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Joss Whedon Interview Age Of Ultron

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When Joss Whedon returned to write and direct The Avengers’ next epic adventure, he had a clear vision for expanding the characters. “It is about finding darkness and finding their weaknesses,” says Whedon. “They are enormously strong and they are a team, so you have to dig the knife in where you can and sort of dismantle them a little bit. It is a more personal film than the first. We have more opportunity, now that they have met and the audience has met them and understands their world, to dig into their psyches and not everything in there is pretty.”

Whedon comments that there is an element of “we put them together, let’s tear them apart,” when it comes to the second film in The Avengers franchise.  “You definitely want to find out, once you have your origin of a team story, what the next story is really about,” comments the director. “Can that paradigm sustain? Can these people actually stand each other once they have digested their shawarma? It is interesting because we see a lot of new loyalties and friendships and conflicts, and we get to get further into the heads of all the characters and see why they work as a team and why they don’t, and the mistakes they are going to make and the solutions they are going to come up with.”

Whedon adds, “The idea of the second one is also everybody in the world now knows that there are Avengers and that there are Super Heroes and villains and all kinds of crazy stuff. But for me it’s great because I wanted a different movie. I wanted a different dynamic. The first movie was definitely about putting the team together and the second movie is totally about pulling them apart.”

Whedon was well aware that S.H.I.E.L.D. was going down in Marvel’s “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” and that worked well for him in developing the storyline for Marvel’s “Avengers: Age of Ultron.” He explains, “It meant The Avengers were free agents and that’s a different paradigm. You have to explain it to people who haven’t seen the other movies but people have to know that it’s a new world. There’s no more S.H.I.E.L.D. The Avengers are cleaning up the mess made by S.H.I.E.L.D. and by the Chitauri fallout and by everything that came before and there are new players out there.”

One of the most difficult tasks for Whedon in writing the story was to balance all the characters and do justice to them. “I swear I keep saying my next film is going to be ‘To Build a Fire.’ It’s one guy and a dog—and I might cut out the dog,” laughs Whedon. “It is very difficult, but the point of the thing is that everybody matters and their interactions—when they conflict, when they work together—highlight who they are as much as anything. It’s difficult to make sure everybody shines, but at the same time, it’s glorious because everybody does. So much of this has been about the way they deal with each other and how that starts to fracture and what it says about them. That helps enormously because each member of the team, good or bad, comes together, falls apart, or whatever it is. In a way, it lifts itself by its own bootstraps.”

Whedon does admit, however, that there is a temptation to play favorites when he writes of The Avengers. “The temptation to play favorites is a problem, but it’s usually that I want to play favorites with whomever it is that I’m writing,” says Whedon. “I really do love each of them. They’re very different. Their voices are very different, their histories, their pain, their humor—all the things that interest me. They’re very different. The fun of the film is how you juxtapose these people who are literally from different eras and different worlds.”

Explaining the working relationship between Captain America and Tony Stark in the new movie, Whedon offers, “Cap and Tony start off fairly harmonious because they respect each other’s place. Cap runs the team, Tony finances and designs everything and they both have their own stuff going on as well. But their alliance, which is based on the idea that they recognize their differences and their different skill sets, is going to be put to the test seconds in, and it’s going to be Tony who does it. Literally the first word out of Cap’s mouth is admonishing Tony. It’s just who they are and what’s fun about that is, it’s fun to watch those guys go head to head and because they are so different. Watching them become a team again is very exhilarating and their moments at the end are among my favorite because when Cap finally explains what he’s been going through and who he is and how he understands his life, he does it to Tony, and that’s probably the only person he would and that’s an interesting relationship.”

Marvel’s “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” brings to the big screen one of the greatest Avengers villains for decades and decades: Ultron. “When I would read the comic books, he was always popping up in one incarnation or another trying to kill them all,” recalls Whedon. “Even before I took the first film, I knew in the second one we had to have Ultron. He has got great power. He is a robot but he doesn’t behave like one necessarily. He is much more interesting than that and has a lot of rage issues and daddy issues. So he is formidable and he can recreate himself, which means he comes with an army. So he seemed like the only guy that can really give The Avengers a run for their money.”

According to Whedon, Ultron has many fathers but ultimately he is the creation of Tony Stark. “Stark and Banner worked together to create him but Banner doesn’t really get the credit because it’s Tony’s obsession and the obsession is to solve the world,” informs Whedon. “He’s seen it mess up. He’s messed up himself so many times and he’s gotten to a higher ambition than he had before, which is just to make it better. He saw the alien army and was not okay with that. He spent most of ‘Iron Man 3’ having anxiety attacks about it, and so he’s got this obsession, which is to create a perfect peace. He believes that with Loki’s scepter and the tech that is encapsulated inside—this ‘magical’ gem—that he can build that.”

