THE AVENGERS Set Visit Report: Robert Downey Jr, Chris Evans & Chris Hemsworth Interviews
Published: April 2, 2012 - 9:17am
The upcoming ensemble superhero film scheduled to hit theaters in May 2012 will feature Robert Downey, Jr. (Iron Man, Iron Man 2) returning as Tony Stark/Iron Man along with Chris Hemsworth as Thor, Chris Evans as Captain America and the rest of Marvel's famous team.
Based on the ever-popular Marvel comic book series, first published in 1963, Marvel’s The Avengers brings together the mightiest super hero characters as they all assemble together on screen for the first time. Continuing the epic big-screen adventures started in Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Thor, and Captain America: The First Avenger, Marvel’s The Avengers is the super hero team up of a lifetime. When an unexpected enemy emerges that threatens global safety and security, Nick Fury, director of the international peacekeeping agency known as S.H.I.E.L.D., finds himself in need of a team to pull the world back from the brink of disaster.
Robert Downey Jr, the long standing veteran of Marvel Studios' film universe, echoed the excitement of comics fans around the world in a succinct way upon opening the interview panel alongside Chris Evans: "Can you believe this shit? Tony and Cap, side-by-side here?" He wears his exuberance on his sleeve, as do all the other cast and crew members, and appears genuinely happy to be a part of a larger than life project that has been eight years in the making.
"I remember at Comic-Con a season or two ago, there was all this promise of…this is hugely ambitious. DC has tried to do this before and Marvel kinda said we're going to do it and formulated a way to do it correctly. Which is where J-Dub [Joss Whedon] came in heavily. What it is, it's just a really good story that could've been done a hundred ways wrong and don't act surprised at how unpredictable it is. "
When asked why, after two films have established billionaire playboy Tony Stark as a die hard Californian, the central location of the movieverse shifted to New York, Downey Jr noted that this event seems to be his character's doing, "Tony has some project there."
The trailers and TV spots for The Avengers have already hinted at physical altercations between the three main heroes, Downey Jr.'s Iron Man and Chris Evans' Captain America as well as Chris Hemsworth's Thor. Downey Jr. confirmed that his character brings in a lot of initial animosity, "Speaking like Tony [Stark] now - I just don't like big guys who speak cryptically and act like they understand the language better than me. Guys with trippy brothers and all that stuff. Whereas we [Cap and Tony] have something that is multi-faceted."
Evans expounded more on that multi-faceted pairing: "It's layered... it's got depth. I think they're heroes in their own right. Tony's a little more flash and he's got charisma and likes the spotlight where I think Cap might be a little more reserved in his desire to be front and center. But they're both, at their core, heroes. Even though Tony is kinda flash and hot shit, he's still a hero. He's still a good man. It just takes the duration of the film to see eye-to-eye and see that in one another."
Tony Stark's past is directly connected to Steve Rogers, as his father Howard was integral to the creation of the Captain America persona. The duo hinted how that dynamic plays out in the film:
"Could you imagine if you met your long-lost brother that was, at one time, your Dad's favorite and all the sudden you sit down together. And he doesn't really want to hang out but there's business," said Downey, about his cinematic introduction to a recently unfrozen-in-time Rogers. "There's a lot of meat on the bone there. A lot to chew on," replied Evans regarding the progression of both characters. "And hopefully it's enough to last, even into sequels. It's a complex thing. There's a lot of layers to it."
"I was just thinking," Downey Jr. jumped in. "It seems to me that the logical progression from the lessons Tony learns from War Machine and IRON MAN 2, it seems that he kinda picked up, expect that now there's this extra layer now that he's connected to this dark legacy so it's almost like dealing with Frankenstein but Frankenstein has lessons that you actually haven't learned yet. And so it's really easy to be like, "Oh you have bolts on your neck." And Joss, while not being silly, [to Evans] I give you quite a bit of guff. But I think it's probably the toughest relationship to find the right arc for. And you're catching us here in one of the transition points. Because usually we wouldn't be hashing out a problem together. We'd be more on the verge of demonstrating the differences in our moral psychology.
