Avengers Assemble London Press Conference Report

Before getting all glammed up for the big European premiere of Avengers Assemble at Westfield London last Thursday 19 April, the cast gathered alongside producer Kevin Feige and executive producer Jeremy Latcham at Claridge’s Hotel to field questions from the press.  Here’s what went down:

Edith Bowman (moderator):  I wanna direct my question to Kevin and Jeremy Latcham, please first of all. Five hundred Avengers issues over the past 48 years, how and where do you start with this story?

Jeremy Latcham: Well, I mean, part of putting these movies together, especially on this one, was actually taking everything that existed in the movies that we’ve done and having to be faithful to the movies that we’ve already put together.  And at the same time having to go back to the comics as well and make sure that we’re faithful to everything in the comics and everything in the movies.  So it is a little bit of a challenge trying to find the right source material to kinda be the inspiration, but luckily Joss Whedon, our director and writer extraordinaire, is really, really good at assimilating all that material and he just kinda goes “Oh, just do it like this”. Oh, oh that’s much easier.

EB: Why was Joss the right man?

Kevin Feige: Well the best thing about Joss is in all of his work, no matter you’ve got vampires with Buffy, you’ve got outer space with Firefly but it’s always the characters that rise above.  And certainly you look at the cast assembled in front of you right now, we wanted them to shine more than individual effects, more than the explosions and of course, you needed a movie like this, but Joss never loses sight of it. And frankly, my favourite moments in this movie are just the performances amongst this amazing group.

Q: A question for Mr Downey Jr: I wondered at what point in your evolution of Iron Man you realised you’d be taking part in an Avengers series of movies. And secondly and more trivially, did you get to keep the Black Sabbath t-shirts?

Robert Downey Jr: In reverse order of importance, I walked off set with the Black Sabbath t-shirts.  Do you know where I put it?  I mis-located it.  It’s like mis-remembering.  Um, and from five years ago when we did the first Iron Man to today, with all these folks you see up here, you know, it honestly couldn’t have gone any better.  All three franchises that we launched so far had to work.  If this didn’t work then it affected all of the previous franchises extremely adversely.  And there’s also the potential for additional franchises based on how strongly people are reacting to Jeremy and Scarlett and Mark. So, I mean, I’m not one of those people who… I just don’t understand why everything’s gone this well.  But that, in this one instance in my life, seems to be the situation.

Q: We have a Japanese journalist with a question to Robert and to Scarlett, Firstly, to Robert throughout Iron Man 1 and 2 Tony Stark started off as a very egotistical character but learns how to play as a team and so how did you approach this role, bearing in mind that kind of maturity as a human being when it comes to the Tony Stark character and did you learn anything throughout the three movies that you made?  And to Scarlett to get into the shape of Black Widow, did you have anything special to do in terms of the diet, like have to eat specific food or that sort of thing?

RDJ:  If I’ve learned anything, it’s that people are much more interested in your second question to Scarlett than any answer… (laughter)

Scarlett Johansson:  I was just gonna say that very thing, it’s so funny.  I mean, how come you get like the really interesting like existential question and I get the like, rabbit food question?  I dunno. Yes.  Surely, you’re training and do a lot of (inaudible) so you eat a lot of green things.

Q: I’ve actually got a question from my 4-year-old son, now bearing in mind that you guys are not actors to him, you are the Avengers and Loki.  He wanted to know, in the movie, to the Avengers and Loki, what was your favourite fight move and why?

Mark Ruffalo:  There’s just so many. You mean Bruce?  (says camp-ly) I’m Bruce right now. Bruce.

Chris Hemsworth:  My favourite fight move is when you slammed Loki repeatedly back and forth (laughter)

MR:  That’s (inaudible) is my favourite too.  That’s Loki’s favourite as well.

Tom Hiddleston:  It is actually.  Yeah.  Partly because this strange, small person called Tom had to do most of that himself as well.  Hurling myself into the air and throwing myself to the floor, repeatedly.  I must’ve looked like a lunatic, which kind of describes Loki quite adequately.

RDJ:  My favourite move?  Yeah, Tony’s favourite move?  I, as Tony’s favourite… as Tony.  Well, you know, probably how I can fall out of buildings and survive with my… tech.  Notice that fight move involves no one but me and my stuff.

MR:  He said “tech”.

SJ: I like… my favourite fight move… or Natasha’s favourite fight move is probably… umm, what’s it called?  The thigh grip?  What do you call it?  (inaudible) thing hold?

Jeremy Renner:  To be choked out by your thighs would be a good way to go.  That’s my favourite move.

CH: Probably the summoning of the lightning and the cracking on the ground and the ripple effect it has on the earth, which we didn’t do in this film but we did in Thor 1, maybe Thor 2.

Cobie Smulders:  I like any time Hawkeye is shooting one direction and looking in the other.

Clark Gregg:  Generally Agent Coulson’s weapon repertoire consists of only one thing, which is a snide retort.  But in this movie he does what any sane human does when faced with this threat he reaches for the largest gun you can possibly imagine.

