twin brother Quicksilver are basically vagabonds. They are like gypsies in Eastern Europe and they use their own resources to get on. The way we thought of Scarlet Witch’s costume is that she would just grab things on the go or he would maybe swipe things for her. They became an amalgamation of the resources they had. So if it’s cold they might grab a shawl or swipe a jacket. Eastern Europe sometimes tends to look maybe 15 years behind in a weird way, like the ’90s are cool there or the ’80s are cool there, so we tried to have that kind of thing. The other thing that’s really important for Scarlet Witch is her power comes from her hands and her wrists, so we have these leather gloves that guard her hands and we have these rings that I think of as protection in a way because she wears like 14 rings and a lot of bracelets. I think of all that as protection in a way, like armor.”


Relating how it was to work with director/writer Joss Whedon for the first time, Olsen comments, “You feel needed and necessary. Joss comes on set and gives such specific notes that are actually incredibly helpful. I would come to him while he was shooting something else with a question about a scene we were going to film, and I’d know his mind would be somewhere else but he’d be totally cool with talking to me about it, which with so many characters you’d just think that would be a lot more difficult than it is for him. But he’s a fan. He knows he knows this world and you trust him.”


According to Olsen, audiences can expect a “fun ride” from Marvel’s “Avengers: Age of Ultron.” “It’s going to be very terrifying but so much fun at the same time,” enthuses Olsen. “What Marvel does best is they’re able to have everyone invest in things personally and really care but at the same time have fun. It makes you laugh and you look up to these guys so it’s going to be everything that you want from Marvel films but with a stronger, scarier core.”



Q: Talk about getting this role and stepping into the Marvel Universe.


A: The first time I met Joss Whedon, the characters that they were casting for were so under wraps that I had no idea, so he was the first person to introduce me to Scarlet Witch. I don’t read “The Avengers” comics so I didn’t know who she was. Joss explained her to me, and my brother’s a big comic-book guy so I asked him about her as well. Then I asked Marvel to compile a bible of the comic books that were centered on her. It’s just unbelievable the amount of material there is to draw from. All of the stories that are already in the comic books are so interesting. I like the journey that she goes on and how she develops her skills and how much power she has without realizing it. She is connected to the universe and has the ability to manipulate minds. Her powers create a huge plot point in this film.


There are so many things to play with in this script and there’s nothing simple about it. It continues to be interesting and the dynamics between the other characters regarding Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver are so much fun. It’s been really exciting to have a role in one of these films and have so many plot points and such a deep story.


Q: It’s interesting that all The Avengers have so many powers but the one thing they can’t fight against is their mind.


A: I was trying to say this in an eloquent way at Comic Con in Hall H but that’s what’s so interesting about this film. It’s something that can be “explained” and this is adding a supernatural element that just doesn’t really exist yet. Through Scarlet Witch we’re broadening the world of Marvel in film right now, like “Guardians of the Galaxy” did. So it’s really cool to have that new element being brought to the story.


Q: Talk about developing the hand movements with a coach.


A: Joss Whedon really wanted me to work with a dancer because he wanted to add a new element of fighting. He didn’t want it to just be punches anymore; he wanted something that’s more circular instead of harsh. He had this image of spinning but the conversation about how Scarlet Witch would move changed a lot. Joss met with Jenny White, who’s my movement coach on this, and worked with her. Then Jenny and I together created something on our own that worked for Joss and me. Italy was our beginning of understanding how Scarlet Witch moves and creating a vocabulary and it wasn’t really until the second half of this shoot where I felt like I could improvise something like that. Before I needed it to be choreographed because it felt like something that I’ve never done before or seen before. We’re not copying anything. We’re not really referencing anything. So it’s just kind of born organically, which is really cool.


Q: Is moving that way something you constantly do now?


A: No, what’s funny is before it was so unnatural to me because I’m used to ballet and this kind of movement is a different way of standing. It’s a different weight and I’ve never been someone who can make one hand do something different from the other hand, so that was the hardest thing. I would practice that all of the time. I would just be on the subway in New York and I’d be trying to make one hand go fast and one go slow. But it’s like second nature now. It felt so unnatural at the beginning and it was stiff. When I look at videos of our training sessions, it just looks funny and everyone else has their stunt doubles on set doing flips and stuff. But I don’t use my stunt double because I can do everything I’m doing, which is also nice because I don’t have to rely on someone else to do my movement.