"I think Joss and Kevin [Feige] and the other creative team has been able to do, is that nothing is definite. I remember one of my earliest concerns was, haven't we done this group of superheroes together but it's a dysfunctional family thing before? And it's transcended that in a bunch of ways. Obviously, there's only one person who's name is Captain and if you have a squad of people, there's a time when his prowess in things that have to do with actual strategy and military stuff…I mean, this is essentially a war we're trying to avert. So that's really valuable."
"I think without Tony we don't work. He really is the glue in the family," continued Evans. "He really is the fire that keeps you coming back. I think at least for this movie, Cap is struggling to find his footing in a modern day. He's a fish out of water. A little more uncomfortable in his own skin than he normally might be. And he's not hitting the ground running."
Writer, director and producer Joss Whedon, an icon in this genre fan community for his work creating popular properties such as Firefly and Buffy, is at the helm of The Avengers and the cast is more than pleased to have person who specializes in outside the box thinking and multi-tasking in charge. Downey Jr. detailed why it was such as breath of fresh air to be able to let someone become the driving force behind a Marvel project:
"I'm a little more mellow. I don't need to tear up the sides and throw them against the wall to tell them we need to improve this. I just say, "We can do this." But I might do that on IRON MAN 3 just because I'm used to doing that. But for Joss, it's that he's really quick. And he's incredibly responsible to what his job requirements are to the letter. So we could say, there's a scene at the end that unites Thor, Cap and Tony and it needed to say a lot and it needed to not be just one line but it couldn't be two pages either. So he said, "Gimme a second." And it's not like, "Let's hash this out together." I'm getting better but I wouldn't mind getting together and spitballing until lunch and then we'll come in with the right thing to shoot. But instead it wound up being four lines and he gave us I think three pages of options. So the guy is really like a machine but it feels organic."
"That's a great way to put it," offered Evans. "As a writer, he's so amazing. The banter is so witty but it's not like… sometimes you might have a witty payoff like but the setup is so obvious. His setup lines are seamless. They work, it's right. So when this great exchange happens, you're like, "Wow, that's so clever." For whatever reason, if it doesn't work, he can come up with a new exchange just like that."
During one of scenes being filmed that week, which showcased an after battle dialogue where Iron Man and Captain America discuss the recent death of a character who is close to Tony, we are given a hint at some of his emotional writing style:
Tony Stark (Downey Jr.): [Angry. Holding back tears]
Steve Rogers (Evans): ...was he married?
Tony Stark: No, just dating a cellist.
Steve Rogers: I'm sorry. He seemed like a good man.
Tony Stark: He was an idiot.
Steve Rogers: He was doing his job.
Tony Stark: Trying to take on Loki alone? He was out of his league.
Steve Rogers: Is.. this the first time you've lost a soldier?
Tony Stark: We're not soldiers! I'm not marching in Fury's fight!
Steve Rogers: Neither am I. He's got blood on his hands now, as does Loki. Right now we've got to put that aside and get this done.
Captain America's new suit, a sleeker and more athletic type compared to the one utilized in his solo film, was created by costume designer Alexandra Byrne. Evans explained by he felt it was a definite improvement stylistically as well as in regards to comfort: "It makes action sequences a lot easier. The last one was kinda like very utilitarian so everything seems like it has a purpose but it's very difficult to move in. The cowl is tricky on this one. On the initial Cap film it was just a helmet. This one actually looks much more like the comic book. It looks amazing. A little toastier. But it all looks great."
The 'wildcard' on the team is the introduction of Mark Ruffalo's version of the Hulk. Not only is the design completely different from the past two films that featured the monstrous character but he is finally going to interacted with other heroes. Evans shared a few details about how filming with a relatively imaginary character worked for him: "We've done a few scenes so far with Ruffalo doing the motion capture stuff. So when they do that they put him standing on a table for the scene. And then they bring out that cardboard cut out for special effects to take textures and things like that."
