With Joss Whedon’s Avengers: Age of Ultron opening May 1st in North America, Marvel and Disney are lifting the embargoes on some of the last on set interviews I participated in when the production was filming last year in London. In this interview, you can either listen to or read what Aaron-Taylor Johnson had to say about playing Quicksilver. He talked about his character’s accent, what he did to get ready for the role, the humor in the script, Quicksilver’s relationship with the rest of the Avengers, and so much more.
Question: Can you talk a little bit about your Eastern European accent?
AARON TAYLOR-JOHNSON: I can, yeah. We’re doing one. Well, they decided to re-ADR that in the end. I don’t know yet.
If you wouldn’t mind, could you demo it?
TAYLOR-JOHNSON: I don’t think I should do that. But you know, it has been fun. Me and Lizzy [Elizabeth Olsen] have been doing dialect coaching together and trying to get that to sound similar considering that we’re playing twins, brother and sister. But you know, her being American and me British. But yeah, it’s fun, when I spoke to Joss [Whedon] about it a lot time ago and he approached me for the role, it was one of the things I kind of wanted to keep, you know…one of them was I wanted to have white silver kind of hair to look like the character and the other one was that I could kind of embrace the roots of where he’s from, you know, being Eastern European, it would be great to do some kind of accent to enhance that kind of feeling so I’m glad that we’re doing it. But like I said [laughs], they might screen it and they might go “what are they saying?” so you never really know. So I’d like to think they’ll keep it that. But with the Marvel guys, they understand, when it comes down to the characters, you know, they’re a studio that really cares about their characters, and they have real creative input, and are totally for that, but at the end you always want what’s best, so we’ll see. Hopefully we’ll continue on that route.
How much reading did you do of the comic books to get to know the character beforehand? Do you feel like you want to go back and see what the history was like?
TAYLOR-JOHNSON: Yeah, yeah, saw some of the original stuff, saw a mixture of things. Um, obviously the character sort of jumped in and out of different universes, being like in the sort of mutant world and all that, which obviously we don’t embrace with it being with Fox and X-Men, as you’re all aware, that’s no sort of secret. But yeah I take bits of pieces that have been done in history and also comic books to kind of get this essence and the sense of… Pietro is a character rather than like Quicksilver just in the sense of ‘yeah okay his superhero power is that runs faster than the speed of sound, but you know what’s he really like?’ And kind of get to the depths of him and wonder. That’s sort of like travelers and you know they have to look out for themselves. It’s a really close, intimate relationship but in a sort of it can be seen in many ways, and also that sort of motherly fatherly kind of figure, and he’s very protective over her and in a physical way, and her more in a psychological way, and we try to embrace that. There’s a lot of stuff that I pick up from. One of the ones that I like looking at for this moreso was The Ultimates really because I think that ties in more with what they’ve been doing recently with The Avengers, and more keeping in tone with it.
Super speed is something we really haven’t seen in these movies before. When we’ve seen them try to do super speed in other films, it really feels like still there’s ground to be broken. Physically, how do you prep for that? And what would you need to figure that out?
TAYLOR-JOHNSON: I run a lot [laughs]. And yeah, I’ve done it before, I don’t know I think they’re gonna play around with maybe going into kind of Quicksilver time, which would be my point of view, and seeing and kind of playing around with that. But like I said that’s another thing that’s kind of experimental really. That’s the great thing with these things, with new powers, that you really can kind of play with that sort of stuff. We did a lot of testing. The first time we did a running test I was like this running machine, but it was this huge, Lorre sized rig, it was the width of this, it was something they sped up and it was a great big running machine. And they had me on a harness and a green screen, and they put it sort of on an incline and I ran on that. But what it did, it didn’t really give a sense that anything was really traveling. When you played it back, it looked too clean and neat, it didn’t really look real. When we did some stuff on the road, and they shot it 120 frames per second, and they’re on a truck and they’re driving and I sprint for a hundred meters. The more kind of crazy and kind of ducking and diving and when they sped that up it had a lot more of a really interesting flow to it. So we were experimenting with it and that was a lot of fun, and I usually turn up and be like ‘what am I doing today? I run in, then I’m gonna run out? That should be fine.’
Elizabeth was talking a bit about the humor of the character. Super speed is something that kind of lends itself to humor. Plus you have Joss Whedon has an incredible ear for humor. What’s it been like working with that and kind of the humor of the character?
