Though he’s been involved with the Marvel Cinematic Universe longer than just about anybody, having voiced Jarvis the computer since Iron Man in 2008, Paul Bettany has never been physically onscreen — that is, until he awakens as the Vision on Marvel’s upcoming The Avengers: Age of Ultron. The actor told a group of journalists at Comic-Con International that he’d grown accustomed to showing up in a dark recording studio for 45 minutes and walk away with a bag of cash “like a burglar,” but now that his role has grown Marvel is making him earn his paycheck.
From Bettany’s reaction to questions concerning his costume for the film, it’s clearly not the most comfortable attire (“it’s f*$%ing hot!”), and his scenes of levitation aren’t that much better (“Have you ever been hung up in the air by your genitals?”), but he knows it’s all in service of something greater, and ultimately rewarding. “We worked hard to try to make it as comfortable as possible, which is really uncomfortable; or as uncomfortable as doing something fun for a lot of money can be.” Although, he did add, “There is a cape, and it is fabulous.”
Even though he’s been in the Marvel family for years, he still feels like he happened upon being cast as one of the new members of the Avengers. “In the rule book, I thought having played Jarvis meant I wasn’t allowed to play any other characters,” Bettany said, but added he was perfectly fine with that. But he and Joss Whedon struck up a fun working relationship and that got the writer-director’s brain wheels a-moving. Bettany explains he got a call from Whedon on a Friday night asking if he wanted to play the Vision, and the actor simply responded “Okay!”
Of the director, and producer Kevin Feige, he says he felt in good hands regarding his character. “However much research I could do,” he says, “I’d never know as much as Kevin Fiege and Joss Whedon, so it’s nice to acquiesce all responsibility to those guys.” He also adds that working with Whedon is a great experience for any actor. “Never have I been so certain, except for with [Master and Commander director] Peter Weir, that somebody had a better idea about what I should be doing than I did.”
He also raved about working with such a star-studded cast, saying it’s rare to have so many A-listers all come in and know exactly what to do right away. He says that it’s “amazing they can all sell very outlandish notions.” In particular, he loved a small scene he had with James Spader playing Ultron and even though they were saying very grandiose things, his scene partner found a human touchstone. “Spader is so present,” Bettany adds, “you believe everything he says.”
True to form for Marvel, Bettany had to remain pretty tight-lipped about what happens in the movie, constantly looking out the window for the Marvel sniper who probably had him in his sites, but he did drop a couple of interesting notes. He said that Vision is a brand new creature being born, at once omnipotent and completely naive to the world around him. He said the Vision has multiple distinct paternal figures and that he’s not wholly Jarvis and also not a child of Ultron. The famous image of the Vision crying is beautifully represented in the film and that he enjoyed the moral dilemmas the character has, being new. The Vision is also “very good at punching” and will have a protective relationship toward the Scarlet Witch.
Whatever happens in Marvel’s future with the Avengers, it seems that Paul Bettany will continue to be a part of it. You’ll see him appear for the first time, in his 5th Marvel movie, when The Avengers: Age of Ultron hits theaters next May.