"I think Ruffalo was really the right guy at the right time," Downey explained. "To me, The Hulk, of all the Marvel characters, has been the toughest nut to crack for some reason. Maybe it's because of the TV show and people are like, "They got it right." But if you go back and look, I was crazy about that series. And it has merit. But what the creative team but what Joss and Mark largely did was bring something that felt new but was also much more interesting."
Chris Hemsworth, who is returning as Marvel's God of Thunder Thor, let lose a few details about how his solo movie segways into The Avengers, "We end ‘Thor’ with him certainly matured from where he was in the beginning of the film and ready for that next stage for the evolution of his character and his journey. Obviously, Thor is here on earth now, because things are unsettled and … he’s returned because his brother is involved in the chaos, so there is some family business to take care of."
Hemsworth also explained how the clashing of ego between Tony Stark and Steve Rogers will not exclude Thor, who is a boisterous character in his own right:
"I think it’s conflict that makes it interesting. Having seen these people in the individuals films, it’s probably pretty safe to say that a lot of the team coming together is having to be about them managing their own egos and each others. In Thor, the interactions with the human characters made it easier to show you as a god.
"They are all sort of scratching their head," said Hemsworth about Thor's introduction to the loosely formed team. "There are certainly a few reactions of, “This guy thinks he’s a god? He’s got a cape.” And my reaction to that is, you are wearing a metal suit and you are wrapped in an American flag. We all kind of have our opinions, but Joss has said it before: they are all sort of lonely characters in a sense because they are individuals. And because of that, they maybe find some comfort in coming together. As hard as it is, they also probably feel at home in some way."
There has been much speculation about whether the film will touch upon the love interests of the heroes based around the storylines from their solo films. Hemsworth does confirm that Thor's significant other Jane Foster, played by Natalie Portman in last year's film, won't be in this project but their relationship will be addressed, "Natalie is not in the film, that is no secret. It’s definitely not a love story for Thor. I think it’s certainly taken care of, that story. There is a nice little moment to it to sort of sum up why it’s not his focus at the time.
Regardless of the absence of love interests or the rough road these heroes face before working fluidly as a team, it is the relationship between Thor and his now evil brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) that is central to The Avengers plot, "Thor has a different angle with this. [The others might have] the attitude of, Let’s just go in there and kill him or beat him up. But Thor is like, wait a second, I will do that, it’s my brother. So there is an interesting dynamic with that. And you know, we left Thor with him feeling really upset that he was gone. It was sort of mixed feelings in the same sense that carries through to here. There’s a lot of questions unanswered for him, like, why and how this happened and what exactly went wrong, and that’s been great to play with."
Hemsworth also hinted that Asgard, the inter-dimensional home of Thor as well as his race of Asgardians, plays an indirect factor in this film and confirms that it will be explained how he manages to return to Earth after being stranded on Asgard:
"Without giving away what the story is. Well, I can say this, because in the tag at the end [of ‘Thor’] it was about the cube, so that obviously is going to play into this somehow. And that is an Asgardian, otherworldly energy source. [Yes] it is explained how Thor gets back to earth."
Robert Downey, Jr. (Iron Man, Iron Man 2) returns as the iconic Tony Stark/Iron Man along with Chris Hemsworth (Thor) as Thor, Chris Evans (Captain America: The First Avenger) as Captain America, Jeremy Renner (The Hurt Locker) as Hawkeye, Mark Ruffalo (The Kids Are Alright) as Hulk, Scarlett Johansson (Iron Man 2) as Black Widow, Clark Gregg (Iron Man, Thor) as Agent Phil Coulson, and Samuel L. Jackson (Iron Man, Iron Man 2) as Nick Fury. The star studded cast of super heroes will be joined by Cobie Smulders (How I Met Your Mother) as Agent Maria Hill of S.H.I.E.L.D., as well as Tom Hiddleston (Wallander) and Stellan Skarsgård (Angels & Demons, Mamma Mia!) who will both reprise their respective roles as Loki and Professor Erik Selvig from the upcoming Marvel Studios’ feature Thor. The Avengers is scheduled for theatrical release in the US on May 4th, 2012.