Q: Question for Scarlett and Cobie: working with Joss Whedon who’s obviously renowned for creating these strong female characters, was that something that really came across during production of what is traditionally seen quite a male dominated genre.  Could you tells us a little bit about that?

CS:  Well, Joss was very hands on from the beginning in terms of creating the character, in terms of costuming, in terms of how long my bang was gonna be and um, that continued on set.  He was very hands on with dialogue and always there for you.

SJ:  When all of us at first met Joss, he met with each of us individually to kind of talk about what we wanted see from our characters and, never… and we did talk about, you know, my character’s right and her dark past and, you know, all those things and never did he say anything about my character’s gender.  We never talked about it and I think that exactly describes… or that’s a perfect example of what, I think Joss is gender blind in some way. He wants his female characters to be dynamic and competitive and, you know, assured and confident.  And that has nothing to do with anything but the fact that he just celebrates those kind of strong people and characters.  I think he’s…um, he’s just a… just a charming fellow, that man.

EB:  How much did the collaborative process continue once you starting shooting, in terms of script, because I know he spoke to you all individually about where you, the tone of the character and where you saw it going and stuff? Was that something that was ongoing, Tom?  Is that something that continued whilst you were shooting?

TH:  Yes.  Although, I should say that the thing that was most impressive to me about Joss initially was the incredible screenplay that he wrote.  I mean, as an achievement in itself, as a film-maker, his screenplay was, is simple phenomenal.  Because, I think all of us were, weren’t sure what to expect and it was the most extraordinary answer to your first question, which is how do you get all these super heroes in one film?  And, I take my hat off to him for that because I think that was probably his hardest job that must’ve made directing it seem like a walk in the park (inaudible) walk in the park, maybe a light jog.  But, he was incredibly open and that’s really all you want as an actor.  You want to collaborate.  Everybody at this table has a degree of ownership about the characters they play and he’s very respectful of that… possession, in a way.  He’s very respectful that we’ve all lived under the skins of our characters for some time.  So he was constantly asking “Does this feel right?  Does this feel true to you?  Is this in your voice?” but most of the time I was just turning up and saying my very brilliant lines which he’d written on my behalf, so, yeah.

Q:  This is a question for Jeremy and Scarlett:  Both of your characters have quite a lot of action and activity in the film, but the cynic might say, you know, Hawkeye is the dude with the bow and arrow; Black Widow does kick butt, but she’s not a demigod.  So how happy were you, both, with the amount of action you had in the film?  And the cheesy follow-up question, which of your team’s super powers would be most jealous of?

SJ:  Cornwall.  Um, I… we did, I think me and Renner and Tom probably spent the most amount of time in the stunt gym just because we have these huge choreographed sequences that are, just, you know, they’re intense.  So, I mean, I was happy to do that.  I mean, we have such an amazing stunt team and a lot of them came off Iron Man 2.  Um, and we spent so much time in the stunt gym that we kind of built a family with those guys.   And um, but it’s great.  It’s great fun to do it.  It’s um, you just uh, it’s um, everybody you know as characters and actors in this (inaudible) have our, you know, burden to bear. But it’s uhh, certainly the stunts were… it paid off in the end, right?

JR:  I’m severely jet-lagged.  I have no idea what you said.

SJ:  I dunno.  I don’t want superpowers.

JR:  Oh yes, I don’t want any super powers.

SJ:  No we don’t want any super powers.  We decided, we’d rather be skilled.  Because your super powers can maybe disappear?  Is that we thought?

JR:  Sure, yeah.  If Thor lost his hammer, he’d still kick my ass probably but, at least I’d have a fighting chance.

CH:  I found the fight scene between you guys was one of the most satisfying because it was grounded in the most reality and the incredible sort of choreographed hand-to-hand sequence was, you know, hugely impressive.

SJ:  Thanks.

CH:  No worries.

Q:  Question for Kevin:  there’s been cross-overs in comics for years.  There’s been ensemble movies, super heroes, before.  This is the first one that feels like it’s combined the best elements of the two.  I wonder how you approach that: Do you approach that as translating to comic and that mentality to the screen?  Or is it, very, very different the whole mythology of actually producing a big superhero ensemble movie?

KF:  Well, it always starts with wanting to replicate the experience that comic readers have had for years and years.  Whether that’s the experience of turning the pages- Joss, in another interview, recently described that his sense of pacing and editing actually came from the experience of reading panels and turning the page and every time you turn the page of a comic, there’s something new, there’s something else to catch your eye.  His sort of scene structure was very informed by that.  For me, it was the notion of reading the Marvel comics and not knowing who would appear in what, because they all exist in the same universe.  Obviously, that hadn’t been done before and now that, once Marvel… we started making our own movies and we had the entire library.  I thought ‘Wouldn’t it be fun to start doing that?’  And, The Avengers as a comic, wasn’t just cool because it was all these characters together, it was cool because all those characters from different books that you’d read and loved were now coming together.  So we knew we wanted to have all the individual movies first before we teamed them up.  It’s all about trying to get that experience to as broad an audience as possible.

