Avengers Assemble

Avengers Assemble

Avengers Assemble kicks off the blockbuster summer this week as Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, Hawkeye, Hulk and Black Widow are brought together to fight off the evil of Loki.

Last week the stars of the movie were in London and we were able to catch up with Robert Downey Jr, Scarlett Johansson, Chris Hemsworth, Jeremy Renner, Mark Ruffalo, Clark Gregg and Cobie Smulders in a press conference to discuss the movie.

- My opening question is to Kevin and Jeremy there have been 500 Avengers issues over the last forty eight years so how and where do you start?

Jeremy Latcham: Well part of the putting these movies together, especially on this one, is taking everything that existed in the movies that we had done and having to be faithful to the movies that we have already put together and at the same time, going back to the comics as well and having to be faithful to the everything in comics. So it is a challenge trying to find the right source material and the right inspiration.

Luckily Joss Whedon, our writer and director extraordinaire is really really good at assimilating all that material and he goes, “oh, you just do it like this”. Oh, oh that’s much easier.

- Marvel do a great job of picking the right actor for the character, whether it’s the theatrics for Thor or the comic irony for Iron Man. Why was Joss the right man?

Kevin Feige: The best thing about Joss is in all of his work - you’ve got vampires with Buffy and you have got outer space with Firefly - it’s always the characters that rise above. 

And certainly, if you look at the cast assembled in front of you now, we wanted them to shine more than the visual effects and the explosions - which of course you need in a movie like this - but Joss never loses sight of it. And frankly my favourite parts in this movie are just the performances amongst this amazing group.

- I have a question for Mr Downey Jr. and I wonder at what point during your evolution of Iron Man, you realised you’d be taking part in an Avengers series of movies and secondly and more trivially, did you get to keep the Black Sabbath T-shirts?

Downey Jr: In reverse order of importance, I walked off the set with one of the Black Sabbath T-shirts. Do you know where I put it? I’ve mis-located it. It’s like mis-remembering. 

And from five ago when we did the first Iron Man to today with all these folks you see here today, it couldn’t have gone any better. All three franchises that we’ve launched so far had to work and if this didn’t work it would affect all the previous franchises extremely adversely.

And there’s also the potential for additional franchises based on how strongly people are reacting to Jeremy and Scarlett and Mark. I really don’t understand how everything has gone this well but in this one instance in my life that seems to be the situation. 

- I have a question from my four year old son, and bear in mind that you are not actors to him you are the Avengers and Loki, he wanted to know what was your favourite fight move and why?

Mark Ruffalo - There’s so many (laughs).

Chris Hemsworth: My favourite fight move was when you (Hulk) slammed Loki repeatedly back and forth.

Mark Ruffalo - That’s Loki’s favourite as well.

Tom Hiddleston – It is actually. Partly because some strange small person called Tom had to do most of that himself too. Hurling myself into the air and throwing myself on the floor repeatedly, I must have looked like a lunatic, which kind of describes Loki quite adequately.

Robert Downey Jr. – My favourite move? Tony’s favourite move? Well you know, probably how I can fall out of buildings and survive because of my tech. You notice that fight move involves no one but me and my stuff?

(Laughter)

Scarlett Johansson – My favourite fight move or Natasha’s favourite fight move would probably be that…thigh grip…what do call it? The master thigh…hold?

Jeremy Renner – To be choked out by your thighs would be a good way to go.

Robert Downey Jr (as Tony Stark) – That’s my favourite move too.

- Thor?

Chris Hemsworth – Probably the summoning of the lightning and the cracking on the ground and the ripple effect that it has on the earth which we didn’t do in this movie but we did in Thor 1. Maybe in Thor 2 I’ll do it again.

- Cobie, what about you?

I like anytime that Hawkeye is looking in one direction and shooting in the other.

- Clark?   Clark Gregg – Generally Agent Coulson’s weapon consists of one thing which is a snide retort but in this movie he does what any sane human does when faced with this threat – he reaches for the largest gun you can possibly imagine.

- Question for Scarlett and Cobie. Working with Joss Whedon who’s well known for creating strong female characters, was that something that really come across in production of what is traditionally seen as a male-dominated genre?

