Avengers: Infinity War picks up its character story arcs and team dynamics from where Captain America: Civil War left most of its Avengers, disassembled, but not everyone had a break up, so to speak. Vision and Wanda Maximoff a.k.a. Scarlet Witch have since become romantically involved, as the odd pair were in Marvel Comics, and that poses some interesting challenges for the two heroes given that one of them was brought to life with an Infinity Stone that the Marvel Cinematic Universe's greatest villain is after.
What happens when Thanos and his army seeks out the Mind Gem that's keeping Vision alive? Does Vision even need it anymore? Can Wanda's powers (which also derive from that Infinity Stone) be used to keep Vision alive instead?
We traveled to Pinewood Atlanta Studios in June 2017 to visit the set of Avengers: Infinity War and spent a day chatting with cast and crew, including Paul Bettany and Elizabeth Olsen. At the time, secrecy was at a maximum but unofficial set photos from earlier during principal photography revealed the pair together, romantically, and Vision embracing more of a human look. We began by asking about the sequence we saw being shot that day, where Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) and his team land in Wakanda, seeking assistance and bringing them a warning of what's coming.
In this scene, you guys get off the quinjet, Vision seems a bit hurt. What happened to Vision?
Paul Bettany: Oh, I just had some really bad brain freeze. … I had a really bad, I got a curry on the plane. … I got skewered.
Elizabeth Olsen: In front of a kabob shop.
Paul Bettany: In front of a kabob shop, which is ironic. … And these bad guys are trying to get the stone out of my head and so Wanda and I fought them off and then we’ve ended up here for surgery.
Elizabeth Olsen: Yes, we’re trying to. … I always get confused on how much we can talk about. … Like are we allowed to explain what we try and do in Shuri’s lab? [Publicist: “No”] No, okay. So forget that bit.
Paul Bettany: I gotta get fixed up.
You’re like the scarecrow in Wizard of Oz when they’re putting him back together?
Paul Bettany: Just a little bit like that.
Elizabeth Olsen: [After a beat] Any other questions about today? [Laughs]
What can you say about both of your characters and what they’ve been doing between the events of Civil War and now?
Elizabeth Olsen: We have stayed separate teams and the people on Cap’s side have been fighting more rogue missions. Hence, we all look a bit different to suggest being in hiding and we’ve been trying to within that time find points of meeting in different places in order to try and forward our relationship.
For better or worse, we have seem some of the paparazzi photos.
Elizabeth Olsen: It’s really sad.
Is there anything else you can say about your characters’ relationship?
Paul Bettany: I think that Vision’s been on this quest to understand what being human is and I think Scarlet Witch, in a large degree, has helped him figure that out and what love is. [Sings] “I wanna know what love is?” It’s in the movie, that’s the scene the paparazzi [shot]. “I wanna know what love is?” Yeah, so they’re trying to figure that out.
Elizabeth Olsen: [Continues singing] “I want you to show me…”
Paul Bettany: [To Olsen] I think we should stop now.
Elizabeth Olsen: Okay.
Paul Bettany: [To Olsen] Don’t give too much away, don’t give too much away. [Back to press] Yeah, so that’s what’s been going on and they’re very much in love at this point.
Elizabeth Olsen: Soulmates.
[To Bettany] I imagine since you carry one of the stones that you’re going to have a significant arc in this story. Obviously without giving too much away, can you give us what we can expect from Vision’s story?
Paul Bettany: It’s gonna be kinda of a significant arc ‘cause I got one of the stones in my head. That’s about all I’m allowed to say. No, there’s some really bad dudes who want the stone from my head and that’s a problem for Vision.
What would happen if they got it, hypothetically?
Paul Bettany: Well, that’s a very big question and one that troubles…
Elizabeth Olsen: That we explore in the movie.
Paul Bettany: Yeah. One that troubles Vision and Wanda a lot. I don’t know what to do about that. It’s really having these conversations because you don’t wanna sound slightly obtuse and being a difficult interview, but you’ve got…
Being undercover, how does Vision go undercover?
Paul Bettany: Well, you either travel to different Mardi Gras around the world. On Halloween, you’re golden — Halloween, it’s his night out — or you discover the ability to change your appearance. With nano-technology. Totally making that up...
Do you get to play different incarnations of Vision or are other actors going to be brought in so he can shapeshift into different looks to be undercover?
Paul Bettany: I wouldn’t want to lead you down the garden path, no. I don’t look like this in real life. [Laughs]
I have seen you outside with no makeup on.
Paul Bettany: Oh, there's a guy who didn’t look like Vision playing Vision. [Says to himself] “You look a lot like Paul Bettany.”
