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Robert Downey Jr. Age Of Ultron Interview

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Fan-favorite Robert Downey Jr. reprises his seminal portrayal of Tony Stark/Iron Man for the fifth time in Marvel’s “Avengers: Age of Ultron.” In Marvel’s “The Avengers” Tony Stark struggled to become a team player and in “Iron Man 3” audiences saw him transcend his dependency on the tech that was keeping him alive.  So where does he go now? To Robert Downey Jr. the answer is simple: “There’s all this unfinished business. There’s the matter of a certain wormhole that opened over New York and the imminent threat that still implies, so Tony has turned his attentions more toward a bit of a post-Reagan-era, Star-Wars-type notion and he likes to call it Ultron.”
Right from the beginning of the project, Downey Jr. found a lot to like in writer/director Joss Whedon’s compelling screenplay. “To me it’s further developing the complexities of the relationship between all the main folks,” comments the actor. “I like that Thor has a beef with me and then eventually has to say I’m right. It’s just interesting and the way it all wraps up to me is super exciting, but strangely my favorite part about ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’ is what’s brought into potential at the end.”
But returning to Tony Stark and The Avengers was bittersweet for the super-talented, much-loved actor. “This time around I felt like I really got closer with the cast members, and Joss and I are pals,” says Downey Jr. “But more than any other of the Marvel movies, for me I feel like this is a feeling of an ending of an era and the beginning of another. Obviously some of that is informed by the new blood coming through, with Elizabeth Olsen and Aaron Taylor-Johnson, and I welcome it. So there’s a sense that we’ve been around just long enough to be a guard that may or may not be passing or changing.”
The new kids on the block, Elizabeth Olsen who plays Scarlet Witch and Aaron Taylor-Johnson who is Quicksilver, definitely shake things up for Tony Stark and the rest of The Avengers. Robert Downey Jr. explains the new dynamic: “Tony knows The Avengers; they are the Super Heroes that he has been in the trenches with. He’s only really just gotten over his mild dose of PTSD, so to have something like a Scarlet Witch whispering in one ear and a Quicksilver bolting and flashing past the other is a little bit like ‘hmm.’ It’s like that friend or foe thing, but the way that they’ve been developed as from their origins, albeit how they’ve been depicted in the comics and other attempts thus far, this one is incredibly smart and the nice thing about it is they really fit into the story. What’s great about it is it puts Tony and certainly the other Avengers off-kilter. Also it would seem initially that there’s somewhat of a vendetta, and it sucks when you know there’s someone who’s after you who’s mad and they have a good reason.”
Explaining Tony Stark’s place on The Avengers team this time around, Downey Jr. says, “I don’t know of anyone in the history of any Super Hero franchise who seems to never run out of money. Tony’s footing the bill and he can swing it, obviously. The real thing is that he wants to localize, look after and nurture this necessary counterbalancing faction, which is The Avengers, and have them all where they are. Then there’s part of him that’s still the designer and the tweaker and a bit of an engineer and the mechanic who just wants to help them all do things a little bit better. So his comfort is like someone who buys a football team and then wants to redo their uniforms and give them better equipment and keep them safer on the field and make them stronger and faster.”
In Marvel’s “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” Captain America, played by Chris Evans, is clearly the leader, but it seems to work for Tony Stark this time around. “There are really only two relationships in Tony’s life in which he’s been willing to assume a lower status and one’s with Pepper obviously, equal footing, and the other’s with Cap,” informs Downey Jr. “It’s always whoever does the job best should probably do that job and Tony’s bringing a lot to the table and Cap has the most experience. It’s also nice to feel like there’s someone under whose tutelage you become better at what you have to do and no one’s more battle-seasoned than Cap.”
Stepping on set with longtime friend and colleague James Spader, who plays the villainous Ultron, was a delightful plus for Downey Jr. “James Spader was the first person I saw off the boat when I got to L.A. and he took me under his wing,” recalls the actor. “He’s just a couple years older. But again, it was a very inspired casting choice, not just because he’s on everyone’s lips and minds for reasons obvious with this show, but also that he really is a bit of an American treasure. I’ve certainly borrowed from his style more than a few times over the years.”
Working once again with the same actors whose classic characters populate the dynamic Marvel Cinematic Universe definitely has an upside for Robert Downey Jr. as well. “There’s just a closeness and I guess we’re getting into that realm and territory that folks have on the Potters or the Bonds or whatever,” says the actor. “When you’ve been at something for some time, there is a sense of extended family that happens in the cast. Everything seems more balanced. Everyone’s definitely carrying more of their weight and it makes space for new talent because at the end of the day that’s the whole thing is that you always just want to leave things strong enough and well enough to be able to support the weight of new talent.”
There has been much speculation about what the future holds for the Tony Stark/Iron Man character. Robert Downey Jr. admits he does not have the answer, but offers, “It’s hard to say. I’ve been talking with Kevin Feige and some of the creatives and there are really good ideas. It’s been this thing where some part of it was just smart luck and then the rest of it has been this kind of thing that’s gently unfolded and at the right pace for the right amount of time to keep working. So whatever the future holds for Tony I want it to be a future that works for the highest good for the whole magilla and I just want it to keep feeling like there’s more to do and more to say.”
When fans sit down in theaters to see Marvel’s “The Avengers: Age of Ultron,” Robert Downey Jr. hopes people just say, “Wow.” “I hope that they feel as good about this as they did when they came and saw the third ‘Iron Man,’ or as they did when they saw the most recent ‘Captain America’ and ‘Thor’ and that there’s still more to say and more to do and it’s fun. This movie is incredibly fun and thoughtful and has great themes and there’s a whole bunch of new people, so that’s my seal of approval,” concludes the actor.