Expanding on Ultron, Whedon says, “Of course there is no such thing as a perfect peace and for that and other reasons Ultron just has a cognitive dissonance that spins him to the point where he’s bonkers. He also becomes self-aware and sentient and knows everything all at once, and is privy to the Internet which means he is into everything and everybody’s ideas and everybody’s conflicts and everybody’s goddamn kittens. His so-called mission is to bring peace but his way of doing it is to get rid of the status quo and maybe everybody else because humanity is full of conflict. That’s just part of what we are.”

On Ultron’s motivation, Whedon offers, “The idea is that the way to protect man is to control or even destroy man. At the same time what I like about Ultron is that what’s also going on is that he has enormous issues about daddy and about the team and The Avengers who are in a way responsible for him. He thinks he’s doing the logical robot thing but he’s full of rage and he doesn’t even know that. He’s not particularly sure what his plan is. He goes from thing to thing. He knows what he wants to do but at the same time, he doesn’t really know why he wants to do it. He doesn’t know he’s the biggest threat humanity’s ever faced.”

Costuming style in Marvel’s “Avengers: Age of Ultron” was very important to Whedon, who says, “The costumes in a Super Hero film pretty much make or break. Alexandra Byrne, who did the first film brilliantly, is doing this one. In some places, we don’t want to rock the boat. We like what we like, but all the costumes changed in every film. Captain America was always the hardest, and I think they did a brilliant job in ‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’ and we’ve built off of that. We’ve wanted to amp up Black Widow to give her a little more juice because it makes sense to give her more tricks because she doesn’t have any super powers. In general, we just like to see something a little bit new but at the same time we want to know who those guys are.”

On a related note, Whedon continues, “Actually the trick of making the whole film is looking at how to make a new film. I don’t want to make the same film I made. How do I find something new that will surprise and either delight or horrify the audience—hopefully both—but at the same time give them the thing that they showed up for; give them the thing that worked in the first film, not disrespect the first film? That’s a very tricky business, but again that’s part of the puzzle that I get to put together.”

Marvel’s “Avengers: Age of Ultron” will be a global visual experience for the audiences as the film was shot in multiple locations around the world. Whedon explains the significance of this, saying, “We were in Johannesburg and in Seoul as well as various parts of Europe. We had a ton of locations in and around England as well. It was important for me because in this story The Avengers are dealing with the world’s perception of them and the world’s perception of their intrusion into world politics and on the world stage. Obviously, they’re not addressing the UN; they’re fighting bad guys. But there is this thing where they have to deal with the issue of their being a global entity, so we wanted to expand locations from the first one; this time we really want to say that they are far from home. We don’t spend a lot of time in New York. We spend a decent amount but they really get booted into the real world in ways that they hadn’t really expected. It’s very much a part of them to learn how much they’re connected to it or aren’t.”

There are a few shots in the film that are a little more elaborate but I was less concerned with that. I found that because I had this visual language that was very casual, even though it’s very iconic, when I got very specific, it would take you out of it. It would feel fake, so I had to thread the needle. Having said that, the shot that starts with the Legionnaires and goes into the mansion and all the way through and gives you the entire, unbelievable, ginormous set that Charlie Wood built was fun. The shot was really just a question of giving you the sense of space and letting you understand how epic and massive it was. It was the biggest set I’ve ever shot on and by a country mile the biggest set most of us had ever been on. It’s part of the epic nature of being an Avenger and it’s very much Tony’s thing of “I have the most and it’s the coolest.”

Whedon is happy to return to the Marvel “family” with Marvel’s “Avengers: Age of Ultron.” “I’ve never had an experience like working at Marvel,” says the director. “The great thing about it is that they know what they want. As a producer, Kevin Feige knows what he wants and for me Marvel is Kevin Feige. Kevin and the creative producer on the movie, Jeremy Latcham, are the two best storytelling executives I’ve ever met. Those are the guys that I work for and to have just one voice from the studio, and to have that voice be someone who knows going in what he wants, who knows what you want, and how those two things are going to connect makes the post process smooth. I honestly believe I will never have a situation on a big studio movie that is this harmonious again because we’re a bunch of nerds and we just want to make the most compelling and wonderful big nerd movie we can.”

