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Joss Whedon on party scenes, the Hulkbuster and three hour long movies…

Joss 2My introduction to Joss Whedon came via a teenage vampire killer. This was long before everyone else was doing it. I loved Buffy and watched religiously…at least until Buffy had to kill Angel and I was too upset to continue. I did have to revisit when I started my blog and a friend continually sent me links to YouTube videos of the “Bunnies” song from the musical. And speaking of musicals… Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog is basically one of the best things on the internet. He’s also credited with my most favorite quote ever: “Remember to always be yourself. Unless you suck.” Which ties into my own personal mantra: “Suck less.” But it’s also possible I’m getting off track here…

I’m suck a Whedon fan-girl that I was afraid getting the chance to meet him in person during the Avengers Event was going to be sort of a let down. Too much hype, right? But it was totally not a let down. Not even a little bit. What’s the opposite of a let down? A let up? Whatever that is, it was that.

[bctt tweet=”.@JossWhedon @Avengers: #AOU Exclusive Interview! #AvengersEvent”]

How did he capture that iconic opening shot of the Avengers in slow motion?

That was the last shot we got finished. It’s over a minute long, but I wanted to create some frames that were just unabashedly comic book frames…that would speak to our love [of] the thing. That one took longer to create than anything else… It was important to me to have that right away, like first up in the movie. Not to say, “And 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 and now we find…”  Instead just go boom, we’re back. This is what you love. Are you having fun? Good. Now we’re going to tear it apart.

Avengers254d11553c957fWhat about balancing the screentime with so many amazing characters?

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, and I’m also in the film. Making sure that the twins’ story was part of Ultron’s story and obviously making sure that their perspective on the Avengers had something to do with Ultron’s and 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 and so…it creates its own little web… It’s not Magnolia where you’re telling all these separate stories that are just vaguely intertwined. They’re doing some of that job for me. By the way, 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.

Who’s his pop culture inspiration?

I have a weird relationship with pop culture. I’ve never really been a part of it until I suddenly was. So, you know, most of my influences are a little left of center. Or very old. You know, the directors that I look at, um, when I’m thinking about a movie, usually are people like Vincent Minnelli or Sam Fuller, or Frank Barseghian. But it’s the people too, not just artists. It’s just the people in my own life that I see working four times as hard as I ever can… 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 have to sort of like gear up and… I should actually have two chairs because at some point, I always do go, “Okay, you need to work harder, you need to do more, you need to be better.” I’ll tell you who’s inspired me of late, Lin-Manuel Miranda… seeing Hamilton at the Public Theatre was just such a breathtaking experience. And 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.”

What were the challenges in introducing the Hulkbuster?

There is some slight enormous difficulty in the fact that neither of those people exist, so with the camera there’s a lot of, “Guys, we’re here. Now he’s over there.” We had the thing mapped out very carefully, so it was, in a way, simpler because they weren’t like I need another. I need to go again, but you shoot all of this stuff sort of with the faith that this will work physically and 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 and the way they captured that, to me, was breathtaking, but it took a little time.

Avengers2553ee18e7882fWhat’s it like filming in so many different locations?

Fun. I mean, I got to a lot of countries I’ve never been to, um, and see these beautiful cities and these places and, and eat really good food…  I don’t get to take vacations. Location scouting is definitely the next best thing.

Avengers253d1a229040f2How were Aaron Taylor-­Johnson and Elizabeth Olson picked for their roles?

You know, I didn’t want anybody else. I just wanted them. Aaron is too pretty to live, but, you know, 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, that he just commands the screen and it was, 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, but he’s great at playing that sort of like, “Oh, I got this.” That’s Quicksilver to a tee. Quicksilver…he’s always hotheaded, he’s always….being a pain for everyone, but is essential and very cool. And Lizzy, I sat down with Lizzy because I’d just seen Martha Marcy May Marlene and-I hope I got those in the right order-you spend two minutes with Lizzy and you not only don’t want anybody else for the role, you think maybe she should play all of them.

Avengers2553ee196b2554 (1)What was the hardest scene to shoot?

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, I could not find the focus of where everybody should be and how they should move and Robert had to do something really difficult which was start laughing in the middle of this scene [and] become a little unhinged. And getting there and sort of making that work, that was one that I struggled with. I struggled very much with the party scene. The after party scene, which we shut down during shooting early one day because I was just, I started shooting it and I hated everything I was doing and 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, and then I called. I 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 and as soon as I remembered how to shoot a party, it became a party.

Was that party scene scripted or ad-libbed?

They’re throwing stuff out… With Robert in a situation like that, I’ll usually give him like, five or six options just to see what tickles his fancy and 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 and second of all…it helps the flow particularly in something like that. You don’t want to feel camera moves and dialogue. You just want to feel like you stayed at the party. I’m glad.

Was there significance in having Ultron and Vision, forms of artificial intelligence, speak in Biblical terms?

It’s a Frankenstein story as much as its anything else and the Frankenstein story is, “Who made me? Why am I here? And I guess I’m kind of pissed about it.” So that iconography rolls into that very naturally, I think.

Was there anything planned at the beginning of production that didn’t get into the movie?

Is there something we didn’t do in the movie? SO much movie. There’s always stuff you either give up on, or just realize is 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 think it’s the length it ought to be. 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.”

[bctt tweet=”Talking #Hulkbuster, party scenes and 3 hr movies with @JossWhedon #AvengersEvent”]avengers-ultron-joss-03Whedon fan-girl master level=achieved.

Photo Credits: Disney and Jana Seitzer of Merlot Mommy

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