While I’m attending an expense paid trip by Disney to the press events for Avengers: Age of Ultron and Monkey Kingdom, all opinions and views expressed are 100% my own. Images of Joss Whedon at Avengers Press Junket taken by Jana Seitzer / MerlotMommy.com.
Hopefully yesterday you caught interview article with Marvel newcomers Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Quicksilver) and Elizabeth Olsen (Scarlet Witch) from Marvel’s AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON! Last week I also shared with my readers my interview article with Chris Evans (Captain America) and Chris Hemsworth (Thor). Today I have another awesome Q&A for you. This time it is with director Joss Whedon! Joss also wrote and directed 2012’s THE AVENGERS, which is the third highest-grossing film of all time.
I have to say it was really fun to interview Joss! He is quite personable, and genuinely grateful for his partnership with Marvel. Plus he is just down to earth and hilarious. He had us laughing instantly the moment he walked in the room.
We actually interviewed Joss’ brother, Jed Whedon, the day prior, as he is the show runner for Agents of SHIELD. Naturally that was the first question up!
So yesterday we interviewed your brother (Jed Whedon) for Agents of SHIELD. Do you guys stay up late and have phone calls and strategizing sessions?
Joss: Well… I just made a movie and he just had a baby, so not lately! We did 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 and whose idea it was?
Joss: (Jokingly) We just caught it by accident. 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. I wanted to create some frames that were just unabashedly comic book frames that would speak to our love of ‘the thing’ that took longer to create than anything else. It was important to me to have that right away. Now we’ve got to get everybody back together and let’s go find them. Now we find Captain America and he’s digging in a trench… instead just go ‘BOOM we’re back.’
You have so many amazing characters with all these great stories. Was it really hard to make sure everyone got enough screen time?
Joss: It’s hard. What’s important is making everybody integral to this story and not just have it sort of be a roll call. (A focus was) 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 perspective. There was always a reason for everyone to be together.
The good thing is 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… it creates its own little web. So it’s difficult, but it’s not like you’re telling all these separate stories that are just vaguely intertwined.
You’ve done so much to influence pop culture. Who do you look to or who inspires you to reach further?
Joss: I have a weird relationship with pop culture. I’ve never really been a part of it until I suddenly was. Most of my influences are a little left of center or very old. 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. It’s also the people who are not artists. It’s just the people in my own life, that I see working four times as hard as I ever can. People 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’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. 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.
Photo Credit: Jana Seitzer / MerlotMommy.com. Text edits by me.
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?
Joss: There is some slight enormous difficulties in the fact that neither of those people exist, so there’s a lot of difficulty! We had the thing mapped out very carefully. So it way simpler because they weren’t like ‘I need another. I need to go again.’ You shoot all of this stuff sort of with the faith that this will work physically. Then the hard work comes 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. 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. The way they captured that, to me, was breathtaking, but it took a little time.
For reference… here is a clip from the Hulkbuster Fight Sequence:
You filmed in numerous countries, South Africa being one of them, what was that like?
Joss: Fun! I got to go to a lot of countries I’ve never been to before, and see these beautiful cities and places. I don’t get to take vacations, so location scouting is definitely the next best thing.
So we just met with Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olson and they said that they didn’t have to audition for their roles. What was it about them that made them perfect for the roles?
Joss: I didn’t want anybody else. I just wanted them. Aaron is too pretty to live. (Jokingly) I’ve dealt with the Hemsworth problem, so I can forgive. He’s somebody that I just saw, even in Kick-Ass where he’s playing kind of a weak character, he just commands the screen. 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. He’s great at playing that sort of (character), and that’s Quicksilver to a tee. Quicksilver is always hotheaded, being a pain for everyone, but is essential and very cool.
I sat down with Lizzie because I’d just seen Martha, Marcy, May, Marlene. You spend two minutes with Lizzie and not only do you not want anybody else for the role, but you think maybe she should play all of them!
What was the hardest scene to shoot?
Joss: 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. 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 could not find the focus of where everybody should be and how they should move. Robert had to do something really difficult which was start laughing in the middle of this scene to become a little unhinged.Getting there and sort of making that work… I struggled. I struggled very much with the after party scene. We shut down during shooting early one day because I started shooting it and I hated everything I was doing. 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!’ Then I called, and was like ‘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. As soon as I remembered how to shoot a party, it became a party.
Was the party scene all scripted or were the actors ad libbing?
Joss: They’re throwing stuff out. With Robert, in a situation like that, I’ll usually give him five or six options just to see what tickles his fancy. 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. Second of all it sort of helps the flow particularly in something like that. You want it to. You don’t want to feel camera moves or dialogue. You just want to feel like you, and that you stayed at the party.
Was there any type of significance to having Ultron and the Vision, forms of artificial intelligence, speak Biblical terms?
Joss: Yes. I mean, it’s not necessarily specific in the sense of we are saying this about this person. Ultron has a bit of a God complex. We are talking about new life and we are talking about the Vision in particular is something sort of more than man and iconography is deliberate. It’s open to interpretation. I’m not saying, that they are one thing or another. I’m saying that our response to them contains some element of that understanding of ourselves and our history.
It’s a Frankenstein story as much as its anything else. The Frankenstein story is ‘who made me? Why am I here? I guess I’m kind of pissed about it.’ So that iconography rolls into that very naturally.
At this point in the interview, a question was asked that clearly contains spoilers. So sorry folks, not posting it! However it was a great chat with Joss and I loved hearing speculation on how certain events in Age of Ultron can effect future Marvel plots!
Did you plan something at the beginning of production that you didn’t get to do in the movie?
Joss: There’s always stuff you sort of either give up on, or you realize it is s 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’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!”
After the interview, Joss was awesome enough to take a group photo with us. Yes, he is that boss that he can get away with crossing his arms… well… just like a boss!
Photo provided by Walt Disney Publications. Text edits by me.
Joss Whedon’s Favorite Moments While Filming
Check out this fun video from Marvel Entertainment on Joss Whedon’s favorite moments while filming AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON.
Just in case for whatever reason you have not yet watched the trailer…
Avengers: Age of Ultron Trailer
Marvel’s AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON will hit theaters everywhere on May 1st, 2015!
Want a glimpse back on my trip to Los Angeles? Be sure to check out my Twitter (@AshBG) and Instagram (@ashb4211), and look for the hashtags #AvengersEvent, #MonkeyKingdom, #LAZoo, #ABCTVEvent, and #AgentsOfSHIELD.