Whedon is very clear about what he wants the movie to deliver: “I want humanity. I want texture. I want ideas. I want the movie to be about something. It’s very important for me to have something to say. I don’t just want to point a camera at something pretty. I don’t want to amuse people and then have them forget that I did. I want people to incorporate what they saw into their own mythos and for that to go forward. Every artist I think wants that but just to make a long summer entertainment is a waste of the ridiculous amount of talent coming from that cast and that crew and the potential of this movie. I want it to be a movie that speaks to people on a human level while it’s entertaining the hell out of them.”

Summing up what audiences can expect, Whedon says, “What was so grand about this weird, disparate group coming together is that we also know that nothing lasts forever and that there is a dark side to everything. It’s going to be a little more grown-up then the first one. A little scarier. A little funkier. But in the end, it’s got the same values; it’s got the same extraordinary characters and a lot of humor. And yes, there may be some punching.”



Q&A FOLLOWS:


Q: Can you explain what brings the team back together for Marvel’s “Avengers: Age of Ultron”?

A: Obviously this film picks up sometime after the first Avengers movie, and after the events of the next Thor and the next Captain America, so things have changed a lot in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Our guys are still connected but their lives are very different; they are not being run by anybody so they are creating their own style.


Q: Why is Ultron the villain in this film?

A: Ultron has been one of the greatest Avengers villains for decades and decades. When I would read the comic books, he was always popping up in one incarnation or another trying to kill them all. Even before I took the first film, I knew in the second one we had to have Ultron. He has got great power. He is a robot but he doesn’t behave like one necessarily. He is much more interesting than that and has a lot of rage issues and daddy issues. So he is formidable and he can recreate himself, which means he comes with an army. So he seemed like the only guy that can really give The Avengers a run for their money.


Q: Do you have a personal history with him being your favorite?

A: Ultron in the comics is a little one-note to me. He tends to be like, “I will destroy you. I am still destroying any minute now. Once again, I have come back to destroy you.” He has this big angry face. I like the idea of taking that into the movies to create something that is a little more textured; somebody who really is that angry and actually has to wrestle with his idea of who he is and why he can’t stand these people. What they have done to him by creating him.


Q: Describe Ultron.

A: Ultron has many fathers but ultimately he is the creation of Tony Stark. Stark and Banner worked together to create him but Banner doesn’t really get the credit because it’s Tony’s obsession and the obsession is to solve the world. He’s seen it mess up. He’s messed up himself so many times and he’s gotten to a higher ambition than he had before, which is just to make it better. He saw the alien army and was not okay with that. He spent most of the “Iron Man 3” having anxiety attacks about it, and so he’s got this obsession, which is to create a perfect peace. He believes that with Loki’s scepter and the tech that is encapsulated inside—this “magical” gem—that he can build that. Of course there is no such thing as a perfect peace and for that and other reasons Ultron just has a cognitive dissonance that spins him to the point where he’s bonkers. He also becomes self-aware and sentient and knows everything all at once, and is privy to the Internet which means he is into everything and everybody’s ideas and everybody’s conflicts and everybody’s goddamn kittens. His so-called mission is to bring peace but his way of doing it is to get rid of the status quo and maybe everybody else because humanity is conflict. That’s just part of what we are.


Q: What is his motivation?

A: The idea is that the way to protect man is to control or even destroy man. At the same time what I like about Ultron is that what’s also going on is that he has enormous issues about daddy and about the team and The Avengers who are in a way responsible for him. He thinks he’s doing the logical robot thing but he’s full of rage and he doesn’t even know that. He’s not particularly sure what his plan is. He goes from thing to thing. He knows what he wants to do but at the same time, he doesn’t really know why he wants to do it. He doesn’t know he’s the biggest threat humanity’s ever faced.


Q: The first film was to start the team dynamic where they come together. How does that go in the second film?

A: There is an element of “We put them together, let’s tear them apart.” You definitely want to find out, once you have your origin of a team story, what the next story is really about. Can that paradigm sustain? Can these people actually stand each other once they have digested their shawarma? It is interesting because we see a lot of new loyalties and friendships and conflicts, and we get to get further into the heads of all the characters and see why they work as a team and why they don’t, and the mistakes they are going to make and the solutions they are going to come up with.


Q: Does Captain America continue to lead the group with Iron Man being the genius behind it?

A: Captain America and Iron Man really represented the two halves of the group and they are very much in leadership positions in this. We see how they have learned to work together and when that doesn’t play.