Q: Was there any specific way you wanted to take Tony Stark in this film?
A: With the first film, “The Avengers,” Tony was becoming a team player and with “Iron Man 3” it was him transcending his dependency on the tech that’s keeping him alive. So I thought, “OK, now what?” But there’s all this unfinished business. There’s the matter of a certain wormhole that opened over New York and the imminent threat that still implies, so Tony has turned his attentions more toward a bit of a post-Reagan-era, Star-Wars-type notion and he likes to call it Ultron.


Q: Tony Stark always seems to be the driving force behind the villain in these films. Is that true for this one?
A: I don’t know, but maybe it’s convenient because he’s the guy who’s presumably technologically responsible. He can take a bit more risk with defects of character, so as it happens I think he’s a good guy to have around to do dumb and or bad things.


Q: How do you balance giving the audience what they want but also surprising them?
A: The big idea is that all of us, to a man and woman, tend to think like the audience: “All right, we’ve seen that before.  How do you put a new spin on it?” While there’s certain aspects of familiarity that can comfort me as just someone who goes to movies and loves movies and loves franchises and sequels and all that stuff, it’s a different era, so what would have worked 5 or 10 years ago is completely obsolete now. I guess it’s always that trying to just stay a couple of inches ahead of the cresting wave but a lot of that is just intuitive. Joss Whedon really brought it to another level by writing a very fun, deeper and wider story.


Q: What do you love about coming back to this character again and again?
A: I love the people. This time around I felt like I really got closer with the cast members and Joss and I are pals. Meanwhile there’s always that feeling that you never forget your first time. From “Iron Man 2” into “The Avengers” and “Iron Man 3” there’s always this feeling of a life going on. Like, “Why isn’t it like it was in college now?” But more than any other of the Marvel movies since “Iron Man 1” for me I feel like this is a feeling of an ending of an era and the beginning of another. Obviously some of that is informed by the new blood coming through, with Elizabeth Olsen and Aaron Taylor-Johnson, and I welcome it. So there’s a sense that we’ve been around just long enough to be a guard that may or may not be passing or changing.


