Last June we had the opportunity to visit the set of Avengers: Age of Ultron and see some of Earth's Mightiest heroes in suited up for several different sequences. The main one however, took place in Stark Tower (now Avengers tower, the team's base of operations) where we witnessed a brawl between new character Vision (Paul Bettany) and Thor (Chris Hemsworth) being rehearsed and shot from different angles with the actors and their stunt doubles.
It was a scene writer and director Joss Whedon devised that morning, on the spot, and so the cast and crew were setting up and practicing as they go. In between takes, Chris Hemsworth took a half an hour of his time to chat with us and a group of journalists inside the lab of Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) which overlooks the main lounge area where the crew was shooting.
The set piece was massive, a full reconstruction of the entire top few floors of Stark tower, but we'll have more on that later as we approach the May 1st theatrical release date of the Avengers sequel. Here, we'll focus on what Thor himself, the Asgardian Avenger, told us about working on the sequel which he describes to be bigger than Avengers 1 in every way. He talks about the script and what he wanted to do differently with Thor this time around, how to make him a sensible and unique component of the Earth-based team.
In the interview, Hemsworth talks about the future of his character, from thinking about how Thor's story arc may eventually end to how the character can see past Ultron to potential bigger picture threats this movie could be leading to. We also talk about how Ultron and his army pose the greatest threat yet to the team and how even Thor doubts their chances at overcoming the "onslaught," even hinting at how his Asgardian connections may be needed...
Talk a little about your reaction when you first got the script.
Chris Hemsworth: It was awesome. I mean you know, coming off of Thor 2 and Avengers and you know I couldn't wait to read this. And I just loved how it upped it in a way that wasn't just bigger and flashier. I mean everything had been amplified but in an intelligent way. All the stories are relevant to what's going on in the world as far as the exponential growth of technology and artificial intelligence and then the questions of, you know, good versus bad and the AI world.
This is heavily influenced by that time and that debate. [Joss Whedon's] managed to bring all of the Avengers back in and give them a relevant reason to be there and justified sort of conflict. I mean it's a tricky balance. I'm glad I'm not the one writing the thing and having to pull that off.
Can you talk about what you’re filming today?
This is there sort of first meeting really. And it's, as you can see, it's conflicted. [laughs] Yeah, so it’s a big fight scene.
To some degree your relationship with Loki was the driving factor of the first movie. How does Thor tie into the larger Avengers: Age of Ultron movie?
Ummm... I mean we put up with Thor having stayed on Earth from Thor 2. So he's here. He's part of the team. This is his home for the moment. And the initial kind of threat attack from Ultron is personal because it's at all the Avengers and Thor then begins to see a bigger sort of picture here about what this threat could be... potentially. And it begins to kind of tie in all of our films. And it’s hard to say too much without talking about what I can’t talk about [laughs] but yeah as I said it's a personal loss from the get go because it's at him but, yeah. I'm just repeating myself.
What’s something Thor gets to do in this film that he hasn't done before in the other movies?
He’s loosened up a bit. I think we lost some of the, he humor and the naïveté and you know the sort of fish out of water quality of Thor from the first film into the second one. And there were things I loved about what we did in the second one too tonally but you know that sense of fun was - I would have liked it to be there a bit more. So this time, and Joss I think felt the same way. So there's more humor in Thor or he at least because he's been on earth, he's a little more humorous, a little more accessible now you know. He's off Asgard now so he doesn't have to be as regal and kingly as he is in that world, which is nice.
I enjoy that more you know. It's sort of a box, which is though to step out of on Asgard. You know that stuff just looks out of place whereas here you can have a gag with the guys and he can throw away lines and be a party scene with them in civilian clothes, which is nice.
Do we see him going to the movies with Natalie [Portman]?
Yea, I pitched that! [laughs]I did. But no. [laughs]
In the Phase 2 movies, the last three solo movies, very personal and world-changing things happened. How much does that leak into this movie since this takes place later?
It is referenced in a way to tie the films up, but there certainly is a new threat in this. There's a new conflict. There's a new set of circumstances. It's not, you know, I think we save the complete tie-ups or stories for our individual films you know. We don't tend to cover too much of the previous and next one here. This is you know, hopefully they will stand alone as their own story.
The last Thor was very fish out of water a little bit. How acclimated is Thor, I mean does he go to the movies with his girlfriend?
Yeah, I mean, I walked on set - we had a scene, it was sort of the Avengers in a party scene and I was in a nice coat and jeans and the guys just kept joking, "when did Thor go shopping? Did he buy this online or did Jane do it, or did he actually go shopping?" And so [laughs] you don't see him go shopping but the question’s raised because he's not dressed in his own guardian attire. Yeah, he's more human in the film definitely.
We see that you’re in your classic armor, does he get a costume change in this one?
It's been tweaked. It's a little more comfortable. Each time you get a little more comfortable, a little more movement in it. I don't think there's any huge changes to it. I loved where it was in the second one. We sort of landed on something more streamlined and functional. It's pretty similar.
So Tony isn’t giving Thor any upgrades?
No. He can't compete with Asgardian steel!
Other than Thor, who is your favorite avenger and why?
I mean I love the fun Tony gets to have you know what that character. And sort of the lack of boundaries I think that he's getting, you know. He has room to move so much and so many things and yet always bring it back and be personal and grounded at times no matter how sort of zany it gets. I just love watching you know Robert work in this setting so it's pretty special.
Thor and Hulk have some scenes in the first movie. Do we get more of that in the sequel?
We're sort of - we're not as conflicted as we were before I think. He tags off with someone else though. I think we sort of changed up there. And he has a pretty solid battle with - am I allowed to say? Yeah, Iron Man in this one, which is cool. It's a lengthy fight scene of destruction and you know, yeah. [laughs]
Adding these new faces both against you and on your side, how has that been like with guys like Spader on set?
It's awesome you know. It shakes things up because you - and I find this in my individual films - you get comfortable. You get into a rhythm or a routine and you think you know it. Until that's challenged you kind of go "oh, yeah, that's right there is another option here" and you know we keep changing it and mixing it up. And that's what new casts do, it all of a sudden breaks the familiar rhythm that we may have and makes it a bit more unpredictable. We do. We're lucky. To come back and actually want to come back and work with these guys and hang out again and pick up where we left off is a pretty special thing. And it's been great. I do. I love working on this set.
Jeremy Latcham (producer) brought up the point of how much you guys know the characters you play and how important it is to get your feedback on what you'd like to do with the characters this time around. Is there anything in particular you wanted Thor to do or ideas you had?
Yeah, I mean it was just giving him a solid reason to be there. I think for all of us, and it it seems like a pretty simple demand but it - yeah, it would be easy to fall into "oh, they're all just there because that's what we're all contracted for and it looks cool if we’re standing in the same room." [laughs] I mean, it was there from the beginning too but I just sort of kept saying to Joss "okay, well what do I bring to the table though, you know besides kind of Thor being one of his foot soldiers and the muscle and in a bunch of fight scenes. What is his knowledge he can bring to it?"
And trying to incorporate "okay, he's from another world" because you forget that when you're standing there in these conversations and you go "well, hang on, he’s from another planet you know. What's his thousands of years of existence? What information can I bring?" And so he calls upon some of his Asgardian knowledge in this and is able to go into you know, let's say another realm to pull out something that's hugely useful. And some information that certainly benefits where they’re at at that point.