Q: Now that there is less setup to bring the guys together, what do you want to do with this film?

A: It is about finding darkness and finding their weaknesses. They are enormously strong and they are a team, so you have to dig the knife in where you can and sort of dismantle them a little bit. It is a more personal film than the first. We have more opportunity, now that they have met and the audience has met them and understands their world, to dig into their psyches and not everything in there is pretty.


Q: How does Marvel’s “Captain America: Winter Soldier” affect the storyline?

A: The events of “Winter Soldier” are going to affect us enormously because they effect S.H.I.E.L.D., and S.H.I.E.L.D. is a part of The Avengers Universe. They are working under a new paradigm where there isn’t an all-powerful organization that is watching over them. They are also working under a new paradigm because of the events of the television shows. “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” has shown that there has been fallout from the first Avengers movie and that people of powers are cropping up. There is a whole slate of television shows that are going to reiterate that point, so it is a new universe. It is a little bit more volatile. It is a little bit Wild West for Super Heroes right now.


Q: Please explain where the characters are mentally when we see them in this film.

A: The trick of these things is to always make the film respect everything that has happened in the other films, but also not assuming that everybody is going to have seen them. Tony Stark obviously has the events of “Iron Man 3” that have taken place. Tony is very much in the game but at the same time he is spending a lot of time in the lab trying to figure out a way to change the game basically. It is not enough to put on a suit and punch people. Although it is great, I like it, but he is definitely thinking big picture. He wants answers as much as he wants to beat the next guy. Banner, we find, has been working with him, not necessarily on the same stuff, but they stay very tight and work side-by-side and their skill sets complement each other, particularly in this film. He is slightly more at peace with who he is than at the beginning of the last film.


Q: Where do we find Black Widow?

A: Black Widow and Hawkeye were S.H.I.E.L.D. agents and now they don’t do that, but there are still plenty of people to fight and there are plenty of people to worry about. Black Widow has got her head in the game. She is definitely trying to get somewhere new in her life. She is opening up a bit. She has always been spying; she has always been very closed, and in this film we get to see what is behind that and what she thinks will be ahead of it, which is exciting.


Q: And what about Captain America?

A:   Cap is clearly more comfortable in his skin and in this world than he was before. He is still trying to find his place; that is sort of constant with him, but he is dealing with this. It is not so much the fact that he doesn’t understand the music people are playing but he is focused more on what the rules are because they have changed, and partially because of him. He changed the rules back in the war, and when he came out of the ice, he changed them again. Now when he sees a lot of this stuff that he is the precursor for, he sees that it is spiraling. His desire to keep it ordered and to keep it having some meaning drives him.  He also has to come to terms with America’s position in the world, feeling so different than it did in World War II. All of that stuff is still an issue with him. He is a character with morals.


Q: And what about Hawkeye?

A: Hawkeye isn’t possessed by Loki, which is great because he gets to be with the team more, but at the same time, he is just not a team player. He really is his own guy. He is basically a sniper; he likes to be apart from things and there is a real conflict there between what he is supposed to be as an Avenger and what else might be going on.

Hawkeye is no longer an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. He’s a full time Avenger but at the same time, he’s such a loner. He really doesn’t fit in a group. He still is the guy off by himself. Since he is happily not possessed by Loki anymore, he’ll get to interact with the group and we’ll get to see a little more about his natural side. But there is something about him that makes you question what’s up with him and what card he’s playing. He’s different then the other Avengers. It’s going to be exciting to spool out why.


Q: Why did you want the two new characters, Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver, in the film?

A: Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver were mainstays of the book when I was reading it, and they are interesting characters. Neither one of them is entirely straight and true. He can be very impatient and kind of a pain, and she has not always been the most mentally stable. They are war orphans; they are not American, so they bring a very different perspective on America and The Avengers. They have real pain from when they were children and they bring, not just a different color emotionally, which is exciting, but also ways of getting to The Avengers that are new. They have powers that are very new, and it is exciting for me as a filmmaker because they are very visual. Scarlet Witch’s manipulation of objects, her manipulation of people’s thoughts, and Quicksilver’s super speed are not things we have seen before in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. So I get to play in a new way that will really make the scenes more visceral and exciting, but it is also a sea-change for The Avengers themselves because no matter what they have been facing, usually it comes down to punching the other guy, and suddenly they are dealing with powers that seem mad to them—except to Thor because on Asgard stuff like that happens all the time.


Q: In terms of casting, why choose Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen?