Cobie Smulders – Joss was very hands on from the beginning in terms of creating the character, in terms of costuming, in terms of how long my bang was going to be and that continued on set. He was very hands on with dialogue and always there for you.

Scarlett Johansson – When we first met Joss, he met with each of us all individually to talk about what we wanted to see from our characters and we did talk about my character’s plight and her dark past and all of those things but never once did he say anything about my character’s gender at all and we never talked about it.

I think Joss is gender blind in some way. He wants his female characters to be dynamic and competitive and assured and confident and that has nothing do with anything but the fact that he just celebrates those kinds of female characters. He’s just a charming fellow that way.

- Did the collaborative process continue while you were shooting in terms of script because I know that he spoke to you all about the tone of the character and the way that you saw the character going? So is that something that was on going and continued while you were shooting?

Tom Hiddleston: Yes, although I should say that the thing that was most impressive to me about Joss initially is the incredible screenplay that he wrote.  

I mean, as an achievement in itself as a filmmaker, his screenplay was simply phenomenal because I think that all of us weren’t sure what to expect.

It was the most extraordinary answer to you first question, which was how do you get all these superheroes in one film? I take my hat off to him for that because I think that was his hardest job and it must have made directing it seem like a walk in the park. Well, maybe not a walk in the park. Maybe a light jog.

He was incredibly open and that is really all that you want as an actor is you want to collaborate. Everybody at this table has a degree of ownership about the characters that they play and he is very respectful of that possession and he is very respectful that we have all lived under the skins of our characters for some time.

So he was constantly asking ‘Does this feel right?’ ‘Does this feel true to you?’ ‘Is this in your voice?’ But most of the time I was just turning up and saying my very brilliant lines which he had written on my behalf.

- This question is for Jeremy and Scarlett. Both of your characters have quite a lot of action and activity in the film but a cynic might say ‘Hawkeye is the dude with the bow and arrow, Black Widow does kick butt but she’s not a demi-god.’ So how happy were you both with the amount of action that you had in the film? And the cheesy follow-up question, which of your team’s superpowers would you be most jealous of? 

Scarlett Johansson: Cornball. Me and Renner and Tom probably spent the most amount of time in the stunt gym just because we have these huge choreographed sequences that are… intense.

And I’m happy to do that. We have such an amazing stunt team and a lot of them came off Iron Man 2. And we spent so much time in the stunt gym that we built a family with those guys.

It’s great; it’s great fun to do it. As characters and actors in this film have our burden to bear, but certainly the stunts paid off in the end. Right?

Jeremy Renner:  I’m severely jet –lagged, I have no idea what you just said.

Scarlett Johansson: I want your super powers.

Jeremy Renner: I don’t want any super powers.

Scarlett Johansson: Yeah we decided that we would rather be skilled because your super powers may disappear. Is that what we thought?

Jeremy Renner? Sure. If Thor lost his hammer, he’d still probably kick my ass but at least it would give me a fighting chance. I still have a skill set.

Chris Hemsworth: I found the fight scene between you guys was one of the most satisfying because it was grounded in the most reality, this incredible choreographed hand-to-hand sequence which was hugely impressive.

Scarlett Johansson: Thanks.

Chris Hemsworth: No worries.

- We have seen a whole host of ensemble and superhero movies over the years but this is the first one feel like it has combined the best elements of the two. I wondered how you approached that? Do you approach that as translating a comic and that mentality to the big screen or is it very very different?

Kevin Feige: It always starts with wanting to replicate the experience that comic readers have had for years and years.

In another interview recently Joss described that his sense of pacing an editing came from the experience of reading panels and turning the page and every time you turn the page of a comic there is something new and something else that catches your eye - and so the scene structure was very informed by that.

For me, it was the notion of reading the Marvel comics and not knowing who would appear in what because they all exist in the same universe and obviously that hadn’t been done before. And once we started making out own movies we had the entire library I though wouldn’t it be fun to start doing that.

And the Avengers as a comic wasn’t just cool because it was all these characters together, it was cool because all those characters from different books that you’d read and loved now coming together.

So we knew we wanted to get the individual movies out first before we teamed it up. But it’s all about trying to get that experience to as broad an audience as possible.