TAYLOR-JOHNSON: The thing is with the Marvel universe in general is that everything’s not taken seriously. There are points when there’s real drama, but I love that there’s a lot of sarcasm and humor to it and people have that moment of humor. So it’s fun. What we didn’t want from me and Lizzie’s standpoint is for our accents to be the humorous thing. We didn’t want to be laughing at the fact that we’ve got silly accents, you know. We wanted to actually make the words and the feeling in the scene have humor. Yeah, yeah, it’s good, like you said, it’s all fed through Joss and bouncing off some of the other actors and stuff.
Is it mostly repartee with the Scarlet Witch or with the rest of the team as well?
TAYLOR-JOHNSON: The rest of the team. You know, it’s always that kinda great thing where they have characters go head to head and bicker with one another, and I don’t want to say who, but it’s nice to have like…yeah, there’s a lot of humor in it.
She’s getting into their heads, right?
What is your relationship with the Avengers? Do you hate them, do you resent them? And then how are you fighting them? Are you just running in and knocking them out before they see you? What’s kind of the battling technique?
TAYLOR-JOHNSON: It’s not really an easy answer. I can say that yeah most of the time that because I go at such super speed then it’s literally an elbow or a shoulder that sends people kind of flying kind of thing. It’s the force of impact of my power, and it’s only when I’m slowed down is my sort of character very vulnerable at times. But when he’s at super speeds no one can really keep track of that.
Do you guys find when the X-Men Quicksilver movie came out, because guys were in production, were there some things you were planning on doing that they kind of beat you to the punch that they made you rethink it? Or is it a different visual take?
TAYLOR-JOHNSON: I haven’t seen it yet, so I don’t really know. That’s more of a Joss question. When the job came around, it was already out there, I think it was already shooting, so it wasn’t like ‘oh, should I really be taking on the character this early?’ You look at the two different universes, I didn’t feel like we felt at all threatened, nor do we feel like we’re saying that’s you know the wrong thing, it’s just that’s one thing and we’re doing something different. I haven’t watched it to kind of be like ‘oh, they’re doing the slo-mo super speed kind of action shots.’
It’s your pal from Kick-Ass.
TAYLOR-JOHNSON: Yeah, Evan Peters. It’s kind of funny and sort of strange. It’s funny I bumped into him in Comic-Con way back before this even started and they had the whole X-Men guys there, and I know some of the other actors on set, so I said hello, you know it was nice to see him again. Hadn’t seen him from Kick-Ass in a long time. I said how funny it was. It was all easy and cool. You don’t get, I don’t get very sort of competitive or you know find it like awkward or anything.
In the comics, Quicksilver has a very distinctive costume that he wears. Do you eventually transition into something like that towards the end of the movie? Does he have something that he wears that can hold up to that kind of speed? Because he’s moving fast, more fabric could disintegrate.
TAYLOR-JOHNSON: Because it’s so early on, I’m just more of a civilian really. Like I said, they’re more like Eastern European like travelers and you know, picking up clothes as they go along, you know. And I can’t really say too much about it, but yeah I think the way that we’ve designed picking out the costumes is with that kind of thought in mind. You know, like I think some of the things I wear is a lot more kind of sporty, you know long-sleeve, a cycle top, sort of compression T-shirts and things like that, that get that kind of physique and sense and idea of it.
Do you have a favorite Avenger, and why, other than yourself?
TAYLOR-JOHNSON: Well, I wasn’t going to say myself [laughs].
Elizabeth did, so I wanted to preface it.
TAYLOR-JOHNSON: Um, it’s a real hard one. Yesterday, we did a scene and we had the whole cast in. And it’s a hard one because you then really look at it and you go ‘oh actually most people are kind of like’…so like the Hulk I think is a really awesome Avenger. But when he’s not the Hulk, he’s just a scientist, he’s just [Bruce] Banner, you know. And then obviously, Iron Man, Tony Stark not in Iron Man thing, you know he’s not a superhero then…well he is… but you look around the room and the only one who is essentially otherworldy superhero physique is [Chris] Hemsworth. You see like the size of his arms are like the size of my thighs. And you kind of think, just to kind of be an actor and transform your physique and body to that kind of level, and essentially he’s a God, and he’s 6 foot 4, but he’s such a great guy. Everyone is charming and brilliant, and a lot of fun, but you look around the room and you go ‘well that guy is definitely, you know, a superhero’.
