While we know about most of the characters in The Avengers, others are more of a mystery. In particular, we have yet to learn a lot about the version of Hulk/Bruce Banner we’ll be getting (is he “smart Hulk,” is Banner now more in control of his transformations?), and then there’s Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg), who has been a veritable errand boy in the Marvel films – that is, until a recent short film segment revealed Coulson’s impressive combat skills:
GREGG: Coulson is, in my mind, a kind of a cross between the world’s most persistent bureaucrat, a secret ninja assassin and really the guy who wrangles the rock stars at Lollapalooza, is mostly what it feels like. His job is definitely to get all the rock stars onto the stage at the right moment. It’s kind of like a very muscular version of sci-fi Woodstock, I think is what The Avengers is, but that’s really from my point of view. You know what I mean? Like they say to the gravedigger, what’s “Hamlet” about? He says, “It’s about this guy who digs graves.”
And I think very much that’s how I look at The Avengers from Coulson’s role. It’s about how do you bring this very disparate personalities together. They’re from different worlds you know. One is a god, who isn’t always so god-like. It’s really kind of about wrangling. I think of Phil Jackson a lot, because I think the way you coach Kobe (Bryant) is probably really different than the way you coach Pau (Gasol)… I guess one of the cool things aboutThe Avengers is it feels like maybe no-one’s ever seen anything like what’s about to go down here, but Coulson is deliciously hard to ruffle.
RUFFALO: I think Banner is aging and he’s been living with this thing. Two years have passed since the last one, and we’re kind of going for this world-weariness of accepting, and trying to get to the point where he can live with it, and maybe master it, or come to peace with it, and so there’s this kind of nice ironic wryness about Banner. He’s not so miserable. I think that’s kind of a throwback. We started to talk about a throwback to Bill Bixby, which was the Banner that I grew up on basically. He had a kind of a charm about him in this kind of world-weariness. He was on the run but he was still able to flirt sometimes and smile sometimes and occasionally crack a joke, so that’s in there.
When you have a movie when there’s so many characters, you end up getting about 10 minutes of screen time for your particular character and, in the 10 minutes that we have, we’re trying to bring out this kind of charm in him and maybe this idea that he wants to be a superhero. He looks at Stark and he’s like, “That’s the dude who actually did what I attempted to do.” He’s the model. He made it work, so Banner and Stark have a very cool relationship in the movie.
[Banner] ends up being an intricate component to the first part of the movie. They really aren’t after him necessarily to be the Hulk. They’re really after him because of his gamma expertise. There’s a big portion in the movie where he’s doing a lot of that and helping them kind of crack this riddle.
And as for that lingering question of whether or not we’re getting “Smart Hulk”?
RUFFALO: Yeah, he’s a smart Hulk. He hasn’t graduated to that yet but hopefully he might be on the way to that. I don’t know where it’s going to go after this, but I feel like we’re trying to open the door to the integration of the two, you know [Banner and Hulk]. I like to think of it as the guy trying to break a bucking bronco. He has some tiny little semblance of control over it but still it’s completely out of his control, you know. That’s kind of where the last one left off, I felt like.
Director Joss Whedon talks about what it’s like to once again take on an ensemble film using established characters (a feat he has previously endeavored with his cult-hit sci-fi film, Serenity), and also what his favorite aspect of Avengers is:
WHEDON: Serenity had been very hard and I literally said, “I’m never doing this again. A bunch of characters who already know each other and are established, but have to be introduced to new people,” and all of that. But I didn’t fear it at all, I just regret it very much. You know, I walked in and I was like, “I get why they should be a team. This is exciting!” But then you have to explain it to the audience, too. Apparently they matter. It’s Vulcan chess. There’s just so many things. There’s a ripple effect on everything you do, but as long as you’re respectful of everybody’s perspective, and everybody has a moment where they shine (or hopefully several), and everybody is speaking from who they are, you’re not going to fall too hard.
For me, honestly my favorite moments are the scenes where I have two of the characters, where I get to pair up two characters you might not expect to see together, and see them go at each other. Whether they are getting along or not, there’s always friction. And those scenes are probably not why everybody might rush to the theater, but they are the most fun when you really get to explore it with the actors and the space. That’s the stuff that I feel the proudest about. The action is not small and some of the gags we’ve come up with are enormous and delightful and I’m proud of them and excited by them, because I like to live in that world too. But when you are in those quieter moments, that’s when I am just in heaven.
Finally, Whedon and Feige (pictured below) touch on where the Marvel movie Universe will go after the epic events of Avengers, and what the solo character films (Iron Man 3, Captain America 2,Thor 2) will be like after this teamup:
FEIGE: You know, it’s again — it’s the same thing after how do we top Spider-Man, you know and after two years with the company, three years with the company I had the biggest weekend of all time and it’s like I went, “Is this – is it – where do you go from here?… And we found a place to go and I think we’ll continue to find places to go. Certainly now that the characters are established, like the comics continuing to tell those stories and then every few years bring them together again I think would be cool. And whatever happens there alters their dynamic as they go back into their own worlds and keep that going.WHEDON: The fact is one of the things that I was very adamant about… don’t have the support systems of all of these movies. Because these movies have their own internal workings and have the supporting characters. They have their own feel. I’m like, “First of all, this can’t feel like any of those movies. And second of all you have to take them away from their support systems.” First of all, it’s a good way to make a team. It’s like they all go to camp. And second of all, they said, “Do we want to put Jane Foster in the movie?” I’m like, “Yeah, that’d be great. Then the writer of Thor 2 will come and kill me with a trowel, because their first meeting, ‘I haven’t seen you, except that one time.’”
There are iconic things going on in their own stories that I’m not going to touch. They have to step out of their worlds into the Avengers world. Hopefully this thing works on a big scale. But because there are so many of them, everybody gets so much juice and then they have to step aside. The other movies have a much easier throughline. It’s never easy, but a simpler throughline of that one person’s journey where they really get to explore that person on a level that, in this movie, I’m just never going to get to.
For the full interviews over at Collider click any one of the names listed below:
- Captain America (Chris Evans) & Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.)
- Thor (Chris Hemsworth)
- Hulk (Mark Ruffalo)
- Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) & Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner)
- Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg)
- Tom Hiddleston (Loki)
- Director Joss Whedon
- Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige
The Avengers will be in 2D and 3D theaters on May 4, 2012.