Yesterday, I attended the first ever press conference for Marvel's The Avengers. Everyone from the cast was there (except for Scarlett Johansson, who had a scheduling conflict), and along with producer Kevin Feige and writer/director Joss Whedon, the cast offered up some insights about filming the movie, what their characters mean to them, and more. Read on below, and check out my one on one interview with Clark Gregg (aka Agent Coulson) here if you haven't seen it yet.
Mark Ruffalo on his preparation to play The Incredible Hulk:
I met with Joss Whedon and he said he really liked The Incredible Hulk TV show, and what Bill Bigsby did with him, so I rented those with my ten year old son. After the third episode, he turned to me and said, “Papa, he's so misunderstood!” I basically based my character entirely on my ten year old boy, who has all of the force of nature screaming out of his body while at the same time having everyone around him telling him to fucking control himself.
Robert Downey, Jr. on being the leader of the actors along with leading the superheroes:
I offered rides back and forth from Albequerque on my private jet. (laughs) Going back to 2007 when I was cast in Iron Man and Kevin Feige said, “you know this is all going to lead to where we have all of these franchises come together and we're going to do something unprecedented in entertainment and make this Avengers movie.” And I just remember, I would get nervous about it, and excited about it, and doubtful of it, and by the time...I had a history with Sam, and I was really wanting to capitalize on that, and by the time Chris and Chris had lauched their individual franchises with success and charisma and by the time we had Mark, I was like, “wow – this is really going to happen.” Being a worker amongst workers is where I started out and it was nice to not really have to carry a movie. Everyone really – really, really, really – is equal in this venture. It's great. And that will be my last sincere answer of the afternoon.
If the actors could swap characters with anyone else in the movie, who would it be?
Evans: Ooooh. See, I want to say Iron Man, because I love those movies, but you can't – who could do it better, you know what I mean? The shoes would be too big to fill.
Jackson: I want to be Scarlett. I just want to be that cute for like 15 minutes.
How long has Kevin Feige been trying to make an Avengers movie?
One answer is my whole life because I've been a nerd for my whole life and wanted to see this movie made for my whole life. The real answer, though, is sort of towards the end of production of Iron Man one, when Sam was gracious enough to spend three hours on a Saturday to come and break into Tony Stark's house wearing an eye patch and tell him and the world, “You're part of a bigger universe – you just don't know it yet.” When that movie succeeded was when we realized that wait a minute, we actually have the opportunity to do it. And the only challenge was to try to make all of the movies live on their own, even if we weren't leading toward an Avengers movie, because if they're all just interconnected puzzle pieces, that's not as fun. They need to be movies from beginning to end.
Mark Ruffalo on being the new guy in the cast, and what it was like to come into this universe fresh:
It was terrifying. I knew what my responsibility was. I felt it just by making the mistake of going online and reading some fanboy responses to the announcement that I was playing the next version of Bruce Banner. That was a mistake. I'll never do that again. I've never had a role be more scrutinized and criticized even before I film a single frame. Coming onto the set with all of these guys was pretty daunting. Many of my heroes in real life are in this cast and so I knew that I had big shoes to fill, so to speak...it was tough, and I wish that I had a cool costume to wear the entire time instead of a leotard that was painted like a Chinese checkerboard.
Funny stories during the shoot:
Hemsworth: Chris (Evans) sent us a text that said, “Avengers assemble at such-and-such bar at nine o'clock,” so that was a good group moment. We paid for it at work the next day.
Ruffalo: I just remember coming into someone's place with a group of half naked stuntman in a hot tub and Scarlett Johansson standing over them with a giant ladle making boy soup.
Feige: You wanted your story, I think you got it.
What does each actor like about his character?
Ruffalo: We're all told to be so well-behaved and I think we all sometimes are bursting at the seams to let it rip, and Bruce Banner gets to have that moment and I think part of the joy for people is to actually see that happen. It's exciting for us. It's a nice way for us to blow off steam watching movies.
Evans: His heart, his selflessness. He wasn't born a superhero, this didn't happen to him by accident, he was chosen for those reasons: values and morals. He puts other causes ahead of himself and it's something to aspire to.
Downey: That he didn't really set out to do anything noble, so he's kind of in transition. There's something a little more Han Solo than Luke. Also, the fact that he can pull off wearing a Black Sabbath T-Shirt for the better part of the film.
Hemsworth: I like the sort of visceral, sort of gut instinct that Thor has. It's a childlike quality in a sense; if he believes in something or he wants to do something, he does it and says it. Kids own their environment. There's no opinions that they really care about. I think Thor, it's there – it's surrounded by bravado and strength and all that – but at the end of the day, he has to be true to who he is and what he wants to do. That was fun to play with.
Jackson: I like the fact that Nick Fury believes that these unique individuals deserve the love and admiration of the world, who they pretty much owe everything to because there are things out there greater than us.
What was Joss Whedon's biggest challenge in bringing this story to life?
The hardest part is and always will be structure. How do you put that together? How do you make everybody shine? How do you let the audience's identification drift from person to person without making them feel like they're not involved? It's a very complex structure and it's not necessarily particularly ornate or original, but it had to be right. It had to be earned from moment to moment.
Joss Whedon on what makes a good comic book movie adaptation versus a bad one:
There are all sorts. For me, it's capturing the essence of the comic and being true to what's wonderful about it while remembering that it's a movie and not a comic. I think Spider-Man, the first one particularly, really captured...they figured out the formula of, “tell the story that they told in the comic and it was compelling, that's why it was iconic.” But at the same time, they did certain things that only a movie can do that were in the vein of the comic. You see things like The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen where they throw out the comic, or Watchmen where they do it frame for frame, and neither of them work. You have to give the spirit of the thing and then step away from that and create something cinematic and new.
Clark Gregg on his most exciting moment:
I felt like this was not an achievable task. As someone who writes sometimes and loves movies and watches a lot of them, I just didn't think it was really feasible to have this many characters and have them all get to move forward and to have the story come together and really work. And if it did work with that many amazing superheroes and movie stars, I felt it unlikely that Agent Coulson would do anything but bring some super coffee to somebody. So when I read it and saw that it was my fanboy wet dream of an Avengers script, and that Coulson was a big part of it, that was the great day for me.
What advice would Joss give Warner Bros. on their Justice League movie?
Call me. (long laughter break) Honestly, I would just say it's enormously difficult to take very disparate characters and make them work. And DC has a harder time of it than Marvel because their characters are from a bygone era where the characters were bigger than we were. And they've mended that, but Marvel really cracked the code with, “oh, they're just like us.” So, a dose of that – that sort of veracity that Marvel really started with Iron Man, I think you need to use that as your base.