A: I never wanted anybody but Aaron to play Quicksilver and as soon as I met Elizabeth, I never wanted anybody but her to play Scarlet Witch. Aaron has a real sort of cultish energy to him; he really doesn’t stop moving and coming up with ideas, and wanting to work things. He has this very exciting vibrancy, and Pietro (Quicksilver) is that guy, although Aaron is a little more polite. But he has got a really old movie-star quality, but at the same time he is very eager and he is a real student, so he seems just perfect.

And Lizzie, besides also being ridiculously beautiful, is incredibly accomplished. She does so much with so little and she is great with movement, and there is a lot of that with Wanda (Scarlet Witch) that she and I have been working on. She has this serenity and is less likely to fly off the handle than her brother. She is the one thinking big picture, and she brings that intelligence. She can twist it to a place where it goes a little bit wrong, so you understand the characters, but you also understand that they are villains. What is sympathetic about them is part of what is wrong with them, and so you get more interesting villains than if they were just evil.


Q: Will we see any other characters return?

A: Maria Hill will return certainly. I’d like to put in some people from the other films because everybody’s building up this retinue of interesting characters. It’s always a difficult balance between honoring their worlds and not overcrowding ours, and also not making people go, “Well, why don’t they just join as their friends?” But I’d like to see some of the other characters.


Q: How difficult is it to balance all these characters?

A: Balancing all these characters is horrible. I swear I keep saying my next film is going to be “To Build a Fire.” It’s one guy and a dog—and I might cut out the dog. It is very difficult, but the point of the thing is that everybody matters and their interactions—when they conflict, when they work together—highlight who they are as much as anything. It’s difficult to make sure everybody shines, but at the same time, it’s glorious because everybody does. So much of this has been about the way they deal with each other and how that starts to fracture and what it says about them. That helps enormously because each member of the team, good or bad, comes together, falls apart, or whatever it is. In a way, it lifts itself by its own bootstraps. It still requires an enormous amount of dialing in but it is my job and I’m working with producers who really understand that we need to get the most out of every single moment and every single character. I write too much at first but that’s part of the process; I write “War and Peace” and then gradually we boil that down to “War.”


Q: Is it hard not to play favorites in writing for these characters?

A: The temptation to play favorites is a problem, but it’s usually that I want to play favorites with whomever it is that I’m writing. I really do love each of them. They’re very different. Their voices are very different, their histories, their pain, their humor—all the things that interest me. They’re very different. The fun of the film is how you juxtapose these people who are literally from different eras and different worlds.


Q: When shooting, do you often do rewrites on the fly?

A: Yes, I can do stuff on the day. I worked in sitcoms and I worked as a script doctor, and a lot of that is just “Give it to me now. Give me a different version.” Some people really want that immediacy. Robert [Downey Jr.] loves to change things up on the day—not the intent, not the scene, not what the scene’s about but, like is there a different way to approach this sentence or some jokes, whatever. He’ll go to makeup and I’ll come up with ten versions and be like, “Have a go.” I really like that. I think it gives it a real electric energy and that’s part of what makes Robert great. Some actors are like, “I’m just going to say exactly what you wrote,” and I like that too. So just like the heroes themselves everybody’s got their own style and their own little tweaks but everybody’s in service of the same thing; everybody’s in service of the story. They understand that I may be in charge but I’m in the service of the story; that’s all I care about. They care about that and they care about each other. They all want to make each other shine. They all know that they are cooler if the people around them are cooler. It’s a very generous set.


Q: What’s new and interesting about everyone’s costumes in this film?

A: Costumes in a Super Hero film pretty much make or break. Alexandra Byrne, who did the first film brilliantly, is doing this one. In some places, we don’t want to rock the boat. We like what we like, but all the costumes changed in every film. Captain America was always the hardest, and I think they did a brilliant job in “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” and we’ve built off of that. We’ve wanted to amp up Black Widow to give her a little more juice because it makes sense to give her more tricks because she doesn’t have any super powers. In general, we just like to see something a little bit new but at the same time we want to know who those guys are. Actually the trick of making the whole film is looking at how to make a new film. I don’t want to make the same film I made. How do I find something new that will surprise and either delight or horrify the audience—hopefully both—but at the same time give them the thing that they showed up for; give them the thing that worked in the first film, not disrespect the first film? That’s a very tricky business, but again that’s part of the puzzle that I get to put together.


Q: Tell us about James Spader as Ultron.


