Avengers: Age of Ultron
Joss Whedon Interview
I have to tell you a secret. When I received the invite to head to Los Angeles for the Avengers: Age of Ultron press junket and found out that we would be interviewing Joss Whedon, I dropped what I was doing and immediately accepted the invite. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to sit down with the awesomely talented Joss and pick his brain. Seriously, do you know what’s in there? Buffy? Angel? Dollhouse? Firefly? Any of those ring a bell? This is the creative mind behind all of those hits.
I won’t even start on the fact that I watched the entire Buffy series while it was on air and that I now own the entire series on DVD. We won’t talk about my affinity for Firefly and all things Joss. I may be a little bit fangirl. But, honestly, Joss said down with me and 24 bloggers and gave us insights into how he created this movie and I may have heard some spoilers, but I won’t be sharing them here. If you want to find out what happens in Avengers: Age of Ultron, go see it on May 1st!
Yesterday, we interviewed your brother [Jed Whedon] for Agents of Shield and I was just wondering, do you both stay up late and have phone calls to strategize?
Well, I just made a movie and he just had a baby, so not lately. When we were first starting out, but at some point this movie consumed me not unlike a whale.
You have that iconic shot of the Avengers jumping in slow motion which, I think all the fan boys and girls have like gone wild over. Can you talk about how that came to be?
We just caught it by accident, you know. I hadn’t even said action yet. They were just clowning around and somebody had a phone, so that was great. That was the last shot we got finished, because it’s over a minute long and I wanted to create some frames that were just unabashedly comic book frames … that one took longer to create than anything else.
And to dial in … it was important to me to have that right away, like first up in the movie. And now we’ve got to get everybody back together and now we find Captain America and he’s digging in a trench and now we find, and instead just go boom, we’re back. This is what you love. Are you having fun? Good. Now we’re going to tear it apart.
You have so many amazing characters with all these great stories. Was it really hard to make sure everyone got enough screen time?
Yes. [he’s laughing] Yeah.
How did you balance that?
It’s hard. What’s important is making everybody integral to this story and not just have it sort of be a roll call where it’s like…I’m also in the film. Making sure that the twins’ story was part of Ultron’s story and making sure that their perspective on the Avengers had something to do with Ultron’s and so that there was always a reason for everyone to be together.
The good thing was that they worked so well against each other so when you’re giving somebody their moment, it’s usually with somebody else. It’s usually playing against somebody else, either arguing with or having fun with or teaming up with and so it creates its own little web, so it’s difficult, but it’s not Magnolia where you’re telling all these separate stories that are just vaguely intertwined. They’re doing some of that job for me. BY the way, if it was Magnolia, it would be the best movie ever made, but I can’t reach for the stars, people. I’m just a man.
You’ve done so much to influence pop culture but in doing so, who do you look to, or who inspires you to reach further and to reach higher to make this entire universe and fulfilled vision the way you see it?
I have a weird relationship with pop culture. I’ve never really been a part of it until I suddenly was and so most of my influences are a little left of center or very old. You know, the directors that I look at when I’m thinking about a movie, usually are people like Vincent Minnelli or Sam Fuller, or Frank Barseghian but it’s the people who, not just artists. It’s just the people in my own life that I see working four times as hard as I ever can.
And trying to do things they can’t. Those are the people that make me sit down and go, oh wait a minute, I can do better because ultimately, the only person who’s ever really going to inspire me to go further and do better is me. I have to sort of like gear up and I should actually have two chairs because at some point, I always do go, okay, you need to work harder, you need to do more, you need to be better. I’ll tell you who’s inspired me of late, is Lin-Manuel Miranda because seeing Hamilton at the Public Theatre was just such a breathtaking experience.
And the amount of work that he did for six years to put that together, I just thought, oh, gotta bring up my game. There it is. The bar is higher again. Dammit.
[Tweet “I’ve never really been a part of pop culture until I suddenly was. @josswhedon #AvengersEvent “]
In the movie, we saw the introduction of the Hulkbuster and one of the most epic Avenger versus Avenger battles, I think we’ve ever seen. Was there any difficulties filming that?
There is some slight enormous difficulties in the fact that neither of those people exist, so there’s a lot of … with the camera, there’s a lot of guys, we’re here. Now he’s over there. We had the thing mapped out very carefully, so it was in a way, simpler because they weren’t like I need to go again, but you shoot all of this stuff sort of with the faith that this will work physically and then the hard work comes, you know, up at ILM where they’re dialing in this action you’ve described.
In a way that looks human and believable, yet completely over the top, and the work they did with those guys and with the Hulk, in particular, who’s not just the Hulk there, but he’s angry even for the Hulk. He’s unhinged and it’s a different performance than he’s given before and the way they captured that, to me, was breathtaking, but it took a little time.
