The Avengers is poised to make more money than anything Joss Whedon has ever been intricately involved with – from Buffy to Angel to Dollhouse to Serenity - that is, if the overseas box office figures are any indication.
Recently, Whedon discussed a number of topics having to do with The Avengers, including Marvel's stipulations for the movie, butting heads with Robert Downey Jr. early on, and a deleted scene between Captain America and Iron Man pertaining to the latter's father, Howard Stark. Also, we have an image of the ensemble cast from the film that depicts a very old-school, Jack Kirby-esque Hulk.
On the similarities between writing the comic book Astonishing X-Men back in 2004 and writing the screenplay for The Avengers – courtesy of Clarence Beaks at Ain't It Cool – Joss Whedon said:
"Those [were] pretty similar [experiences]. When I was on 'X-Men', there were certain things they wanted and restrictions they had. I mean, halfway through my run they were like 'Oh, we’ve replaced Nick Fury with this woman, Maria Hill.' I’m like, 'What? Okay…' 'And by the way, most of the mutants have been wiped off of the face of the earth.' 'Huh?' You sort of have to take as much information as you can, and then build within that. It’s the same with the movie. 'We want the following things' or 'You should avoid the following things.' But that’s not a problem. That’s useful more than anything else. I mean, every now and again you feel a little boxed in, like 'How do I pay this off?' But figuring out how to connect all of those dots and avoid all of the sand traps - yeah, way to mix those metaphors - is difficult, but also part of the fun."
What was something that Marvel required to be in The Avengers?
"They had their idea of what the third act should be in one sentence: 'Army, Portals…' But again, that’s great. I know where I’m going [with that]. All I have to do is find the path, which is not easy to do, but it's easier when you […] have a compass."
It's interesting to hear that one of the stipulations Marvel had for Whedon's screenplay is also one of the few elements of the film that has been thus far criticized. Indeed, Loki's alien army has been said to essentially function as faceless fodder for the good guys to punch ad infinitum, and are otherwise fairly uninteresting.
On whether or not he got to indulge in bringing his comic book fantasies to the big screen, Whedon said:
"Not all of them, but enough of them. Marvel had certain stipulations about what should happen in the story, and that was really all I had to go on. What I got to bring to the party was sort of […] the essence of the ideology and [what] the tone of the film was going to be, and how these people were all going to get into the positions that [Marvel] needed them to get into in this game of Twister. It just… I’ll only ever focus on bringing the audience in through character, through enough believability, and make the stakes big enough that you can actually endanger Earth’s Mightiest Heroes."
On Robert Downey Jr.'s "everything approval" and the actor's initial idea of how Iron Man would fit into The Avengers:
"We worked it out together. There were a lot of ways you could go. They were still deciding what they were going to do for IRON MAN 3, so there was some grey area - although they had a concept. There was some grey area there, and we butted heads a couple of times early when we were sort of sniffing each other out, but then ultimately came to a vision of the thing that we both felt was right on the money. Then it was just about sort of honing it. It was actually enormous fun. When he came on set, he came on set as an eager actor and we’d go over the stuff. He likes to make changes. He likes to go through everything. I think he likes to have things fresh, so that he comes at it fresh. I mean, he could read something that was written 400 years ago and make it sound like he just thought of it; that’s one of his great talents. But the process at that point, because we were both so locked into what we were trying to do, was so much fun. I’d be like 'Try this! What about [joke spoiler]? Try this.” He was like 'Can I do this then?' 'Yeah!' He’s anxious for direction. He’s there to make it as good as he can, and as soon as I felt like he trusted me we had the best time. There were one or two things where he was like 'I’m not comfortable with this' and I’m like 'I know, and here’s how we are going to change that.' It’s like we could read each other pretty well at that point. I would say it was one of the most fun collaborations that I’ve had."
It sounds like there's a more interesting story – or numerous stories, at that – buried here. Personally, I'd like to hear more about how Whedon and RDJ butted heads before eventually coming together, but I doubt we'll be hearing the details anytime soon.
On Howard Stark's admiration of Captain America and the deleted (unfilmed?) scene depicting friction between Iron Man and Cap:
"There was [originally] a ton more [of that]. One of the problems we had early on was that I had way more Iron Man, and at some point I realized 'This is turning into 'Iron Man 3.' That’s a mistake for them, that’s a mistake for me, and it’s putting too much responsibility on Robert’s shoulders. He needs to be the rock star who shows up and says ‘Oh, let me handle this, because I’m a rock star.' That felt very right. But I had written endless scads of pages of him and Steve Rogers arguing, and a lot of it was about [Howard Stark]. Not so much, because his daddy issues had been the thing in the second movie, but enough because of that relationship. Actually the only time Chris and Robert were in the Quinjet, I had a little run about the father, and on the day they were like 'We’re not so comfortable with this.' I went 'Okay, let’s pull it,' so there’s really just the one comment. But I feel like you don’t necessarily need to say it. It’s there. I mean, Chris is such a father figure as Steve Rogers - even though he’s young and maybe just by virtue of the fact that he is a beautiful fuddy-duddy. [Steve and Howard's] relationship I think resonates without having to call it back too much. And when [Steve] says […] ‘You know, your father would never say that' [to Tony], I wanted Tony to say 'My Dominic Cooper father or my John Slattery father?' Because they were very different guys."
Lastly, we've got an image (via Comic Book Movie) of The Avengers as a team, ready to punch and kick and shoot and throw shields at (presumably) the endless, faceless fodder known as Loki's army. Check it out below -- and click to enlarge:
The most interesting thing about this image is how much Hulk looks like the original incarnation of the character from the comics, as drawn by Jack Kirby. Previously, the Hulk has been depicted via CGI as seemingly handsome and statuesque -- albeit twelve foot tall and an extremely garish green (see: Ang Lee's The Hulk and Marvel's The Incredible Hulk).
But look at that face now! Guy looks hideous, not unlike a mutated green troll, and that's precisely the way it should be. It's just another in a long list of examples that indicate that Joss Whedon truly loves and understands these characters, through and through, and was a prime choice for bringing them all together on the big screen.
The Avengers hits theaters May 4th, 2012.
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