How much would you both say that characters are dealing with the fallout of what happened in the last movie [Civil War]?
Elizabeth Olsen: I think in a different way not so much about the last movie and their own sagas, but this is definitely the most emotional arc I’ve done in an Avenger film, that’s for sure.
Paul Bettany: Yeah.
Elizabeth Olsen: ’Cause when we’re talking about Vision becoming human, we’re talking about their relationship and it’s a pretty grounded arc.
Paul Bettany: And significant. [Laughs] Yeah, I think it is the most emotional. Also, the cost and the danger that we’re all facing becomes more important than certain beef that people had in the past because it’s so desperate. The point of the Avengers, and by extension mankind, it’s fraught with danger. So I think old grudges are buried and put off until next time.
How would your characters describe Thanos? What do you guys think of him?
Paul Bettany: He’s such a dick.
Elizabeth Olsen: I don’t really know yet. We haven’t really figured that out ourselves yet. Right?
Paul Bettany: Yeah.
Elizabeth Olsen: We haven’t really gotten to that bit in the exploration, but he’s not a good guy. We don’t necessarily want to be his friend. You don’t want to be his friend.
Paul Bettany: You don’t want to be his friend, no, but you can admire… He has an ambitious goal.
Elizabeth Olsen: Yes, he sets his goals very high.
Paul Bettany: He sets his goals very high.
Elizabeth Olsen: I think [Josh] Brolin is doing a really cool job creating an interesting villain ‘cause he doesn’t really come across… he seems he’s defending it quite well.
We’ve asked the rest of the cast how they relate to Thanos and how they feel about him, and they were talking about it in very abstract ways, but for your characters it’s actually very personal because if Thanos gets what he wants your romance would end. Who knows what would happen to Vision. So from that point of view, does Thanos perhaps frighten your characters more than the rest of the team?
Paul Bettany: He is, like I said, I think he’s a real dick. [Laughs] I just found out what it means to be human and now this Thanos guy. Yeah, I don’t know. I think for everybody the stakes are so high that I think that it’s…
Elizabeth Olsen: As bad as bad can be.
Paul Bettany: As bad as bad can be.
So if Scarlet Witch happens to cross paths with Doctor Strange, is there like a weird who’s-on-first thing where he’s like, “I use real magic,” she’s like “They call me a witch”?
Elizabeth Olsen: "Ya ne znayu." Sorry, that means "I don’t know." [in Russian] I don’t know why I said the other, but I don’t know.
Can you talk about your dynamics in the film as being a partnership within the team dynamic, right? Are there certain challenges or is it comforting for your characters to have each other within this team but on a more personal and special level?
Elizabeth Olsen: As actors or as our characters?
As your characters or both?
Paul Bettany: It’s a pretty dynamic team.
Elizabeth Olsen: It’s a pretty fun group.
Paul Bettany: Pretty fun group. Friday nights are great. I mean, I don’t really understand the question.
Is it comforting to have one person on the team you can rely on in a different way than maybe the rest of the team?
Elizabeth Olsen: Oh, with each other!
Paul Bettany: Yeah.
Elizabeth Olsen: Oh yeah! Yeah, that is fun. It just feels like you have something really specific to work with all the time. And that feels nice. There’s like an anchor point to everything, which is what you’re constantly looking for when you’re doing these movies. What anchors you to a grounded reality? And you have that throughout the whole film. You have your partner, your life partner with you by your side, and that creates a different kind of stakes, as well.
The Guardians of the Galaxy come into this film and, obviously, cosmic villains. Do these cosmic characters and the otherworldly stuff, does that make Vision want to quest beyond understanding humanity, realizing, “Holy shit there’s so much more out there now”?
Elizabeth Olsen: I feel like we should do this meeting before we do the movie so they can give us ideas. [Laughs]
Paul Bettany: Yeah, I don’t know. I think he’s already thinking that way already. I mean, he’s a smart fellow, the Vision. So I think he’s already thinking that way. Frankly, being that you have to have a face for the quest to save humanity, well why? Well, because it’s the person that you love. Fighting for that I think is just a question because I don’t know quite how to answer my question. So, yes, which is I think about love and understanding what love is. [This part is clear] I think you can see by the end of the movie on a much grander scale a love of life.
With Scarlet Witch, specifically, there was an alternate scene in Civil War and it was, at least in my recollection, the first time a Marvel character had actually acknowledged the fact that she can alter reality as opposed to moving things with her mind.
Elizabeth Olsen: An alternate scene in Civil War? That was deleted but I was in it?