A: I’ve admired James Spader forever. I don’t remember the moment but I was thinking of Ultron’s voice and I didn’t want to go with the obvious choices for the guys who do robot and grandeur. Ultron, in my head, has this very hypnotic power but at the same time he can throw a hissy fit. He can get very angry about certain details. Spader’s got this very hypnotic voice and he can be broadly comic. He’s really funny without ever taking away from the gravitas of what’s around him, so I thought I’d just ring him up but Marvel had already met with him and wanted to work with him, so it turned out great.


Q: How did you deal with Ultron visually?

A: Ultron is a CG character. The biggest difference is that in the comics he only has a frowny face. He’s just yelling all the time. His mouth literally doesn’t move and that’s doable. Iron Man’s doesn’t either but that’s the reason why we cut into Tony’s interior helmet a lot. This Ultron’s face does move, so we will be doing performance capture with James Spader. We will have the same that we’ll do with Mark Ruffalo for the Hulk. We’ll have cameras on him the whole time he’s performing, so that they cannot just use body motion as indicators but his actual performance. That way we can get some of that sly quality and his essence. Then build on it obviously. You have to change things. Ultron is eight-feet tall and made of metal but it’ll be very much his performance. Spader didn’t really just want to come in and do voiceover and I didn’t want him to. I wanted him in the big metal body.


Q: What’s it like between Robert Downey Jr. and James Spader, as they obviously worked together before?

A: Honestly, with Downey and Spader, it’s just “Tough Turf 2”; that’s what I call the film. We made jokes about it after the fact but the fact that they had worked together on some films was not a consideration. They’d done their own thing for so long and both become so accomplished and extraordinary. Naturally, it is the source of some humor but it’s not like we’re going to wink at the audience with it. They’re playing who they are. I’m not a big fan of breaking the fourth wall.


Q: It must be gratifying to work with actors like that.

A: Marvel goes for the best actors and Robert Downey Jr. is literally one of the best actors in film. He perfectly fits the profile of the character and the line between Robert and Tony Stark is very thin. They’ve kept to that. The whole cast is a powerhouse. It’s strength to strength and that’s exciting. It means that I can write things that are taken a little further and not worry about whether the actor can pull it off or not. They’re all very, very human in the Marvel comics and that’s what was so important to me as a kid and so important to pop culture in general.


Q: Tell us a little bit about the role of Strucker.

A: All I can say about the delightful Herr Strucker is that he plays a key role in the origin of Wanda and Pietro. He has a lot to do with how we understand this world and what’s changed about it. Thomas Kretschmann, who plays Strucker, is a lot of fun because he gives the comic-book version of Strucker without overplaying it. He has a little sadness and you just feel his experience as a guy. He throws things away and that’s what you want from Strucker. You don’t want some sort of jackbooted caricature. We even gave him the monocle, so we really went there but he brings it to life.


Q: Can you tell us about the locations?

A: We were in Johannesburg and in Seoul as well as various parts of Europe. We had a ton of locations in and around England as well. It was important for me because in this story The Avengers are dealing with the world’s perception of them and the world’s perception of their intrusion into world politics and on the world stage. Obviously, they’re not addressing the UN; they’re fighting bad guys. But there is this thing where they have to deal with the issue of their being a global entity, so we wanted to expand locations from the first one; this time we really want to say that they are far from home. We don’t spend a lot of time in New York. We spend a decent amount but they really get booted into the real world in ways that they hadn’t really expected. It’s very much a part of them to learn how much they’re connected to it or aren’t.


Q: How did you pick where to go?

A: I’ve got to say that the location scouting has been some of the best times I’ve ever had. I think the next film is going to be all about “We’ve got to save the…Bahamas!” But at first it came from what we needed for the characters and we did a lot of research. What would give us the most of what we wanted and then also, if we’re dealing with this, is this realistically the place where it would happen. As it turned out, we kept having this serendipitous thing of “Oh, this location is gorgeous” and actually the science that we’re talking about in the story is being done here, so it’s perfect. We used a lot of different ways to hone it down. Ultimately what you need is the look. You need the frame to be exciting and you need to feel the culture that they’re in. It’s very important to me that we don’t do the momentum-destroying sort of film in which every Asian location is clearly a back-lot. We tried to be specific about the cultures that we’re in, in terms of set design and all that stuff. We want to make sure that we’re not a bunch of Hollywood phonies.


Q: What can the fans expect from Marvel’s “Avengers: Age of Ultron”?

A: It’s difficult to sum these things up or it’s difficult for me anyway. But what was so grand about this weird, disparate group coming together is that we also know that nothing lasts forever and that there is a dark side to everything. It’s going to be a little more grown-up then the first one. A little scarier. A little funkier. But in the end, it’s got the same values; it’s got the same extraordinary characters and a lot of humor. And yes, there may be some punching.