- Tom, you’re quite a voracious Twitterer but they can be quite an intense fan base for these types of movies. So I was wondering if any of you decided to avoid going on the internet at any time, particularly Mark as he’s a new boy to the scene. Did you fear what the preconceived ideas about this film were?

Tom Hiddleston: One of the strange things about being in these films is that we’re lucky enough to have a fan base.

I mean it’s so often that you make a film and you put your heart and soul into it and really care about it and you think it’s half-decent and you turn up and say, “does anyone want to see it?” and maybe nobody does and we’re lucky that we already have people who love the characters as much, if not more than we do. I find it thrilling that there’s a pre-existing passion for the material in a way.

It’s a privilege actually, a real privilege to have people that care that much and rather than being paralysed by a fear of what they might think, it’s a challenge to deliver what you hope they might enjoy.

Mark Ruffalo: I was overcome by a moment of very poor judgement early on. By going online and seeing the response to me stepping in for the new Banner. I won’t do that again. It wasn’t glowing.

And I found the fans’ exuberant passion to be very very brutal. [laughter]. I hope we’ve amended that.

- Kevin, up to a few months ago, this film in the UK was just “The Avengers”. Now it’s “Avengers Assemble”. Can you tell us the reason for the title change?

Kevin Feige: We thought wouldn’t it be nice for our English fans to give them another word?! So you now you have two words in the title instead of one word, isn’t that cool?!

Listen, decisions like that aren’t made lightly, there’s lots of marketing research and lawyers and things that get in the mix on it and that determination was to add that additional word.

But the logo is still the ‘A’ and looks cool and has it all together. It’s the same movie.

- I have just seen the film and I thought it was fantastic. My question is to Mark and I was wondering what attracted you to the role of Dr Banner in the first place?

Mark Ruffalo: As a kid I was a Hulk fan and I was a particular fan of the TV show. People think that actors seek out material but it’s more of a matter of us being given something and I was offered the Hulk/Banner.

I talked to Joss Whedon about it and he said he wanted to return to the Bill Bixby idea of this world weary man who is on the run but still trying to live his life and falling in love and having a sense of humour about himself and I like that.

But I also liked the idea that I would be the first actor to play both Banner and The Hulk and that was probably the most exciting thing to me.

The one thing that we enjoy now is that technology has brought us to a place where an actor can play the Hulk. I love Joss’s take on it but I also love the idea of being able to bust out into the big green rage machine.

- And what was that process?

Mark Ruffalo: It was motion capture. Yes, there was the element of wearing a leotard that reduced me to a Chinese checker board but other than that, it was a very involved process – a three part process.

We did all the motion capture before we shot the movie, we did it while we were shooting the movie and we did it after. It was a very very intensive process but I was by myself most of the time, which was lonely. (laughter). In a leotard which makes all the wrong places look big and all the right places look small.

- Clark, Scarlett mentioned that everyone had a talking process with Joss before it started. When did you find out about the path of your character? And how do you feel about it as a result?

Clark Gregg: I don’t know how much I want to talk about this. I was about to do the panel for Thor at Comic-Con and partly because of this amazing relationship that Marvel has with its stories and with its audience, I’d gone from shopping around for comics the first year I went to Comic-Con to needing a security detail. And people dressed as Coulson.

So I was already a geek having the time of my life and right before the panel in the green room preparing and this guy as I recognised as a geek, the king of geeks, Joss Whedon comes up to me and goes, “Oh! Oh! Coulson’s going to have a big part in The Avengers, can I introduce you as part of the cast?” which is officially the shortest decision making period I’ve ever needed.

Then there was an ominous call from Marvel which was kind of a good-news-bad-news call about how important Coulson’s role would be in this film and… I loved playing this guy a lot and I loved when I got Joss’s script, it was honestly one of the best days I’ve had as an actor, period. 

It’s been a chain-letter – different directors and writers reveal get this character and reveal another facet and that is always entertaining to me.

What Joss did I thought was magnificent and a perfect extension and because it’s in the Marvel universe I think of it as an extension more than a definite resolution.

Avengers Assemble is released 26th April

FemaleFirst Helen Earnshaw


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