Avengers: Age of Ultron is bigger and more epic than any Marvel film yet, but it also gets deeper into the characters lives apart from their work as a team. When Tony Stark tries to jumpstart a dormant peacekeeping program, things definitely do not go according to plan, and Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) are put to the ultimate test as the they face the villainous Ultron (James Spader) and, once again, need to save the world from total destruction.
During a conference at the film’s press day, co-stars Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Elizabeth Olsen, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Paul Bettany and James Spader were joined by director Joss Whedon and Marvel’s Kevin Feige to talk about the biggest challenges of putting this film together, where the characters are now, bringing The Vision and Ultron to life, adding new characters, the fatherly side to Tony Stark, motion capture, how the Phase 2 movies influenced each other, and why they wanted to hold back on Thanos. Be aware that there are some spoilers.
Question: Cobie, Maria Hill is one of the threads that ties everything together, in the MCU films and TV series. Where do we find her now?
COBIE SMULDERS: Maria is now under the employment of Tony Stark. She’s now working with him to privatize security. It’s very fun being a thread that ties the TV show and the movies together. She’s got a bigger job now. She’s working with Tony and she doesn’t have S.H.I.E.L.D. at her disposal anymore. It’s a much more difficult job.
Paul, what’s it like to be more than just a voice now?
PAUL BETTANY: Well, the main difference is that I have to show up. The great thing is being able to work with all of these incredibly creative and talented people. However, I also now have to show up at junkets.
Joss, can you talk about bringing The Vision and Ultron to life, and how they embody each side of Tony Stark’s nature?
JOSS WHEDON: They do embody a little bit of [Tony Stark], but they’re also their own people. I do see them as two sides of the same coin. There’s a certain accord between the two of them. There’s something beautiful about the fact that they see the same thing and react to it different, emotionally.
Joss, what were the biggest challenges that you faced, putting together the story, and then shooting the film?
WHEDON: There are 47 of these people. I really didn’t think that through very much, at all. It’s just making sure that everybody has got their moment and has their own throughline, and that it’s connected to the movie. I have all these people. I love all these people. They’re extraordinary. But it’s making sure that they’re all within the same narrative structure, and that they’re in the same movie, and that it’s all connected to the main theme. At some point in the editing process, I could not have told you who they were, who I was, or what I was making, I got so lost in it. But, I think it all came together. It’s just about making these people look good, which takes a long time.
Kevin, you started on this grand plan almost a decade ago. What’s it like for you to see it all brought to fruition, and to see the world connect to it in such a powerful way?
KEVIN FEIGE: Well, it’s been great. It started with the notion of making these movies ourselves and becoming Marvel Studios. And then, it continued with Robert [Downey] on Iron Man I, with the notion of having Sam Jackson come in at the end and say, “You’re a part of a bigger universe, you just don’t know it yet,” thinking that most people wouldn’t know what that meant. But occasionally, someone would go, “What did that mean?,” and I’d go, “It means that maybe we’ll introduce all of the different characters and put them together.” But the minute that happened, the world got it, much more quickly than I had anticipated, and it was awesome. It’s daunting now. The expectations didn’t exist before. And now, there are crushingly overwhelming expectations, particularly with this movie, but it’s incredible. This is the greatest ensemble ever assembled in cinematic history.
Joss, how did you approach creating a sequel to one of the greatest, largest, most successful movies of all time?
WHEDON: With the smallest thing that I could think of. The thing that drew me back to the movie was, what little moments are there to see with these characters that I haven’t gotten to do yet? What conversations have they not had? What haven’t I shown? It’s never the big picture stuff. It’s never, “Oh, we can have all these robots,” although that’s cool, too. It’s always just, where did they live? How can I get inside their hearts? What’s funny about them? There are those moments that I write reams and reams of paper on, just thinking about the tiniest part. That’s the heart of the thing.
Elizabeth and Aaron, the chemistry between the twins is so important, for the emotional impact. Was the fact that you’d worked together before an advantage, or was that an additional challenge?
ELIZABETH OLSEN: I think it’s only a benefit. Aaron and I didn’t really work together that much on Godzilla. It’s intimidating joining this group, so I got to do it with Aaron.
AARON TAYLOR-JOHNSON: It was comforting, stepping on set with such a big ensemble, to know that I had someone to feel comfortable with.
Robert, we see a fatherly side of Tony Stark this time. Did you have that in mind, when you were doing this?
ROBERT DOWNEY JR: I must be mellowing with age, but I want to say this very clearly: The next time I’m not asked the first question, I’ll fucking walk out! I read Joss’ script and I said, “I think this is great.” Kevin said, “You never say that. You can’t mean that.” I said, “Yeah, I think it’s great. Let’s go shoot it.” I really thought it was a Swiss watch to begin with, and Joss really created some great new situations for Tony to be in. So, rather than digging my heels and trying to rewrite every scene, to make them even better, I just showed up, and it turned out great.
James, what was it like to do the motion capture for Ultron, and how did you bring life to this villain?
JAMES SPADER: I really didn’t have any idea what was happening. It all happened very quickly. It really was just trying to hold on and stay on the train that was moving very, very quickly. But I will say that I arrived in London and, within the first half-hour, I put on a suit and they put on all this gear, and I went through a range of motion. And then, within 15 minutes, I was watching me walk around a big room, moving and doing this and that and everything else, and watching Ultron, or at least a formative stage of Ultron, on a monitor right in front of me. It started right there. The next day, I was on the set, shooting a scene with Scarlett [Johansson]. Really, that pace was what it was, through the entire project. Luckily, I had had some conversations with Joss, and one fantastic meal with a whole bunch of wine, to figure out who this guy was. That really was it. It was just trying to hold on.
