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James Spader Age Of Ultron Interview

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 James Spader may be the newest actor to play a villain in the Marvel Cinematic Universe but he is excited to be part of it and for good reason. He explains what drew him to the project at its inception, “I had at the time a 19-year-old son who had always loved comic book films and comic books and throughout my career I have never made a film that any of my kids have been able to really see until they were considerably older. At that time I also had a little 3-year-old-son coming along too, and he was already interested in fantasy, so I thought I could finally do something for my boys.”

He adds, “This is a group of people who have worked a lot together and are very familiar with this world. I love coming into this story in the capacity that this character does because he has knowledge of these characters. Ultron is sort of self-created to a degree, with a lot of unintended help from Banner and Stark. He has an encyclopedic knowledge of them and their past and their history and their lives and a general, comprehensive history of mankind and culture, and yet he’s just been born.”

Further describing Ultron’s capabilities, Spader says, “Ultron is able to access anything technological and anything that is available on the Internet has become part of his stimulation and information and embedded in his psyche. I think that’s inclusive of even conversation. But it’s streaming all the time. He has an ungoverned access to it and it’s constantly streaming into whatever processing chip he has in there somewhere. So it’s overwhelming and almost inconceivable. He has powers and knowledge that are impossible for him to harness and that mixed with a lot of hubris and psychopathic tendencies are formidable. Troubling. He’s too strong for his own good.”

Ultron definitely has The Avengers in his sights for destruction but one Avenger is of particular interest: “Ultron’s perception probably of the world is that Tony Stark is the absolute defining personification of what is wrong with the world today. The Avengers as a whole he looks upon as being reflective of the decline of civilization and all the more so that Tony Stark is responsible for his being, to a degree. Very quickly Ultron becomes a self-created being as he continues to advance and develop and evolve and so on. But in a funny way for other characters also that are introduced in this film, Tony Stark represents a catalyst to the problem.”

Spader had worked in the past with Robert Downey Jr., who reprises his role of Tony Stark/Iron Man in the film, and the two have been friends for many years. It was a “tremendous pleasure” for Spader to have the chance to reacquaint with Downey Jr.   

“We’ve been in different parts of the world for some time now and that happens a lot in the movie business where you have these friends who become very close,” informs Spader. “Our friendship was one of the few friendships I’ve made working as an actor where it was really based on our friendship away from the set. We worked together on a couple of pictures but our friendship was based on a friendship away from that. Then we just have been on different ends of the universe for some time. One of the great pleasures of working on this picture has been finding that friendship again, which happened immediately.”

Working on the film involved new technological challenges for Spader, who had never worked with motion-capture before as an integral element of his performance, but the talented actor stepped out of his comfort zone and embraced the experience.  “To be doing something brand-new after decades and decades of working as an actor has been the exhilarating part of it and the incredibly challenging part of it is just that the process itself is indomitable and I like that,” says Spader. “I like that it was brand-new for me and it was also an opportunity to bring life to something in an entirely new and different way than I ever have before.”

This is the veteran actor’s first time working with writer/director Joss Whedon and he says of the experience, “He’s incredibly smart and very funny and eccentric and those are the qualities I like in a person. He brings that to the set, and for me working on a film that’s a gift. If that eccentricity and the idiosyncrasies of the director and the writer importantly inform how you arrive at the end result, that’s great.”

Spader is very articulate when it comes to describing the essence of Marvel’s “Avengers: Age of Ultron.” “It’s an abundant feast for all the senses,” offers the actor. “It’s visually staggering, not just in terms of imagery, but in terms of its size and scope as well. When I read some of the things in the script, it just seemed so enormous. You’d think that there must be some diminishment of that during the process of the making of or even the development of the script, but not so. The stories that matter are small and human and emotional and it’s a juxtaposition of those things because that’s how it works.”

Summing up, he adds, “A film can be a magnificent spectacle that’s inaccessible in a way so that you can’t crawl inside and feel the discomfort of it or the elation or the joy or the sadness or the melancholy or whatever it may be. But to be able to create this spectacle and have it be something that you can crawl inside and feel the life within, that’s film in its finest form.”

Q&A FOLLOWS:

Q: What were your thoughts about playing one of the most revered villains in the Marvel universe?

A: I had at the time a 19-year-old son who had always loved comic book films and comic books and throughout my career I have never made a film that any of my kids have been able to really see until they were considerably older. At that time I also had a little 3-year-old-son coming along too, and he was already interested in fantasy, so I thought I could finally do something for my boys. So I expressed my interest early on in a meeting with Kevin Feige.

I was in the middle of doing a television series when Kevin called to talk about the part of Ultron. I happened to be going out to Los Angeles for some press and Joss Whedon wrote a couple of scenes to give me an idea of what the voice of this character would be just to see if I would respond to it. I met with Kevin and Jeremy Latcham and they brought a whole folder along with them.

They had some of the illustrators do some mock ups of some of the imagery for the character and then also their idea of how the character would take shape during the course of the film. They had incorporated my image into that already. I said yes right in the room, as it seemed like such an exciting and fun thing to do. Not to mention, I had a very old friendship with Robert Downey Jr. and we hadn’t worked together in decades, so I thought this would really be fun to get on a set with him again.

Q: Can you talk about “playing” a robot and wearing the mo-cap?

A: In this case one of the things that’s interesting is that there’s an intent to incorporate certain facial gestures of mine into the metallic structure of this character who evolves during the course of the film to the point where funny enough, as much as he tries to delineate himself quite distinctly from being a man as opposed to a creation, he is moving towards that. He’s taking on much more human physicality and articulation of body and movement and so on and so forth.

