Last week’s leak and Marvel’s subsequent releasing of the trailer for next year’s immensely anticipated Avengers: Age of Ultron, written and directed again by Joss Whedon, has stoked the fire of excitement in people, despite having to wait just over 6 months in order to actually see the thing in cinemas. Well, we’re going to make your anticipation even more unbearable. Back in May, I had the great pleasure of attending a set visit for Age of Ultron at Shepperton Studios in London and stars (and BFFs from the first film) Robert Downey Jr. and Mark Ruffalo gave myself and the other members of the press some scintillating tidbits about their characters and the making of the film.
The first big takeaway after touring the massive set of Stark Tower, the home of a lot of action in the film, is that Bruce Banner now lives and works there, which makes sense given how well they worked together on screen in the first Avengers and the great credit scene in Iron Man 3. Ruffalo told us that rapport has grown in this movie. “Tony took the orphan Banner into the fold,” he said, “Banner’s been working on a lot of stuff, and Tony’s working on his own stuff and they complement each other. And they’ve gotten even more of a shorthand together.”
There’s also, as we saw in the teaser, the scene we’ve all been waiting for, with the Hulk taking on Iron Man in his Hulkbuster armor. But, Ruffalo tells us it’s not the knock-down, drag-out we might be thinking. “It’s a little bit like Cool Hand Luke that way,” he told us, vaguely; “You think you could beat me and then I’ll beat the crap out of you. And then I beat the crap out of him.” As if that answer didn’t have us scratching our heads enough, the actor also teased that “It’s kinda’ like that, but not totally like that. It has a little surprise, a little twist to it as well.” One can only guess what that could be.
Obviously, the word on everybody’s lips right now is “Ultron,” given how James Spader’s performance and the look of the character rocked the internet to its very core. Downey Jr has some interesting perspective on this character since Tony Stark is the one who created him, albeit with the best intentions. “I always read this as the concept that every impulse starts off as a positive impulse, you know. Even the impulse to kill starts off as an impulse to change, to rail against, to challenge the authority of in a very direct and kind of a permanent solution to a temporary problem kinda way.” As a result, the actor doesn’t necessarily see Ultron as a villain. “Could it be that we’re the problem and therefore a bad guy, if you wanna call it that. I mean it’s hard to call Jimmy Spader a bad guy. But he’s scary… His thought is like ‘I see what’s wrong here. And guess what? It’s y’all.'”
One member of the Avengers that has as yet been completely unseen in the promotional materials is the Vision, as played by longtime voice of Jarvis, Paul Bettany. Ruffalo teased only a bit about what we might have in store from that character. “The Vision is the Vision,” he began. “He is so dope. And he’s my baby. Yeah he’s pretty incredible. And the idea of him and where he comes from…he’s very independent. He, he’s is a really great character. Yeah, people are gonna love the Vision.” He’s also in awe of the Vision’s look, but not at all envious of the process of getting into character. He says, “All I know is I’m happy that I walk in and I leave the trailer and I can go back an hour later and Paul Bettany’s still in make-up.” But he hastily added, “And he’s like the perfect man. He’s the Vision.”
Downey Jr seemed most pleased to see Bettany actually have to physically appear on the set after doing voiceover work exclusively since the first Iron Man. “You know,” he says, “just even seeing Paul Bettany within a thousand miles on set where we’re shooting is just like, wow.” Like Ruffalo, though, Downey Jr finds delight in the amount of pain the classically-trained British actor has to endure. “There is no one I would rather have the delight of seeing in the extreme discomfort than Paul Bettany.” He recounted a story in which Bettany was acting his heart out (“this is his Hamlet moment going on”) and a special effects makeup man was always right near him ready to touch things up. “And Bettany was literally like ‘Ah, I’m sorry. I’m sorry, will you be done in a moment?'” Downey Jr told us through a big smile. “And the guy’s just like, ‘Do we have five seconds? Good. Put more glue on Paul’s neck for no reason ‘cause we’re literally gonna CGI the whole thing. Just to make sure he’s hurting.” The actor also laughingly called all of Bettany’s big monologues “Glue Gun Garry Glen Ross.”
Ruffalo’s performance as the Hulk in this film is much more based on motion capture than the previous film, and he worked extensively with the king of MoCap performances, Andy Serkis. “The face capture and the motion capture can now be put together, and you just get a lot more latitude as a performer,” Ruffalo said. “So Andy’s been working on this new frontier of taking motion capture and, instead of it just being a placeholder for CGI, making it become more of a collaboration and that the actor really can add performance to it.” He also said it’s the goal to make motion capture on the same level of performance as a live action performance. “That’s what Andy’s after,” he said, “That’s what I’m after.”
Tony Stark in this film will act as more of an overseer of the action and less of an out-in-the-field guy. “I thought that the third Iron Man was him about transcending his dependence on the merits of continuing to wear your wound,” Downey Jr said of Tony in Age of Ultron. “But I think he realizes that tweaking and making all the suits in the world, which is what he has been doing still, didn’t work for that thing of his. So his focus [in this movie] is more on how can we make it so that there’s no problem to begin with? That, you know, there’s a bouncer at our planet’s rope. That’s the big idea.”
And ultimately, the man who started it all by being Iron Man believes this movie is an improvement because the camaraderie between the actors has increased. “We all have become close,” he says; “You know, last time was kinda like, Thor’s in, Cap’s out, Tony’s in. Everyone’s together…twice, because that’s all they could manage ‘cause it was like working with mercury and herding cats. And this time it’s that, but it also it just seems like we’re all genuinely developing relationships with each other. So, I think that what’s the start and end of it is in trusting Joss. That he kinda really, really knows what he’s doing.”
We’ll all see what Joss has in store for all of the Avengers, both old and new, when The Avengers: Age of Ultron crashes into cinemas on May 1, 2015.