Chris Hemsworth mentioned that there are going to be some, I don’t want to say hatred, but pictures on wanted ads with issues about America and Avengers and Tony Stark in general. I mean, how much of this backstory are we going to learn in this movie? Because, obviously, we met them at the end of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and they were already with Baron von Strucker. Are we going to learn how that came about, or is that something you don’t really have time to really get into in a movie like this?
TAYLOR-JOHNSON: That was a real taste of the origin story. Yeah that was a small little taste, and absolutely that’s definitely there to get you to start to think like that, and they’ll have that definitely.
So this movie will cover some of their origins and the stuff that came before?
TAYLOR-JOHNSON: It will embrace it, yeah, definitely, very heavy, and you’ll get a sense of it.
Do you think you’d be able to win a footrace among the cast?
TAYLOR-JOHNSON: What’s a footrace? Like just running?
TAYLOR-JOHNSON: It’d be pretty embarrassing if I didn’t win.
I think you’re the fastest.
TAYLOR-JOHNSON: I’m trying to think who else…it depends, if they’re in their costumes, I would. I’m trying to think who else would be fast…
Chris would probably be fast.
TAYLOR-JOHNSON: He’s fast but he’s got a lot of weight, like around two hundred pounds. I’ll keep with that one, let’s keep the illusion going.
Kick-Ass was kind of a breakout role for you and to a large extent it demolishes the notion of superheroes. Was there ever a moment when you hesitant to actually make the jump to actual superhero projects?
TAYLOR-JOHNSON: I think anyone hesitates when you get to be, you know…I’m flattered and honored to be called in to be part of the Avengers is, you know, I don’t think you hesitate…I think for me I had to almost sort of slow down and go alright well let me, before I kind of get over my head and say ‘Yeah! Absolutely, where do I sign?’ I kind of had to focus in and go, firstly, is there a character there, is there something I can actually bring to the table? I don’t want to get just another superhero added on, you know, what’s his kind of storyline, what’s the plot, what’s going on with him? Do I hesitate? No, not really, and I hope that also when you watch it, people don’t go assuming or looking ‘oh, that’s Kick-Ass, that doesn’t really work’. Because some people can get sort of like, sort of channeled into one thing. And it’s great, Kick-Ass put me on the map in many ways, but I’d been working before that for a long time doing independent roles and trying to pick characters in other movies. And Anna Karenina and Savages were very different to that, and I think hopefully what we’ve done in this by looking different and changing up our accents that we can give kind of another tone to it that people won’t assume…you know, I hope so anyway.
Are you championing your own solo movie with Scarlet Witch? Do you think there’s enough material there after this movie that something like that could happen?
TAYLOR-JOHNSON: I wasn’t thinking…I don’t think I was even thinking down that line. If anything there’d be you know, I don’t know, they’d probably just sort of tag us into someone else’s. They’ve got their own comic books, so there’s no reason there shouldn’t be, but I think you know it’s up to the Marvel guys if they wanted kind of to go that route.
Would you be game?
TAYLOR-JOHNSON: Absolutely. Working with these guys, it’s a lot of fun. It’s a great studio to be part of, and I’m not just saying that because like it’s the easiest thing to say, it’s like, you know you work with other big sorts of studio movies, and you’re just one other film in the mix of many others and you’re just a character in one of many others in their films. Marvel guys only care about the Marvel universe and the characters that came from them, so therefore that’s all they think about creatively and care about, and they care about the storyline and they’re not, you know so, it becomes a really creative kind of family and place that I enjoy working. And the experience for me always overrules you know whatever the outcome is or whatever. So because this is how I work, and it’s my life, and I just want to have fun and work with good people, you know.
Here are some more on set interviews from Avengers: Age of Ultron:
- Chris Evans Talks Avengers: Age of Ultron from the Set of the Marvel Sequel
- Jeremy Renner Talks Avengers: Age of Ultron from the Set of the Marvel Sequel
- Chris Hemsworth Talks Avengers: Age of Ultron on the Set of the Marvel Sequel
- Joss Whedon Talks Hesitation to Return, New Additions to the Team, Collaborating with Marvel, and More on the Set of Avengers: Age of Ultron
- Robert Downey Jr. Talks Ultron, The Vision, Finally Getting to Know Joss Whedon, Tony’s Evolution, and More on the Set of Avengers: Age of Ultron