Q: What is like working for Marvel again?

A: I’ve never had an experience like working at Marvel. The great thing about it is that they know what they want. As a producer, Kevin Feige knows what he wants and for me Marvel is Kevin Feige. Kevin and the creative producer on the movie, Jeremy Latcham, are the two best storytelling executives I’ve ever met. Those are the guys that I work for and to have just one voice from the studio, and to have that voice be someone who knows going in what he wants, who knows what you want, and how those two things are going to connect makes the post process smooth. I honestly believe I will never have a situation on a big studio movie that is this harmonious again because we’re a bunch of nerds and we just want to make the most compelling and wonderful big nerd movie we can.


Q: The general audience seems to share your sensibilities.

A: My instincts are pretty commercial. Kevin [Feige] knows that I have my obsessions, and maybe there are people at Marvel who are like, “Can we not have ballet in an Avengers movie, please? Do we have to do that?” But they know who I am. They know that I’m going to bring me to the table, but they also know that I just want to make an Avengers movie, that I’m not going to be like, “No, no, no, I’m an artist. I will use your tawdry comic book for my art.”


Q: Are there any shots that you are very excited about artistically?

A: There are a few shots in the film that are a little more elaborate but I was less concerned with that. I found that because I had this visual language that was very casual, even though it’s very iconic, when I got very specific, it would take you out of it. It would feel fake, so I had to thread the needle. Having said that, the shot that starts with the Legionnaires and goes into the mansion and all the way through and gives you the entire, unbelievable, ginormous set that Charlie Wood built was fun. The shot was really just a question of giving you the sense of space and letting you understand how epic and massive it was. It was the biggest set I’ve ever shot on and by a country mile the biggest set most of us had ever been on. It’s part of the epic nature of being an Avenger and it’s very much Tony’s thing of “I have the most and it’s the coolest.”


Q: Did you know that S.H.I.E.L.D. was going down in “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”?

A: Yes, I did and it worked fine for me simply because it meant the Avengers were free agents and that’s a different paradigm. Now you have to explain it to people who haven’t seen the other movies. Hiding exposition is about 30% of my job as a writer and it’s brutal. But people have to know that it’s a new world. There’s no more S.H.I.E.L.D.; the Avengers are free agents. They’re cleaning up the mess made by S.H.I.E.L.D. and by the Chitauri fallout and by everything that came before and there are new players out there.

The idea of the second one is also everybody in the world now knows that there are Avengers and that there are Super Heroes and villains and all kinds of crazy stuff. But for me it’s great because I wanted a different movie. I wanted a different dynamic. The first movie was definitely about putting the team together and the second movie is totally about pulling them apart.


Q: Where are Tony and Cap in their relationship?

A: Cap and Tony start off fairly harmonious because they respect each other’s place. Cap runs the team, Tony finances and designs everything and they both have their own stuff going on as well. But their alliance, which is based on the idea that they recognize their differences and their different skill sets, is going to be put to the test seconds in, and it’s going to be Tony who does it. Literally the first word out of Cap’s mouth is admonishing Tony. It’s just who they are and what’s fun about that is, it’s fun to watch those guys go head to head and because they are so different, watching them become a team again is very exhilarating and their moments at the end are among my favorite because when Cap finally explains what he’s been going through and who he is and how he understands his life, he does it to Tony, and that’s probably the only person he would and that’s an interesting relationship.


Q: Is Cap less idealistic?

A: No. Steve Rogers is a very solid guy. His struggle is more internal about who he is and what he wants and what his values are. He knows from the start, “Ok, we’ve got to deal with this Ultron problem. Thank you, Tony.” That doesn’t really change. It’s more about him realizing who he is in terms of the world; the idea that he is only a soldier. That fed into conversations I’d had and Chris had about Cap from before the first movie.

He is realizing that he doesn’t have an end game where he settles down and has a normal life. He’ll always be fighting. For me it’s a little sad but kind of beautiful and I didn’t even realize until halfway through the shoot that I was writing about me, again.


Q: Set up what Banner is up to in this film.