Q: How do the two new characters come into the world of Tony Stark and what does he think of them?
A: Tony knows The Avengers; they are the Super Heroes that he has been in the trenches with. He’s only really just gotten over his mild dose of PTSD, so to have something like a Scarlet Witch whispering in one ear and a Quicksilver bolting and flashing past the other is a little bit like “hmm.” It’s like that friend or foe thing, but the way that they’ve been developed as from their origins, albeit how they’ve been depicted in the comics and other attempts thus far, this one is incredibly smart and the nice thing about it is they really fit into the story. What’s great about it is it puts Tony and certainly the other Avengers off-kilter. Also it would seem initially that there’s somewhat of a vendetta, and it sucks when you know there’s someone who’s after you who’s mad and they have a good reason.


Q: It’s interesting that now the mental aspect is coming into play. You don’t just fight people physically anymore, right?
A: With the bad guys, it’s a psychological edge that they’re getting with their moves, and sometimes that can be a good thing. Sometimes placing that doubt and having you directly experience your fear and figuring out where your triggers are and stalling and pushing those buttons is really good because it gives you a real mental toughness and the other thing too is quiet as it’s kept, there’s a real sense of unity between The Avengers at this point, so there’s something to attack: their sense of onus and responsibility for each other, their sense of how and where they fit in, their sense of what they’ve sacrificed to get there and how that can ultimately be a liability to the team.


Q: James Spader is playing Ultron. What’s it like to reunite with him?
A: There are a lot of full circles going on and probably the most personal one is James Spader playing Ultron. He was the first person I saw off the boat when I got to L.A. and he took me under his wing. He’s just a couple years older. But again, it was a very inspired casting choice, not just because he’s on everyone’s lips and minds for reasons obvious with this show, but also that he really is a bit of an American treasure. I’ve certainly borrowed from his style more than a few times over the years. I think another great full circle thing is Bettany coming in and giving us a dose of Jarvis via The Vision, because he’s been essentially with me from the beginning and I don’t even think we’ve hardly ever seen him at the premieres—he’s off doing a job that he’s actually on camera for.


Q: How was it having James Spader there with you rather than having to imagine him there?
A: It’s fun. It’s one thing to say you want to really get involved with the character, it’s another thing to do. In “Avatar” the actors had to do the movie and then just trust the process. The closest thing I have to what I’m imagining Spader’s been doing is when I did a rotoscoped movie called “A Scanner Darkly,” where it was essentially animated after the fact. But I really feel like Spader knew what he was in for and he went for it regardless and I’m sure Joss [Whedon] was part of that.


Q: What is Tony Stark’s role now with The Avengers?
A: I don’t know of anyone in the history of any superhero franchise who seems to never run out of money. Tony’s footing the bill and he can swing it, obviously. Pepper having taken over the business means to me that it’s like the wife is looking over the books now so everything’s going to be a little more stable than when daddy was just writing checks. That said there must be enough of a surplus for him to play with. The real thing is that he wants to localize, look after and nurture this necessary counterbalancing faction, which is The Avengers, and have them all where they are. Then there’s part of him that’s still the designer and the tweaker and a bit of an engineer and the mechanic who just wants to help them all do things a little bit better. So his comfort is like someone who buys a football team and then wants to redo their uniforms and give them better equipment and keep them safer on the field and make them stronger and faster.


Q: It seems like Stark’s more responsible now for Bruce Banner. Can you talk about that?
A: Bruce and Tony drive off into the Central Park sunset at the end of “Marvel’s The Avengers” and I thought, “All right, but how do you follow that up?” So a lot of it is we’re in “cahoots”; him with a bit of a question mark but they’ve also been working on a contingency plan, which is if your pal has an anger management problem how can you help him? Count to 10, and the way he helps him count to 10 is by having a very strong backup plan, which is the Hulkbuster.


Q: What does shooting all over the world add to the film?
A: Two things: one is that the market and the audience and the fans have become so much more spread out and it’s really a global property. It was the responsible thing to do to branch out. There’s also something much more authentic about when it’s not just a felt sense of somewhere but “OK, they’re there.” I’m certainly glad it happened and it seems like it’s really adding to the overall scope of the movie.