Q: Talk about the first time you came on set with all the other actors.


A: When I started, it was just Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Jeremy Renner and I in Italy and then all of a sudden everyone was added. I was really intimidated that it was going be a lot of improvisational banter and I don’t like improvisational banter, especially on my first day of work. But it wasn’t like that, so that was great. Everyone is so nice and everyone is so funny. I was waiting for it to be really scary but it was nice that I got to establish my character at the beginning so I didn’t feel like I had too many things to juggle at once. I felt very confident with what we had done in Italy and felt really great about it that when I came back I felt like I knew what I was doing. Because everyone else has had their characters for years for the most part, except for James Spader and Paul Bettany, but Aaron and I are coming in cold basically and so it was nice to have our own substantial work with our characters before coming on to set with all those intimidating people.


Q: What is your character’s take on Tony Stark?


A: Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver basically think that Tony Stark, Iron Man, is one of the worst people on Earth because of his connection to the bombs that destroyed their town when they were younger and their parents died because of it. Stark was the name that they grew up with that they associated with the most evil person on Earth. That “snarkiness” that is his thing always made Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch feel that he was just the most irreverent human being and the most careless and had no idea what his impact is in the world.


Q: What do they see in Ultron that make them believe in him?


A: When Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver meet Ultron, their first instinct is that he is just another power-hungry being. Then they start to believe in his idealism, which ends up being completely flawed. He believes that The Avengers will eventually abuse their own power and they won’t end up doing good. We believe that he is here for peace. He ends up not having any moral compass whatsoever.


Q: What was it like doing scenes with James Spader?


A: James Spader was so fun to work with because he really embraced the creativity of being a robot. I wasn’t there for his first entrance shot, but when Ultron came in kind of half-made, he was explaining how he filmed it with his arm in a sling and he decided he was left handed, so that he would just continue to gesture with his wrist and his arm just dangled. He became so creative with how it would end up looking later on, after motion capture was done. He was constantly just trying to make it better and he was such a perfectionist. It was fun to work with someone who treated Ultron so preciously.


Q: Tell me about how her look progresses throughout the film.


A: Scarlet Witch and her twin brother Quicksilver are basically vagabonds. They are like gypsies in Eastern Europe and they use their own resources to get on. The way we thought of Scarlet Witch’s costume is that she would just grab things on the go or he would maybe swipe things for her. They became an amalgamation of the resources they had. So if it’s cold they might grab a shawl or swipe a jacket. Eastern Europe sometimes tends to look maybe 15 years behind in a weird way, like the ’90s are cool there or the ’80s are cool there, so we tried to have that kind of thing. The other thing that’s really important for Scarlet Witch is her power comes from her hands and her wrists, so we have these leather gloves that guard her hands and we have these rings that I think of as protection in a way because she wears like 14 rings and a lot of bracelets. I think of all that as protection in a way, like armor.


Q: What was it like working with Joss Whedon?


A: I got to see so many different versions of our characters with Joss because we started doing preproduction with him about three months before we shot because we were filming the tag for “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” with him. That was when we started our conversation with him about originating these characters. From the first “Avengers” Joss really gets to inherit characters from all the different franchises but he got to create us. I know he was really interested in also creating a female character that was strong and a different silhouette was important to him than just everyone being in pants. It was fun to see our characters grow and expand under Joss’ direction.


Working with Joss is really nice, as you feel needed and necessary. He comes on set and gives such specific notes that are actually incredibly helpful. I would come to him while he was shooting something else with a question about a scene we were going to film, and I’d know his mind would be somewhere else but he’d be totally cool with talking to me about it, which with so many characters you’d just think that would be a lot more difficult than it is for him. But he’s a fan. He knows he knows this world and you trust him.


Q: Is there anything you were surprised to discover about your character?


