A handful of websites (not ours) go invited to the set of The Avengers last this year, and now they are releasing the details of that visit online. If you want to hear 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) director Joss Whedon and Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige all discuss the most epic superhero teamup film of all time, you’ve come to the right place.
We have done the good deed of condensing all of the choice quotes from The Avengers cast and crew interviews into one transcript, with links at the end to the longer interviews, which are available in both print and audio form over on Collider.
The interviews are SPOILER-FREE, so read away at your leisure.
Interestingly enough, Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige sees The Avengers as being a “disaster film” that we see from the point of view of S.H.I.E.L.D., the clandestine global peacekeeping force run by Samuel L. Jackson’s character, Col. Nick Fury. Clark Gregg (Agent Coulson) is also excited about the expanded role his organization gets in the new film:
FEIGE: Well, you know, the movie as everyone knows, I think, is primarily about… an event occurs that causes problems for Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), who runs this organization, S.H.I.E.L.D. … If S.H.I.E.L.D. was this organization that just stepped out of the shadows occasionally in other movies to see what was going on, in this movie, we’re on the other side of that.
In this movie, we’re through S.H.I.E.L.D.’s point of view, this organization who’s responsible for sort of taking care of the world and making sure everything runs smoothly and when a billionaire genius inventor creates a suit of armor and blasts out of a cave, it’s going to get on their attention. And when a hammer falls into the middle of the desert, it’s going to get their attention. And when a green guy appears rampaging through Harlem, it’s going to get their attention. And if and when a super-soldier were to be discovered frozen in the ice, that would also get their attention.
So it is sort of about seeing what a day in the life of Nick Fury is like and of this organization. And when such an event occurs, he is forced to take these people, who he’s not really sure he can even handle individually, and see if he can get them to come together and work together to stop this greater threat. So in a lot of ways, we’re looking at it as a disaster movie… It’s not my way of saying it’s Armageddon – things could be worse – but it’s my way of saying that’s kind of the paradigm that we’re looking at, is something horrible is going to happen if this team can’t get together and fight against it.
GREGG: I think that’s got to be a big task in a movie like this, where you got a guy from Asgard with a cape, and you know Tony Stark has always been a little more grounded and his technology is actually oddly close to what’s possible. What got me going on this? S.H.I.E.L.D., it has been hinted at what they do, who they are, and I think what’s cool about this movie is that S.H.I.E.L.D. is a much bigger part of this, that you start to really understand who S.H.I.E.L.D. is, this kind of genesis from Howard Stark, that I think will be revealed a lot in Captain America and how it functions. I think S.H.I.E.L.D. has been around for quite a while and its real purpose becomes very clear in this movie.
S.H.I.E.L.D.’s objective, of course, is getting these various figures – all accomplished heroes in their own rights – to come together and work together. In that sense, one of the biggest questions facing The Avengers has always been how (or on what level) an old soldier like Cap, a mystical warrior like Thor, or an egotistical tech-head like Iron Man would bond.
Apparently, the cast had to struggle with those very question as they were making the film:
EVANS: I think they [Cap and Iron Man] are both heroes in their own right. Tony is a little bit more flash, and he’s got charisma oozing out of him, and he likes the spotlight, and I think Cap might be a little bit more reserved in his desire to be front and center, but they are both, at their core, heroes, if you know what I mean. Even if Tony is flash and hot-shit, he is still a hero. He is still a good man. I think it just takes the duration of the film for them to see eye-to-eye and to see that in one another.
DOWNEY JR.: Well, here’s the thing…there is this extra added layer of it being connected to the Stark legacy, so it’s almost like dealing with Frankenstein, but Frankenstein has lessons that you actually haven’t learned yet. So it’s really easy to just be like, “Oh my God, you have bolts on your neck!” and Joss, while not being silly… I give Cap quite a bit of guff in the movie… But I think it was probably the toughest relationship to really find the right arc for.
RENNER: Yeah, I ask myself that every day. I don’t know. How do I know Thor? I guess I was in the movie. I was going to put an arrow in his head, but I don’t know this guy, do I? So I always ask those questions and Joss is a very creative… it’s a complicated universe, as you guys know, and there’s a couple different versions of this universe, so it’s interesting. We find reasons to make it work, but I think the general overall assumption is that we all at least have an understanding of each other… or a misunderstanding of each other is probably better.
HEMSWORTH: Sure. Absolutely. I think that conflict is what makes it interesting. Having seen these people in the individual films, it’s probably pretty safe to say that a lot of the team coming together is having to be about them managing their own egos or each others’, and how they fit in. What sort of part they fill… There are certainly a few reactions of, “This guy thinks he’s a god? He’s got a cape.” And my reaction to that is, you are wearing a metal suit and you are wrapped in an American flag. I think we all have our odd opinions. Joss [Whedon] has said it before: they are all very lonely characters in a sense because they are… “outcasts” is probably the wrong word. But they’re certainly individuals. And because of that, I think they find, maybe, some comfort in that coming together. As hard as it is at first, they also probably feel at home in some way.
As if finding a way to bring all these characters together wasn’t hard enough – they also have to deal with trickster god Loki trying to break them all apart:
JOHANSSON: (laughs) I think that [Loki] has an agenda, and I think the best way to break up a group is by trying to manipulate the situation by going individually to each one of our characters and you kind of see that. He’s playing good cop/bad cop, but it’s just him in some way with each one of us. I think he’s trying to figure out a way to put holes in the team, trying to figure out a way to disassemble us in some way and manipulate us individually.
HIDDLESTON: I think there is a degree of self-possession in Loki in The Avengers, which was missing in Thor. As in, the Loki of Thor is a confused and damaged prince and the Loki of The Avengers is somebody who understands his own power. He understands his own anger and is able to probably, I would say, suppress it. So you see that in a way he is more mischievous. Loki is the God of mischief and I think that the way Joss has written Loki in The Avengers is that he is a mischief. He is someone whose actions are very, very difficult for the seven of eight Avengers to pin down…
Loki thinks that having power will earn him approval and self-respect, I think… I’ve referred to him before as a kind of chess master. I think that he is 10 steps ahead in the game. He plays everyone so beautifully. He plays them better than they know, I think. But there is a flaw at the bottom of him, which is that he’s motivated entirely out of selfishness and a need for approval. I think that is ultimately his flaw.
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.