Avengers: Age of Ultron
I’ve already mentioned (in my review) that I absolutely loved James Spader as Ultron and that I felt like Ultron was channeling James Spader. The mannerisms, his speech. And Paul Bettany as The Vision! It was great to actually put a face with the voice of Jarvis. Both men were engaging during the entire interview, but the first thing you notice is that James Spader is passionate, articulate, and loves to talk. 😉 I truly wish we would have had more time to spend in this interview because there was so many more questions I would love to ask both men.
In case you missed the Avengers: Age of Ultron interviews on the you can catch up now.
*I have added a SPOILER to the very end of this post.
If you wish to avoid the spoiler, please stop reading when you get to the title that reads >>SPOILER<<.*
James Spader & Paul Bettany
At the beginning of the interview, James Spader explained what it was like to film as Ultron and what went on behind the scenes to get the effects we see on the big screen. It really is interesting to think about making this 8 foot robot look so intimating on screen, but have James Spader’s mannerisms.
I had multiple sessions doing additional dialog recording. But it really was new stuff to further define, clarify and so on and sort of distill the prism [LAUGHS]. But most of the dialog that you hear in the movie and most of what you’re looking at, we shot on the set just in a fairly conventional fashion.
It didn’t feel conventional at the time, considering everything I was in, but to be able to film it was all sort of filmed…the dialog was all from what we shot on the set doing scenes with the other actors as you would in any film or in any setting. And I was so pleased because I haven’t seen the final film but I was very pleased that I saw a lot of footage during post production.
I saw big sections of the entire film. Even in its sort of formative stages it was remarkable to see. I haven’t seen [Ultron’s] face really fine-tuned because that’s the most precise and infinitesimal thing that they do in terms of trying to take advantage of my expressions and translate them into a metal guy.
I was amazed that I saw with this magnificent body and made out of vibranium and all the rest of it, this sort of technological wonder. To actually see my 55-year-old sort of very comfy physique, to see all of my sort of gesture and posture and movements and expression and all of it was there. And then my son did see the film a couple of days ago.
And I said, “But how about the face?” And he says, “You know, I see you in the face.” He said, “Amazingly enough, considering it doesn’t really have a nose.” And he said, “I really saw your eyes and your expression and certainly head movements, everything. I saw it all there. So, it was worth it to go through all of the arduous process of motion capture. Which is fascinating actually. Do you mind if I tell you just very quickly? Sorry Paul that, uh… -James Spader
No, no, no. No it’s…I’ll just have a snooze. -Paul Bettany
[LAUGHS] I’ll tell you a very funny thing. I’m just excited about it because somebody in an interview just before this had asked specifically about this and I hadn’t thought about it until now. But the very first day that I walked onto the studio lot, before I ever hit a set or anything, within a half hour, I walked into a room and the room was a big empty room and there were cameras set up around and there was a bunch of guys [and women] with a whole bunch of laptops and so on all sitting around.
And they put me in a fractal suit, which is just a sort of two piece or, looks like you’re gonna go for a run, but has shapes and colors and things and all over it. Then they dotted up my face and they put a big rig on my back and a big headgear rig that had two sort of antenna that come down that are cameras that are right here with headlights right here, so I’m lit right here.
They had me go through a range of motions and fingers, everything, head turns and all the rest of it. Then, they put it into some program on the computer or something and […] fifteen minutes later I could walk in my outfit into the center of the room and turn my head, move my fingers, go like this, and I could look at a monitor and see a sort of formative stage of Ultron doing everything I was doing.
So right from the very first moment I arrived there, I could start getting a sense of what sort of [what] physicality would be appropriate for that eight foot robot. And there was a guy there, quite small, who would’ve been proportionate to my height. I’m five-ten. He was very small. He sort of proportionate height to what, not Chris Hemsworth but, maybe an average height Avenger might be in proportion to me if I was eight feet tall.
He was a stunt guy, he was wearing a fractal suit and all the gear as well, and they made him do the range of motion and everything else and within 15 minutes he and I would go move around the room and he was as, different character and so I was able to see right away an eight foot Ultron, me as an eight foot Ultron with another actor who’s a proportionate height to what an average size person would be.
It was really amazing. So right from the very first moment I was already getting a sense of how to perform for this character. -James
No Strings Attached Featurette
I have a question for Paul. We always knew you as Jarvis. What was your reaction when you found out that you would be The Vision?
It was sort of vindication really because I had just come out of a meeting with a producer who told me my career was over. This is a true story. I sat on the curb in Hollywood with my feet in the gutter and my phone went and I looked at it and went, “Hello?” I didn’t recognize the number and it was Joss Whedon. He said, “Do you want to play The Vision?” And I went, “Um,” it’s so quick these days, “yeah, I kinda do.”
True story. So it was lovely. -Paul
How is it different for you on set? In the other movies where you’re playing Jarvis were you there interacting with the other actors or…?
I was brought in at the last moment to solve any clarity issues the film had which was my superhero power as Jarvis. What was the difference? The difference was I had to go to the gym. I had to stop eating carbs. I finally got to be on set with a bunch of really lovely, creative, talented people. However, it also means that I have to show up at junkets now, you know? The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. -Paul
I did not have to cut back on carbs. Somehow amazingly enough, those animators were able to slim me right down. -James
James, did you have to be convinced to play Ultron or were you in from the moment he asked you to play it?