[Tweet “In a way that looks human and believable, yet completely over the top. @josswhedon #AvengersEvent”]
You filmed in numerous countries, South Africa being one of them. What was that like?
Fun. I mean, I go to a lot of countries I’ve never been to and see these beautiful cities and these places and eat really good food and generally I don’t get to take vacations. Location scouting is definitely the next best thing.
We just met with Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olson and they said that they didn’t have to audition for their roles, so what was it about them that made them perfect for the roles that they got?
You know, yeah, I didn’t want anybody else. I just wanted them. Aaron is somebody that I just saw, even in Kick-Ass where he’s playing kind of a weak character, that he just commands the screen and it was, I think Nowhere Boy, where I just said, oh, this is my guy because he’s an old school movie star. He’s that commanding and beautiful.
But he also looks like he could be kind of an arrogant dick. He’s not. He’s the sweetest puppy I know but he’s great at playing that sort of like, oh, I got this. You know, and that’s Quicksilver to a tee. Quicksilver is that sort of, he’s always hotheaded, he’s always being a pain for everyone, but is essential and very cool. And Lizzie, I’d just seen Martha, Marcy, May, Marlene and I hope I got those in the right order, and you spend two minutes with Lizzie and you not only don’t want anybody else for the role, you think maybe she should play all of them.
What was the hardest scene to shoot? Do you have one that sticks out?
I would say probably after the first attack by Ultron. Everybody’s in the lab kind of trying to figure out what’s going on. We referred to that as the WTF scene and it was just very difficult for me to put together. It’s hard to explain why. There’s something about the way the light in the room, I just, I could not find the focus of where everybody should be and how they should move and Robert had to do something really difficult which was start laughing in the middle of this scene, as sincerely like, become a little unhinged.
And getting there and sort of making that work, that was one that I struggled with. I struggled very much with the party scene. The after party scene which we shut down during shooting early one day because I was just, I started shooting it and I hated everything I was doing and then I was like what should I do? What’s wrong? And then I realized, wait a minute. Didn’t I just make an entire movie where people sit around and drink? Wasn’t that Much Ado About Nothing? Ohhh, and then I called. I was like give me some, I need cards, I need beers.
Anyway, I get all these things and we’ll do it all handheld and we’ll just let them go and as soon as I remembered how to shoot a party it became a party.
On that note, that party scene is actually my favorite scene in the movie and so I’m curious if it was all scripted or were the actors ad libbing at all?
There’s a little, they’re throwing stuff out. They definitely, you know, with Robert in a situation like that, I’ll usually give him like five or six options just to see what tickles his fancy and he’ll sort of run through them. Most of it is scripted but I like to leave a little room for those guys. First of all, they’re all funny, articulate people who really know their characters and second of all it sort of helps the flow particularly in something like that. You just want to feel like you stayed at the party.
[Tweet “”I give @RobertDowneyJr 5 or 6 options just to see what tickles his fancy.” @josswhedon #AvengersEvent “]
We hear Ultron say, upon this rock, I shall build my church, and we also hear the Vision say I am. Was there any type of significance to having these forms of artificial intelligence kind of speak those Biblical terms?
Yes. I mean, it’s not necessarily specific in the sense of we are saying this about this person, about Ultron, to say he has a bit of a God complex is not, and that was all James, by the way. That we are talking about new life and we are talking about the Vision in particular is something sort of more than man and that iconography is deliberate, but it’s open to interpretation. I’m not saying that they are one thing or another. I’m saying that, that our response to them contains some element of that understanding of ourselves and our history.
I mean, it’s a Frankenstein story as much as its anything else and the Frankenstein story is, who made me? Why am I here? And I guess I’m kind of pissed about it. So that iconography rolls into that very naturally, I think.
Did you plan something at the beginning of production that you didn’t get to do in the movie?
There’s always stuff you either give up on or just realize is ridiculous, but I can’t really think of something we didn’t do. There’s stuff we cut out. The first cut of the movie was an hour longer than the one that’s in theaters. I think it’s the length it should ought to be.
I’m very happy. It’s, in fact, a minute shorter than the first one which is a point of personal pride because as much as I wanted this to be bigger, I didn’t want it to be bloat. I didn’t want us to seem like we were full of ourselves, like, oh, you love us. Here’s three hours. You’d like to pee? Tough. [We all laughed at that]
‘Special Look’ Clip
Super awesome Avengers: Age of Ultron Coloring Pages can be found here.
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Avengers: Age of Ultron comes to theaters on May 1, 2015