Q: What has been your favorite thing in this new script?
A: To me it’s further developing the complexities of the relationship between all the main folks. I like that Thor has a beef with me and then eventually has to say I’m right. It’s just interesting and the way it all wraps up to me is super exciting but strangely my favorite part about “Avengers: Age of Ultron” is what’s brought into potential at the end.


Q: Tony Stark likes to be in charge but things have shifted to Captain America being more in charge. What is Tony’s take on that?
A: There are really only two relationships in Tony’s life in which he’s been willing to assume a lower status and one’s with Pepper obviously, equal footing, and the other is with Cap. It’s always whoever does the job best should probably do that job and Tony’s bringing a lot to the table and Cap has the most experience. It’s also nice to feel like there’s someone under whose tutelage you become better at what you have to do and no one’s more battle-seasoned than Cap.


Q: How did you like the Stark Tower set this time around?
A: I walked on the stages and I said, “Wow, this is really impressive.” The fact is that they are like a futuristic ice rink and the floors look so beautiful. They’re so slippery, though, that it also added an unforeseen amount of excitement and danger to like walk three steps.


Q: What do you enjoy the most about working with director Joss Whedon?
A: Joss is just really smart and he thinks stuff through. I remember sometimes that the joy was creating things as we went along or within the context of the story. We were really figuring out, “What frequency should this scene be?” and Joss tends to already be a couple of steps along in that process, which occasionally can make you feel like, “What am I bringing?” But there are always other steps that can go, so it makes it easier to get to the best version of something because he’s practically there already most of the time.


Q: What are you looking forward to seeing in this film when it’s all said and done?
A: Hawkeye’s arc and his importance in the movie and where he brings us and what happens there and what it means.


Q: How does it help that there have been several movies for all the characters now and you’ve all gotten to know each other much better?
A: There’s just a closeness and I guess we’re getting into that realm and territory that folks have on the Potters or the Bonds or whatever. When you’ve been at something for some time, there is a sense of extended family that happens in the cast. Everything seems more balanced. Everyone’s definitely carrying more of their weight and it makes space for new talent because at the end of the day that’s the whole thing is that you always just want to leave things strong enough and well enough to be able to support the weight of new talent.


Q: What does the future hold for Tony Stark?
A: It’s hard to say. I’ve been talking with Kevin Feige and some of the creatives and there are really good ideas. It’s been this thing where some part of it was just smart luck and then the rest of it has been this kind of thing that’s gently unfolded and at the right pace for the right amount of time to keep working. So whatever the future holds for Tony I want it to be a future that works for the highest good for the whole magilla and I just want it to keep feeling like there’s more to do and more to say.


Q: What is it about Marvel that attracts such incredible talent?
A: It’s just the ultimate stage for a big fun movie and it’s one thing to be able to have success here and there but this is really unprecedented—that whole ancillary and tributary thing. It’s like any way the river has gone it’s wound up finding people who wanted to drink from it. I guess the big idea also is that there’s something that makes everything feel connected.


Q: What do you hope audiences will get out of this film?
A: Honestly, this time I just hope people say “Wow.” I hope that they feel as good about this as they did when they came and saw the third “Iron Man,” or as they did when they saw the most recent “Captain America” and “Thor” and that there’s still more to say and more to do and it’s fun. This movie is incredibly fun and thoughtful and has great themes and there’s a whole bunch of new people so that’s my seal of approval.


Q: In this movie you get to learn much more about the characters.
A: You have to. I came up in the ’80s and ’90s when franchises got progressively less interested in what made them work as they went along, so fortunately there’s enough blood in the water that we have learned from that and we know we have to go deeper and wider because audiences want to feel more emotionally satisfied and more mentally entertained.


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The Movie Bit: Robert Downey Jr. Age Of Ultron Interview
Robert Downey Jr. Age Of Ultron Interview
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