The Avengers press conference with Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Jeremy Renner, Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, Clark Gregg, Cobie Smulders and writer/director Joss Whedon.
It’s a superhero geekfest led by Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Thor and Captain America, and throw in newcomers Hawkeye and Black Widow, and you have one of the more anticipated movies of the summer, “The Avengers.”
The dream team of Marvel iconic characters come together, of course, to save the world and the universe. Thor’s (Chris Hemsworth) vindictive brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) plans to take control the universe with the unlimited power of the Cosmic Cube. Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson), Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner) and Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) don their evil-fighting attire (besides the Hulk who has a tendency to lose his), and join Thor in battle. Aiding the team is director of S.H.I.E.L.D. Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), and S.H.I.E.L.D. agents Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) and Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg).
Joss Whedon (“Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “Serenity”) had a minefield to tiptoe through when he took on the challenge of directing and writing “The Avengers.” Not only is there nearly 50 years of Avengers history, there are three ongoing successful franchises with Iron Man, Thor and Captain America, which have accumulated nearly $1 billion in domestic box office alone.
“The hardest part is and always will be structure,” Whedon said. “How do you put that together? How do you make everybody shine? How do you let the audience’s identification drift from person to person without making them feel like they’re not involved. It’s a very complex structure. It’s not necessarily particularly ornate or original, but it had to be right, it had to be earned from moment-to-moment, and that’s exhausting. That was still going on in the editing room after we’d shot.”
Whedon added, “It’s capturing the essence of the comic and being true to what’s wonderful about it, while remembering that it’s a movie and not a comic. I think ‘Spiderman,’ the first one particularly, really captured ... they figured out the formula of, tell the story that they told in the comic. It was compelling, that’s why it’s iconic, but at the same time they did certain things that only a movie can do and were in the vein of the comic.”
Downey said when he first heard about the possibility of an Avengers movie back in 2007, when he was first cast as Iron Man, he was nervous and excited about the prospect, but also doubtful.
“I already had a history with Sam (Jackson), and I was really wanting to capitalize on that,” Downey said. “By the time, Chris and Chris had launched their individual franchises with success and charisma, and by the time we had Mark, I was like, ‘Wow, you know what, this is really gonna happen.’ So just being a worker amongst workers is kind of where I started out ... it was nice to not really have to carry a movie. I think everyone really, really, really, really, is equal in this venture.”
“What everybody captured ... was the right tone,” Downey said. “We don’t take it too seriously. This is essentially a comic book movie, but you kind of buy into the reality of it. I think everyone has their moments, and I think Joss did a good job of finding everyone’s frequency.”
Captain America is the first Avenger and his origin story from weakling to a nazi-fighting superhero chosen for his morals and values was detailed in the first film released last year. But Evans is not a stranger to the Marvel universe, playing Johnny Story/Human Torch in the “Fantastic Four” films. He said he was very indecisive on taking the role, turning it down initially, and the six picture deal to play Captain America. The six films, produced by Marvel Studios, includes three Captain America films and three Avengers films.
Tony Stark and Steve Rogers butt heads in the film because of Iron Man’s arrogance and carelessness while Rogers is the straight-laced, by-the-books, kind of old school superhero.
“I like it because I am used to kind of leaning on cracking jokes and being a wise ass,” Evans said. “So it’s nice to kind of play it straight a little bit. I think even in this film more than the first ‘Captain America,’ Steve Rogers has some issues, some conflict, some trouble given the fact that he is, you know, a man out of his time. But given who he is as a man, his nature ... he puts the mission first, and he’s just selfless. That’s a fun character.”
Thor must crash the Earth again when Loki unleashes his plan to dominate the universe.
“The conflict and the villain are far more personal than the rest of them because it was his brother,” Hemsworth said. “It was nice to have already shot that film and have that relationship with Tom.”
Hemsworth added, “I like the sort of visceral, sort of gut instinct that Thor has ... It’s surrounded by bravado and strength and all that, but, end of the day he’s pretty true to who he is and what he wants to do. And I think that was fun to play with.”
Hiddleston said portraying Loki, who attempted to murder his father to take over his thrown, was playing an iconic Shakespearean character.
“With a character like Loki, he’s got such a level of complexity and so many layers to him, so many things to explore, especially when he is as well written as he was in this film by Joss,” Hiddleston said. “When I read it, I couldn’t believe my luck. The film was called ‘The Avengers,’ and yet Loki was almost on every page. He’d taken what I’d built with Kenneth Branagh (“Thor” director) and he’s taken it further. It was as damaged and psychologically interesting as I hoped it would be, but it was also darker and funnier and, and it demanded so much commitment.”