A: Joss Whedon and I talked a lot about her vulnerability and I was thinking that Super Heroes are not that vulnerable. But throughout filming, I started to understand a bit more about how they are so responsible for all this devastation and destruction. I didn’t really think of it as her taking it so personally in a sensitive way but more in an aggressive way, so that’s nice because I also felt that for these films you don’t take it in a sensitive way. But Scarlet Witch is much more connected emotionally and her power I think comes from her emotions. Her emotions are her anchor and so to be able to be emotionally vulnerable as well as strong was a nice reminder.


Q: Talk about the challenges of getting the accent.


A: The nice thing about being from a make-believe place is that you don’t have to sound right to any region. I’m American and Aaron [Taylor-Johnson] is British, so certain sounds to an Eastern European dialect are going to come more naturally to him where different ones will sometimes be more natural to me. So what we did is we started working with our dialect coach Sarah Shepherd and we explored Eastern Europe Slavic dialects but trying to stay away from Russian because Black Widow is Russian. So we found the sounds that actually he and I felt most comfortable with. What is nice is that any other actor who is Sokovian can just learn the accent because we already invented how it should sound. It was a little scary at first to open our mouths it comes really naturally now.


Q: Was it an advantage for you and Aaron Taylor-Johnson that you had worked together on “Godzilla”?


A: It was so nice that Aaron and I came straight from “Godzilla” onto this film because we were the newbies together and we at least weren’t new to each other. We had each other and so that added a confidence coming into a film that’s kind of daunting because of the ensemble. Although we didn’t even get to work that much together in “Godzilla,” I did get to spend time with him socially with his family and things like that, so it was nice to have that familiarity with each other. You learn more about the person you work with when you do press junkets. We came straight from doing a “Godzilla” press junket for this film, and we really do banter like brother and sister. It’s nice to have that playfulness with each other and that comfort level to be protective over each other. I’ve never worked with the same actor twice yet and I feel really thankful for that and we also really enjoy each other as people so it’s fun that the person you have to spend the majority of your days with when you’re working is with someone that you find funny and enjoy. We have the same sense of humor and we know each other’s families and so it’s a nice feeling.


Q: What have been some of your favorite moments on this film?


A: Being in Italy was awesome because I was so militant about everything. I just wanted to feel prepared every day because it was so new and scary. I’d work with my movement coach twice a day and I would work on dialect every single day. It was my first time feeling that kind of strength and power in a character, so I’d come home at night super-confident just because I was acting confident all day.


My funniest favorite memory is the scene when Paul Bettany’s character, Vision, starts talking to us about Ultron’s plans and we’re all sitting in a circle, everyone except Black Widow. Except for Paul, we each had maybe 2 or 3 bit lines that got thrown in and it was as if no one knew when to say their lines at the beginning so later when you just say them so much, you just start to feel silly. Everyone got really goofy towards the end. It was a really fun day on set and there were a lot of laughs. It was when I felt like part of the team in a way and so that felt cool. It’s like the moment you start really getting made fun of is when you know you’ve been accepted—especially on this set.


Q: How cool was it being on the Stark Tower set?


A: The Stark Tower set was massive and it was to scale of what it’s supposed to be in the film. The one negative about that set was they wanted it to look so sleek that it was the most slippery set ever and the amount of fighting and motion that had to be resulted in people slipping all over the place and they had to get glue sprayed on the bottom of their shoes. But that set was gorgeous. It was definitely the coolest set I’ve ever seen.


Q: What can fans expect this film to be?


A: When you watch pieces of it come together it is so scary and it really does transport you into a world where there’s true evil and fear and it gets to you, especially with the music and the performances, in such a way that you’re caught off guard how much you’re invested in something that is a fantasy world. Then at the same time you still have that rock star element where all these people are actually like modern day rock stars who are really cool and they’re really funny and they have this great banter between them all but at the end of the day what undercuts it is this large element of human fear; of evil taking over good. It’s going to be very terrifying but so much fun at the same time. What Marvel does best is they’re able to have everyone invest in things personally and really care but at the same time have fun. It’s a fun ride; it makes you laugh and you look up to these guys so it’s going to be everything that you want from Marvel films but with a stronger, scarier core.


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The Movie Bit: Elizabeth Olsen Age Of Ultron Interview
Elizabeth Olsen Age Of Ultron Interview
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