Elizabeth Olsen: [Laughter] I don’t remember it.
Vision is explaining to General Ross at the very beginning that “Wanda can manipulate molecular polarity to alter reality.”
Elizabeth Olsen: Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah.
So are we going to start to see more tricks from her now beyond the telekinetics and the force fields?
Elizabeth Olsen: Um…
Paul Bettany: You’ll have to wait and see.
Elizabeth Olsen: ‘kay.
How does this movie differ from a Joss Whedon Avengers movie? As an actor, does it feel different in this one as opposed to Ultron?
Paul Bettany: Yeah, they’re really different. … It’s not that one is better than the other.
Elizabeth Olsen: The biggest difference is that Joss wrote everything. When he writes them, he plays every single character in, like, a cabin and he does the fighting sequences as much as he can and then he writes it. I think the main difference is that the Russos delegate and they trust everything that they’ve delegated things to. Not saying Joss didn’t, but that’s a lot of pressure to be a director and then go home to also do rewrites for the next week. So I think it’s just as it gets bigger, things become more specific to different departments and I think it allows maybe even a freedom within the dialogue sometimes…
Paul Bettany: Yeah absolutely.
Elizabeth Olsen: … because there’s a space some of us have the ability to step out and not be on the page. Not saying that one’s better than the other because Joss knows these characters better than maybe each one of the individuals do because he lives it and breathes it, and the Russos at the beginning of filming are like, “You’re in control of your character. If there are things you think we missed, please participate, please say.”
Paul Bettany: They really want you to be a collaborator and it’s great. There’s a huge upside for that. For them [th Russos], when you’re dealing with so many characters and actors to have two of them, and it’s brilliant because you can play one off against the other.
Elizabeth Olsen: “Anthony told me this.”
Paul Bettany: "He did?” “Yeah, he really did.” “Okay.” So that’s useful. Or like, “Your brother’s a bit of a dick isn’t he?”
Have you guys made suggestions about your characters?
Paul Bettany: Oh yeah, I think everybody does all the time and Marvel has really been open to that, surprisingly.
Elizabeth Olsen: I think it would be shocking to anyone else who talks, writes, or talks about… People say it’s not a creative environment, you just are a pawn, and they make it the most creative environment it can be within its parameters.
Paul Bettany: Also there are people with very clear vision. So they’re able to hear you and yet maintain the course of the ship. I found it really open and creative and genuinely interested in what you would like to happen and have happened with your character.
Elizabeth Olsen: Well, like a general specific, we have already shot part of the end, but we haven’t shot some things that happen before and there are just things that happen where you’re like, “You know what? Let’s create a string and when we go to the scenes we haven’t shot yet, let’s create something that will reflect that later.” … And people notice it or they don’t. It’s just good to have.
Paul Bettany: I think the success of the Marvel films comes from the fact that they’re made by fans. They really love those characters. When I first came out dressed as Vision, Kevin Feige nearly cried. I didn’t grow up reading comics but they make you fall in love with your character. They really do. Their love for these stories is really infectious and you become really invested, and there’s a lot of invested people beyond the financials of it all. They really want to do a good job, and I think fans really trust that if they bend things that they’re in safe hands — that the story is in safe hands because I guarantee you it’s made by geeks. This movie is made by geeks. They love them, they feel it when they’re talking about it.
There are a lot of characters in this movie that you guys haven’t worked with. It’s very new. Of all those characters, who have you already shot with that you really enjoyed or you’re just looking forward to have that opportunity?
Elizabeth Olsen: I don’t know. I feel like if I say who I want to work with, you’ll know too much. Is that weird?
We know Captain Marvel is in this? [Laughs]
Elizabeth Olsen: No, I mean who we are in scenes with and who we’re not, then you‘ll know who are in it. I don’t know. But there are people.
Paul Bettany: Because there’s many strands to the film.
Got it. Thanks!
An unprecedented cinematic journey ten years in the making and spanning the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe, Marvel Studios’ Avengers: Infinity War brings to the screen the ultimate, deadliest showdown of all time. The Avengers and their Super Hero allies must be willing to sacrifice all in an attempt to defeat the powerful Thanos before his blitz of devastation and ruin puts an end to the universe.
Anthony and Joe Russo direct the film, which is produced by Kevin Feige. Louis D’Esposito, Victoria Alonso, Michael Grillo and Stan Lee are the executive producers. Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely wrote the screenplay.
- Avengers: Infinity War / The Avengers 3 (2018) release date: Apr 27, 2018
- The Avengers 4 / Avengers: Endgame (2019) release date: Apr 26, 2019