Last month myself and a 25 other lovely bloggers were in Los Angeles for The Avengers
So yesterday, we had to interview your brother for Agents of Shield and I was just wondering if you guys stay up late and have phone calls and strategizing sessions, like, ‘What are we going to do next?’
Joss Whedon: 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.
So, 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 Whedon: 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 and I wanted to create some frames that were just unabashedly comic book frames that would speak to our love of “the thing” and that one 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 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 Whedon Yeah, 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.” [We wanted to make sure] that the twins’ story was part of Ultron’s story [and show] that their perspective on the Avengers had something to do with Ultron’s. There was always a reason for everyone to be together.
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 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. 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 higher to make this entire universe, and fulfilled vision, the way you see it?
Joss Whedon: I have a weird relationship with pop culture. I’ve never really been a part of it until suddenly. Most of my influences are a little left of center and very old. You know, the directors that I look at when I’m thinking about a movie are people like Vincent Minnelli or Sam Fuller, or Frank Barseghian. It’s 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 they never have. 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 lately 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 [set the bar higher].
In the movie, we saw the introduction of the Hulkbuster and one of the most epic Avenger versus Avenger battles we’ve ever seen. Were there any difficulties filming that?
Joss Whedon: There were some enormous difficulties in the fact that neither of those people exist with the camera. We had to map it carefully in a way that looked human and believable, yet completely over the top. It took a little time.
Question about, you filmed in numerous countries, South Africa being one of them. What was that like?
Joss Whedon: It was fun. I got to go to a lot of countries I’ve never been to and see beautiful cities and eat really good food. 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.What was it about them that made them perfect for the roles that they got?
Joss Whedon: I didn’t want anybody else. I just wanted them. Aaron is too pretty to live, but I’ve dealt with the Hemsworth problem, so I can forgive. I just said, ‘This is my guy because he’s an old school movie star.’ He’s that commanding and beautiful, yet he’s the sweetest puppy I know. And I sat down with Lizzie because I’d just seen Martha, Marcy, May, Marlene and knew that I didn’t want anybody else for the role.
I just had a reader tweet and ask ‘What was the hardest scene to shoot? Do you have one that sticks out?’
Joss Whedon: 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 when 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.
I struggled with the party scene. We shut down the party scene during shooting early one day because I hated everything I was doing and was thinking 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? Then I called. I was like, give me some, I need cards, I need beers. 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?
Joss Whedon: There’s a little, they’re throwing stuff out. 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 helps the flow particularly in something like that.
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 speak those Biblical terms?
Joss Whedon: Yes. It’s not necessarily specific in the sense of we are saying this about this person. It’s open to interpretation. I’m not saying they are one thing or another. I’m saying that our response to them contains some element of understanding 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?’ That iconography rolls into that very naturally.
Disclaimer – The trip was provided with Disney but all opinions are my own.