The Hulk is no stranger to the big screen with Eric Bana and Edward Norton, years after Bill Bixby starred in the TV series, playing the scientist, Dr. Bruce Banner, turned green monster, who was originally played by Lou Ferrigno. Mark Ruffalo, known for his indie roles, said his take on the character coincided with that of Whedon’s vision, closer to Bixby’s version of the character.
“I rented those (Hulk TV shows) with my 10-year-old son,” Ruffalo said. “ And after the third episode, he turned to me and said, ‘Papa, he’s so misunderstood.’ I basically based my character entirely on my 10-year-old boy, who has all of the force of nature, like, screaming out of his body, while at the same time having everyone around him telling him to fucking control himself.”
New to the Marvel movie franchise is Black Widow (Natasha Romanoff), skilled spy and assassin, and Hawkeye (Clint Barton), known as the greatest living marksman on Earth. Hawkeye becomes an unwitting accomplice to Loki’s plan and he also has a history with Natasha Romanoff.
Renner, a two-time Oscar nominee, said there was extensive training to be Hawkeye.
“I stretched a lot, and yeah, I did take some archery, but I realized very quickly that I couldn't really use it in the film,” Renner said. “ It ended up being, you know, superhero-type archery, which is nice to know the technique behind shooting behind my back and over my shoulder and using fake arrows. But I gave it a go and shot a few bales of hay and missed a few. I think most of it (challenge) was the physical part, is just stretching so I don't get injured. You get injured, banged around every day when it's hand-to-hand stuff, and Scarlett and I, we beat each other up pretty good. You know that’s fun. I love getting beaten up by Scarlett. Wouldn’t you?”
To combat the growing threat of Earth’s survival, Nick Fury sets out to corral the superheroes. But once the team is together personalities clash, which threatens the team unity.
“These guys have super powers, but they have normal kind of attitudes,” said Jackson. “They get pissed with each other and they argue about petty shit. You know, they can be smart asses, and they can be heroes. They can just be jerks. But they eventually are gonna find a way to love each other. And thank God, you know, we had somebody there to guide them in that direction.”
Iron Man is at odds with not only Thor but Captain America as well.
“He didn’t really set out to do anything noble, but he’s kind of in transition,” Downey said. “So there’s something kind of a little more Han Solo than Luke.”
Supporting Nick Fury is S.H.I.E.L.D Agent Hill, who is second in command to him, and the loyal operativeAgent Coulson. Gregg reprises his role from “Thor” and “Iron Man” films, but the veteran actor thought, at first, bringing all the characters together was “not an achievable task.”
“As someone who writes sometimes and loves movies and watches a lot of them, I just didn't think it was really feasible to have this many characters and have them all get to kind of move forward and to have the story of them kind of coming together really work,” Gregg said. “If it did work with that many amazing superheroes and movie stars, I felt it unlikely that Agent Coulson would do anything but bring some super coffee to somebody. So when I read it and kind of saw that it was my fan boy wet dream of an Avengers script and that Coulson was a big part of it. That was the great day for me. I just kind of drove around the streets with the script in the other seat, just kind of giggling.”
Smulders said filming “The Avengers” was a far cry from her Emmy-nominated TV career.
“I made it a point to do a lot of training to prepare myself for this role with weapons, and to get myself mainly comfortable using them,” Smulders said. “That was the thing that I tried to do the most. In terms of schedule, it’s very different. I’m very blessed at my job, at ‘How I Met Your Mother.’ We have a very nice schedule, and this too was very good but, we had a lot of stunts to do and a lot of fun things to explode.”
For the cast, it was an experience to see everyone in custom.
“There’s an image in my mind, which was the first day on set, that everybody was there together, and it was sort insane,” Hiddleston said. “The picture of everybody in costume, of all of these actors and all of these characters in their chain mail and their capes and their armor and, except for Mark Ruffalo in his, grey and white pajamas in the back. But to see everybody finally assembled, it was an extraordinary moment, just the picture of the Avengers. It was amazing.”
Renner added, “I think getting all the actors, in one room all in costume, it was like Halloween. I was fans of them as humans and now they’re dressed up like silly people. It’s great to laugh at each other. That always stuck in my mind.”
“It was scene where Thor and Iron Man are fighting, and I had just seen Thor the day prior,” Evans said. “ I’d yet to see Hemsworth or Downey in their full suit. I showed up that night, and it was the first time I saw them both kind of geared up. I just got really excited. I felt like a little kid. I was just honored to be a part of it.”
The Avengers Movie Details:
Release date: May 4
Production Company: Marvel Studios
Distributor: Walt Disney Pictures
Cast and crew for The Avengers:
Starring Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johannson, Jeremy Renner, Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, Clark Gregg, Cobie Smulder, Gwyneth Paltrow and Stellan Skarsgard
Directed by Joss Whedon
Written by Joss Whedon
Produced by Kevin Feige