That idea came up in my very first conversation with Joss Whedon when I asked him what my contribution to Ultron would be. He said that if I wanted to come in and have the entire character based off me, not just the voice, and I could make that commitment, it would be great, but it was up to me. Anything I work on, I’m always all in—I have always stayed away from gambling for that very reason. So I told Joss I was going for the whole thing. But I knew nothing about what I was going to be stepping into.

The first time I showed up at the studio to shoot with mo-cap, they put me in a suit and had me go through a range of motion exercise with different, very specific motions and movements, which they captured with sensors all over me and markings and everything else and these reference cameras all around me. Then they plugged it into this process on a computer and within 10 minutes the rough image of Ultron, the character I was playing, was on the monitor in front of me, and every move that I made was live streaming as the character right in front of me. The next day I went and shot using all the process, which was intimidating and certainly challenging. I didn’t know what the hell I was doing and was thrown by all of it, but it was exhilarating. It was great fun.

When I came back a month and a month later to shoot, I knew exactly what I was getting into and how not just fit into the process but to be able to really incorporate what I wanted to do and how I could then serve Joss Whedon best in trying to bring this character to life.

Q: How has it been being able to act in the room with each other and feed off each other?

A: I don’t know another way to do it, so I am so thankful that the technology has caught up and I can be there in front of the camera. I’m there on the set and the other actors are getting everything that they can from me and I’m getting everything that I can from them. How it feels on a set for me is always informed by the character that I’m playing anyway. But in this case it worked very well. This is a group of people who have worked a lot together and are very familiar with this world. I love coming into this story in the capacity that this character does because he has knowledge of these characters. He is sort of self-created to a degree, with a lot of unintended help from Banner and Stark. He has an encyclopedic knowledge of them and their past and their history and their lives and a general, comprehensive history of mankind and culture, and yet he’s just been born.

Q: How does Ultron feel about Tony Stark?

A: His perception probably of the world is that Tony Stark is the absolute defining personification of what is wrong with the world today. The Avengers as a whole he looks upon as being reflective of the decline of civilization and all the more so that Tony Stark is responsible for his being to a degree. Very quickly Ultron becomes a self-created being as he continues to advance and develop and evolve and so on. But in a funny way for other characters also that are introduced in this film, Tony Stark represents a catalyst to the problem.

Q: What is it like working with Robert Downey Jr. again after all these years?

A: Working with Robert has been such a tremendous pleasure. We’ve been in different parts of the world for some time now and that happens a lot in the movie business where you have these friends who become very close. Our friendship was one of the few friendships I’ve made working as an actor where it was really based on our friendship away from the set. We worked together on a couple of pictures but our friendship was based on a friendship away from that. Then we just have been on different ends of the universe for some time. One of the great pleasures of working on this picture has been finding that friendship again, which happened immediately.

Q: Talk about how Ultron uses technology to his advantage.

A: Ultron is able to access anything technological and anything that is available on the Internet has become part of his stimulation and information and embedded in his psyche. I think that’s inclusive of even conversation. But it’s streaming all the time. He has an ungoverned access to it and its constantly streaming into whatever processing chip he has in there somewhere. So it’s overwhelming and almost inconceivable. He has powers and knowledge that are impossible for him to harness and that mixed with a lot of hubris and psychopathic tendencies are formidable. Troubling. He’s too strong for his own good.

Q: How has it been working with Joss Whedon?

A: When Joss came over to my apartment in New York, we sat on the roof and drank a bottle of wine and talked for several hours. It just confirmed for me that I was truly excited about being able to be on a set with him. I like his writing. He was excited about the eccentricities and idiosyncrasies of this character; not just what’s intimidating or not just the aggression of this character but also his insecurities and problems, of which there are many. That’s what’s fascinated Joss and that’s what fascinated me. Joss felt very strongly that this character was very dichotomous and to the point of contradiction very often. I thought that was interesting and I thought that it was very in keeping with this character’s sphere of influence, which is vast. On the set, Joss distills this tremendous sense of the whole to just the tiniest things and that is to me perfect in terms of the relationship between the director and actor. He’s very specific and very often looking at the smallest element that affects the whole in a dramatic fashion.

He’s incredibly smart and very funny and eccentric and those are the qualities I like in a person. He brings that to the set, and for me working on a film that’s a gift. If that eccentricity and the idiosyncrasies of the director and the writer importantly inform how you arrive at the end result, that’s great.

Q: What has been the most enjoyable part about working on this film and the most challenging?

A: Probably just how different it is. To be doing something brand-new after decades and decades of working as an actor has been the exhilarating part of it and the incredibly challenging part of it is just that the process itself is indomitable and I like that. I like that it was brand-new for me and it was also an opportunity to bring life to something in an entirely new and different way than I ever have before.

Q: What are you most excited to see in the film and what will audiences take away from the film?

A: It’s an abundant feast for all the senses. It’s visually staggering, not just in terms of imagery, but in terms of its size and scope as well. When I read some of the things in the script, it just seemed so enormous. You’d think that there must be some diminishment of that during the process of the making of or even the development of the script, but not so. The stories that matter are small and human and emotional and it’s a juxtaposition of those things because that’s how it works. A film can be a magnificent spectacle that’s inaccessible in a way so that you can’t crawl inside and feel the discomfort of it or the elation or the joy or the sadness or the melancholy or whatever it may be. But to be able to create this spectacle and have it be something that you can crawl inside and feel the life within, that’s film in its finest form.

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The Movie Bit: James Spader Age Of Ultron Interview
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