Chris and James, who was your favorite superhero, growing up?
CHRIS HEMSWORTH: Superman was probably the only film like that, that I had seen, back when I was growing up. It’s the one that sticks out for me. Iron Man hadn’t been created yet, or Captain America, or Hulk, or Black Widow, or Vision.
CHRIS EVANS: So, had Captain America been created, it would have clearly been him.
HEMSWORTH: That and Captain Australia. They were neck-and-neck, for a lot of years.
SPADER: Growing up, I didn’t have any comic books, at all. But my friend had a trunk full of them, so comic books were like candy for me. I would go over to his house for a sleep-over, and I would just be devouring everything I could get my hands on. I knew the sleep-over was going to be over, and I was going to go back to my house and it was going to be Kipling.
Jeremy, we didn’t get to see much of Hawkeye in the first Avengers film, but there’s a much greater emphasis on him, this time. What was your reaction to finding out what he’d be doing, in Avengers 2?
JEREMY RENNER: I speak in this movie, which is awesome. I got to dive into some really killer aspects of him. When I sat down with Joss and Kevin, back in the day, about why I liked and wanted to play Hawkeye, it was because I could never do what these [other] gentlemen do. I don’t have that creative of a mind. I understood Hawkeye, in the sense that he’s a human with a higher skill set, so I could tap into that. I feel like I got to explore a little bit more of that, and even outside of the skill set. I thought that was a really, really endearing and thoughtful secret that he had. I’m excited to see where that goes.
Joss and Kevin, how much did this movie affect the other Phase 2 movies?
FEIGE: A lot of those were already in the works. Iron Man 3, Cap 2 and Thor 2 were already in the works, just as The Avengers was coming out. I would say that it was more about how those movies were impact by the first Avengers film. But I will say that I remember, as we were putting the other Phase 2 movies together, Joss very much liked the idea, and we honed in on it for him, that Hulk and Hawkeye would be two characters that hadn’t gotten much exposure in between the two movies. He had plans for those two characters, in this one.
WHEDON: The only thing I can think of was pulling Thanos out of Guardians of the Galaxy.
FEIGE: That’s true. There was going to be more Thanos.
Scarlett, Black Widow has had quite an evolution and she plays such a significant role, in this film. Where do you see her going from here?
SCARLETT JOHANSSON: In the beginning of Avengers 2, there is some sense, finally, of everything being normal, in a way. It’s a well-oiled machine, where they’re tag-teaming each other. The introductions are over and we’re at work. We’re digging our heels in. And at the end of Avengers 2, I think Widow has let her guard down and was hopeful for something. She had this moment of false hope, where she felt like she’d put in the work and there should be some kind of personal pay-off, and she was ready to accept it. And she realizes that her calling is a greater one, which is not necessarily something that she’s thrilled about. That’s what is most heroic about her. She’s accepting the call of duty, even at her own personal loss. I think it’s an interesting place to leave her. There are different directions to go. Is she going to be able to withstand this huge weight that’s bearing down on her, or is she going to crack under it and crumble, not being able to take this huge personal hit? But, I guess we’ll have to wait and see.
Scarlett, how was the physical preparation, this time? Were you already proficient in motorcycle riding?
JOHANSSON: I don’t think you’re allowed to ride a motorcycle when you’re so pregnant, but I did. I did all of the motorcycle riding. I embarrassingly rode some sort of mechanical bull type of motorcycle, which goes nowhere and doesn’t look cool, at all. But, I had some very professional and amazing motor-cross morphing done that makes Black Widow look like a total bad-ass. And I will say that I’m very fortunate that there’s a team around me that is super supportive in helping all of Widow’s fight moves and bad-ass motorcycle riding happen. I could not do it without that. Starting a move and finishing a move, and having all of that work be seamless, takes a lot of choreography and team spirit. Every film is exciting because I get new tools and fun new stuff to do, and luckily Joss writes me some bad-ass moves that make me look like that. It’s awesome. I just said epic, awesome and bad-ass, all in one sentence.
Mark, we see so much of Dr. Banner in The Hulk, and yet you make them feel like such distinct characters. How do you approach that?
MARK RUFFALO: I was helped out by the fact that I’m green and huge. That helped me with the distinction between the two characters.
Joss, why is the armor designed to contain The Hulk called Veronica?
WHEDON: I just decided to call it Veronica because he used to be in love with a woman named Betty, and Veronica is the opposite of that.
For a refresher on all of Marvel’s confirmed releases, see below. And for a catalog of all upcoming superhero movie release dates, click here.
- Avengers: Age of Ultron – May 1, 2015
- Ant-Man – July 17, 2015
- Captain America: Civil War – May 6, 2016
- Doctor Strange – November 6, 2016
- Guardians of the Galaxy 2 – May 5, 2017
- Spider-Man Reboot – July 28, 2017
- Thor: Ragnarok – November 3, 2017
- Avengers: Infinity War – Part 1 – May 4, 2018
- Black Panther – July 6, 2018
- Captain Marvel – November 2, 2018
- Avengers: Infinity War – Part 2 – May 3, 2019
- Inhumans – July 12, 2019