Joss Whedon Interview For Marvel’s ‘The Avengers’
Continuing the epic big-screen adventures started in ‘Iron Man,‘ ‘The Incredible Hulk,‘ ‘Iron Man 2,’ ‘Thor,’ and ‘Captain America: The First Avenger,’ Marvel’s ‘The Avengers’ is the super hero team up of a lifetime, featuring iconic Marvel super heroes Iron Man, the Incredible Hulk, Thor, Captain America, Hawkeye and Black Widow. When an unexpected enemy emerges that threatens global safety and security, Nick Fury, director of the international peacekeeping agency known as S.H.I.E.L.D., finds himself in need of a team to pull the world back from the brink of disaster. Directed by Joss Whedon, ‘The Avengers’ (‘Avengers Assemble’ in the UK) stars Chris Evans (Captain America/Steve Rogers), Jeremy Renner (Hawkeye/Clint Barton), Mark Ruffalo (Bruce Banner/Hulk), Robert Downey Jr (Iron Man/Tony Stark), Chris Hemsworth (Thor), Samuel L. Jackson (Nick Fury), Scarlett Johansson (Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow), and Tom Hiddleston (Loki). Cobie Smulders, Clark Gregg, and Stellen Skarsgard co-star. ‘The Avengers’ is released in cinemas April 26th in the UK and May 4th in the US.
With what Marvel had done in the previous movies, what was your through-line into ‘The Avengers’?
Joss Whedon: What they had done in the movies before, it was obviously extremely informative, useful and fun. But at that point ‘Thor’ and ‘Captain America: The First Avenger’ weren’t even close to being finished, and there’s this element of, “OK, you have all these parts, but how can you possibly bring them together?” They don’t seem to co-exist, these characters, that was untimely what made me go, “This can be done, and this should be done. These people don‘t belong together, these people wouldn’t get along.” As soon as that came into focus I realised I had something to say about these people.
How did you approach the story line?
Joss Whedon: Marvel had a very clear idea of the kind of spectacle that they wanted, their sort of structure, “This conflict here, this here.” That was great for me because I had something to build off of. The only thing I was interested in building was, “How do we get there? How does that matter and how does that action tell us something about the characters that we didn’t know?” So that it’s not just a checklist, which was very important to me because you don’t want to come off feeling like a ride, you want to come off this and….there will be some riding, but you want to come off this feeling like you got told a story. So the only thing I had to really worry about was motivating it, making it matter to these people and making these people matter to the audience.
Also, I was able to spend time with all of the cast members while I was writing the screenplay. They knew I was building their character from the ground up for them. As we progressed, I would go to them and say, “Here are my ideas and this is how I think you should play it. Is there something in particular you want to avoid? Something you feel the character needs? Wants?” Every cast member had their input, to the degree that they wanted, so the script is very much a collaboration from the ground up, and I think it helped set the tone right away. My motto has always been, “I know exactly what I want and if you tell me what you want; we can usually do both.”
How was it working with Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, the director of S.H.I.E.L.D?
Joss Whedon: The thing about Samuel L. Jackson is that I always think there are two of him. He’s famous for the sort of bravado of ‘Pulp Fiction,’ he’s the speechifying guy who can out-moxie anybody in the room. But of course as a huge ‘Unbreakable’ fan, I’m also very much in love with the great well of sadness that he brings. I told him from the very beginning, my biggest note throughout the film was, “Less Shaft, more Glass.” Because what I wanted to see was a guy who could, yeah, absolutely command a room with his voice, could absolutely be the guy you could never question who was in charge of this enormous organisation and everything around it. Could be a guy who could do stuff that was morally compromised, yet absolutely necessary. But at the same time would feel the burden of that. To be the leader means to separate yourself from everybody else.
With ‘The Avengers’ you’ve got Mark Ruffalo joining the Marvel Universe as Bruce Banner/Hulk….
Joss Whedon: Mark Ruffalo was my first wish. I made a list, a very short list, and Mark was at the head of it. Mark was the guy I wanted. I said to Marvel, “Look, I think we want a completely fresh take on this, and I think I know the guy for it.” They were like, “Well, we’re not sure, unless it’s Mark Ruffalo, we don’t even know if….” I was like, “What!” I just froze, “You gotta be kidding, you did not just say that!” Then I showed them my list (laughs). They were completely onboard with that and I think they had been interested in him as Bruce Banner/Hulk before. After Robert Downey Jr, he’s probably the person I spent the most time with before shooting. Just talking about anger, how it manifests, different kinds. Just so that we could get the Hulk away from being this roaring creature.
Tom Hiddleston’s Loki is a lot more menacing and chaotic in ‘The Avengers’ than he was in ‘Thor’…..
Joss Whedon: At the end of the day, the thing that makes ‘The Avengers’ work is Tom Hiddleston. He breathes a lot of life into Loki, he doesn’t just twirl his moustache – although God knows he gets to be more of the classic Loki than he got to in ‘Thor.’ In ‘Thor’ he had a very poignant, and what I thought to be beautifully realised arc. In ‘The Avengers’ he’s past that, you can still see hints of it, you can still see the resentments, the vulnerability, the big brother issues, all of that stuff. Tom can really bring that presence, that texture. So that you go, “This guy is going to destroy you, either from right in front, or from right in the back and you don’t know which.”
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