I had met about two to three years prior to the telephone [call] to me from Joss Whedon, I had met with Kevin Feige and Jeremy Latcham. My agent is also Sam Jackson’s agent. And so she’s very in tune with what’s going on in the Marvel world. And I have three sons.
And I have never in my entire career ever chosen a film to work on for the sake of my children. And most of the films that I’ve done, they really shouldn’t watch. I remember I took my mother when she was in her eighties to go with me to Sundance to see this film I did called Secretary which is about….and I took my mother and my mother had… -James
What a schoolboy error that was! -Paul
Both my mother and father have sat through some… they’re both passed away… but they both have sat, lovingly, they both have sat through just an array of perverted little movies that I’ve made.
But in any case I wanted my second son […] he was about 18 at the time, something like that, 18 or 19. And he had all, he loved comics and loved superhero movies and fantasy and all that stuff. He just loved it. And then by circumstance I also at the time I had a three-year-old son, again, and he was already sort of raiding his brother’s little figures and little things like that and was excited about it. I just thought, I just want to make a film for them, you know?
So I went in and I sat down with Kevin Feige and Jeremy Latcham and they had reached out to my agent and said, “You know, we’d love to sit down with James.”Those sort of meetings are always just so brutal and fruitless. I had said, “Really?” Then my agent said, “Kevin doesn’t really meet with anybody unless there really is a genuine interest. And I said, “Great. Well then I’d love to talk to him.” So I sat down with him and I said, “I just would love to do one of these things and just be such fun.” And I told him the reasons why and I think he really responded to that because that’s his fan base, you know? He was looking for something and I was sort of [that] thing.
There would be things that came along along the way over the next two years or so and, and he would be like, “I know what James is looking for. He wants a really great bad guy and some really great something, and everything.” About two or three years after that meeting, Joss Whedon walked into their offices and said, “You know, I don’t really have anyone else for this role except for James Spader.”
And they said, “Well, funny you should mention that ’cause we’ve been trying to find the, the right thing. And so the next thing was a phone call from Joss and as soon as I spoke to him and … I’m sorry. I’ve never been able to answer anything in a short and precise… But anyway I said, “What the hell can I bring to, to an eight foot robot, you know? I don’t… That’s not my skill set.”
He told me sort of what he was looking for in terms of the character. But he said, “You know, let me send you something to look at because the script is in revisions right now, but let me send you something so you can get a sense of what this character really is.” And he said, “In the comic books, the guy’s just sort of this raging robot. ‘I am going to destroy you’ you know?” He said I really want to extrapolate on that. He sent me these scenes that were, you know, threatening, intimidating, crazy, funny, quoting Emily Dickenson.
It was just such a weird, complex amalgamation of things. And as it turns out, Kevin Feige told me, a couple of days later, “You know, Joss, those aren’t even scenes from the movie. Joss wrote those scenes just to send you, just so that you’d have a sense of the character.” I thought, what a lovely thing to do, you know, that he just wrote these scenes as this is what this character’s going to be like, an example of sort of who he is.
They were really tailored for that. And he was absolutely right. It was all of that. Just a weird mix of crazy, scary, funny, poetic, just a weird guy. -James
For Paul, how much of Vision was makeup and CGI?
It was a lot of makeup I would sit in the chair and then you would wait for eternity to come and then you’d be… done. So it was all real. From about here forward the prosthesis, well the prosthetic actually stops here, and then this is [face] was painted purple.
But they would have tracking dots on so that they would then move the circuitry could be on my face and my musculature could move and you could still see me express things, Because we tried having full prosthesis that went over everything and we lost a lot of expression in the face. So thankfully, because that was really, really uncomfortable. -Pau
Special Look at Avengers: Age of Ultron
I had a question for James. You have always played the bad guy we love to hate in so many of your films.
You don’t hate him. [LAUGHS] -James
(follow up question) Bad guys you love to hate. But with Ultron, is there any part of your humor in Ultron?
(follow up) Okay. Because we definitely see your mannerisms.
And his world view, in fact. Global devastation and James’… -Paul
I’m a great believer in chaos. I…think that’s true in any film or television show or play or anything you do. I think that if the casting works, you’ve been cast because that director intuitively knows that what they need, you’re going to be able to provide. And he was specifically looking for that.
He was looking for that sense of humor. And he was looking for that irreverence in marriage with the other aspects. So he took advantage of it and we would play with things and I’d make a suggestion. But I really was very faithful to what he was writing because he was really writing it so specifically to me. -James
Right. And if you’re looking for a James Spader type there’s not many places to go, you know. It’s like there’s a one-stop shop. -Paul
I think the reason why he probably walked in to Kevin Feige and said, “James Spader’s who I’m thinking about for this and I don’t really have anyone else on the list,” is because I think he probably, he’d already written to that. -James
James actually made a joke before we took our group picture, that he was having fun and maybe they should stay with us a bit longer. I don’t think any of us would have complained! Like I said, James had a lot of great information to share with us and he was so thorough in his explanations. I was enthralled with this interview and am truly grateful I was able to get my question in there.
Purchase Avengers gear on Amazon today.
Avengers: Age of Ultron is rated PG-13.
What’s it like being the only other superhero who can wield Thor’s hammer?
I’m not sure I’m even allowed to talk about that. I think that’s number one in bold print on my things not to talk about. If you want another question I will… -Paul
Now I can say, I think it’s rather impressive. -James