A: Banner has been on the run for so much of his life. At the end of “The Avengers” he does go off with Tony and then at the end of “Iron Man 3” we see that they’re hanging out anyway. I love that tag by the way. So the idea was that he’s been a part of not just a team but of Stark’s research and he’s been doing his own and he’s got a place. That is not to say that he’s there every day and he’s a wage slave, but you know when we designed the lab it was very important to say, “This is Tony’s area, and this is Banner’s area.” Banner’s area is very impressive but Tony’s is bigger.” We wanted to see these two different guys in their own different fields; they both have their thing. And Banner has found a place where he’s now able, thanks to Natasha, to sort of control the Hulk—the idea that the Hulk is a member of the team when they’re in a situation where they need the big guy. He’s even got—as Mark Ruffalo so desperately wanted in the first film—stretchy pants. He’s got Avengers-issued stretchy pants. We wanted to show that he’s at a different stage in his life, but then we wanted to take all that away from him because it would be painful.


Q: Were Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch and Vision birthed out of the story you wanted to tell?

A: The hardest thing is making it seem like that. Kevin Feige has drilled me on and worked with me on making Scarlet Witch, Quicksilver and Vision feel integral to an Ultron story and he’s absolutely right. I’ve always known it, by the way, since Vision was in my first pitch. Day one on the first Avengers film, I said to Kevin Feige and Jeremy Latcham, “I don’t know if this is a good fit but I do know that if you make a second movie it’s got to be Ultron and then he should make the Vision but they should put Jarvis in the Vision and then Paul Bettany can play the Vision. Because only Paul Bettany can play the Vision.”

I’m a huge Bettany fan and meeting him did not help me with my Bettany problem. He’s adorable and hilarious by the way. When somebody’s hilarious and they look like the Vision, it’s really funny. He’s got those archetypal cheekbones. He can do that robotic thing but he’s also very warm and I just felt like it was a no-brainer.


Q: Can you set up who Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch are and how you got their looks?

A:       Wanda (Scarlet Witch) and Pietro (Quicksilver) both have powers we’ve not seen before. Pietro is very fast—as fast or almost as fast as the Bullet. And Wanda is like a witch; she’s got telekinesis, she can move things, she can have a little bit of energy shielding or pushing and she can get inside your head and tweak it so that all your worst fears and doubts are going to come to the fore. I wanted something more than just the ability to punch but at the same time I wanted people to know: this is as far as she can go. Their powers are based as much as possible on the comics.

The problem was the outfits, which we couldn’t really base on the comics because she wears a red unitard and a cape and a giant tiara and he had a big stripy outfit. For the bulk of the movie they’re just them, so it’s a question of evoking a memory of what they are without being slavish to it. So for Wanda it was a very Bohemian thing. I do like that layered Bohemian look; it’s very sexy, a lot of flow, and she wears it well. For Pietro we talked a lot about what he wears on his feet because it’s just the physical reality of it. Then it was about getting that silhouette and some aspect of something that felt like lightning without ever saying. So that’s the fine line you always walk. The silhouette with Aaron was just a question of getting him to actually lose some muscle because he is supposed to be the fast guy.


Q:               How does Thor fit in now that Loki isn’t the main threat?

A:               Having the fallout from the Chitauri incident and Loki’s scepter being there integrates Thor to a degree, but he is far and away the hardest character to integrate and to write because he is removed from our normal world. It’s very hard to figure out how he fits in, more than anyone else because Thor’s not the kind of guy who can just give you exposition. He can only say Thor things and there’s a lot you can do with the character but in that group making him relevant and normalized is complex. It was literally sort of the last stuff that I worked on. Chris was so patient and his notes were great because he knows how hard it is to put Thor in that world and he knows that it’s so easy for him to be the straight man, or the butt of the “I don’t get this modern world” joke. It’s a devious trick, and one of which I am enormously proud, to figure out an exposition where instead of asking the questions he gives the answers. But I wrote a scene that does just that and it naturally fell out that he would not have his shirt on during that so I feel like I might be a genius.


Q:             What do you want from this movie?

A:            I want humanity. I want texture. I want ideas. I want the movie to be about something. It’s very important for me to have something to say. I don’t just want to point a camera at something pretty. I don’t want to amuse people and then have them forget that I did. I want people to incorporate what they saw into their own mythos and for that to go forward. Every artist I think wants that but just to make a long summer entertainment is a waste of the ridiculous amount of talent coming from that cast and that crew and the potential of this movie. I want it to be a movie that speaks to people on a human level while it’s entertaining the hell out of them. The fact of the matter is there is entertainment that’s not great art and that’s fine. There is no great art that is not entertaining. So there is no shame in trying to make it work the way the audience wants it to work.





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The Movie Bit: Joss Whedon Interview Age Of Ultron
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