Q:  Tom, you’re quite a voracious Twitterer, um but this can be quite an intense fan-base, these type of movies.  So I was wondering if any of you decided to avoid going on the internet at any time, particularly Mark, who is, obviously a new-boy, to the scene, and um might fear what the preconceived ideas were?

TH:  One of the strange things about being in these films is that, um, we’re lucky enough to have a fan-base.  It’s so often that you make a film and you put your heart and soul into it and you really care about it.  And you think it’s half-decent.  And you maybe turn up and say “does anyone want to see it?” and maybe nobody does.  And, and, we’re lucky that we already have people who love the characters as much, if not more, than we do.  Um, and I find it sort of thrilling that there’s a pre-existing passion for the material in a way.  It’s almost, it’s like… I don’t know, it’s just a… privilege actually.  It really is a privilege to have people who care so much.  And, um, rather than being paralyzed by a fear of what they might think, it’s fun to, um… it’s fun as a challenge to deliver what you hope they might enjoy.

MR:  I was overcome by a moment of very poor judgment early on, by going online and seeing the response to me coming in, stepping in as the new Banner.  I won’t do that again.  It wasn’t glowing and I found the fans’ exuberant passion to be very, very brutal.  I hope we’ve amended that.

Q:  A question for Kevin: up to a couple of months ago, this film in the UK was just The Avengers and now it’s Avengers Assemble.  Just wanted to get your, the reasoning behind that and thoughts on the title change, that sort of thing.

KF:  We thought ‘Wouldn’t it be nice for our English fans to give them another word?  Now you can have two words in the title instead of one word.’  That’s cool, isn’t it?  Listen, decisions like that aren’t made lightly and there are lots of marketing research and lawyers and things that get in the mix on it.  And that determination was to add that additional word.  But the logo still has the A and looks cool and it has it all together and… it’s the same movie.

Q:  Question to Mark: what was it that attracted you about the character of Dr Banner in the first place?

MR:  It was, you know, as a kid I was a Hulk fan and, um, I was a particular fan of the TV show.  And, um, but there’s also the added element where people think that actors seek out material, but it’s more a matter of us being given something and I, uh, was offered the Hulk.  I was offered Banner. And um, I talked to Joss Whedon about it and he, he said he’d rather kind of return to the Bill Bixby, this kind of world-weary charm of a man who’s on the run, but at the same time still trying to live his life and falling in love and uh, having a sense of humour about himself.  I liked that, but I also liked that idea that I could be the first actor to play both Banner and the Hulk and that was probably the most exciting thing to me.  Especially, you know, the one thing that we can enjoy now is the technology has brought us to a place where an actor can play the Hulk.  And, um, you know, doing both of those thing was, uh… I loved Joss’ take on it, but I also loved the idea of actually getting to bust out the big green rage machine.

EB:  What was that process, Mark?  What was the process for, was it CG, was it, what was it?

MR:  It was motion capture.  And um, yes, there was the element of wearing a, um, leotard that made, reduced me to a Chinese checker board.  But, um, other than that, you know, it was a very involved process.  It was a three-part process.  We did all the motion capture before we shot the movie.  We did it while we were shooting the movie and then we did it after.  And, um, it was a very, very intensive process and I was by myself most of the time.  Which was lonely.  In a leotard that makes all the wrong places look big and all the right places look small.

Spoilers Below: Highlight text to read

Q:  Question for Clark: Scarlett mentioned that everyone had a talking process with Joss before it all started, when did you find out you were going to be expendable and how did you feel about it as a result?

CG: (long pause) Next question.  No, um… I gotta, (laughs) I don’t wanna talk about this.

KF:  No spoilers, guys, right?  Don’t give anything away.

CG:  Yeah, all I will say is, I was about to do the panel for Thor at Comic-con and, partly because of this amazing relationship Marvel and its stories have with the audience, I’d gone from shopping around for comics the first year I went to Comic-con to needing a security detail and people dressed as Coulson.  And, uh, so I was already kind of a geek having the time of my life. And then the panel, right before the panel, in the green room this guy I recognised as a geek, the king of geeks- Joss Whedon comes over and says “Oh! Oh! Listen, Coulson’s gonna have a big part in The Avengers, can I introduce you as part of the cast?” which is, officially, the shortest decision-making period I’ve ever needed.  And, uh… there was an ominous call from Marvel.  It was kind of a good news/bad news call about how much, how important Coulson’s role would be in this film.  And I loved playing this guy, and… a lot, and I loved when I got Joss’ script it was honestly one of the best days I’ve had as an actor, period.  Just because of, I loved, it’s been a chain letter- different directors and writers get this character and reveal another facet.  Always entertaining to me.  And what Joss did I thought was magnificent, and the perfect extension.  And because it’s in the Marvel universe, I think of it as an extension more than a definite resolution.

Q:  Got a question for Clark as a follow-up: as a firm fan favourite we love the stuff you’ve been doing in the series, man.  I’ve gotta ask, do you have trading cards of all these guys signed?

CG:  I’m trying to wait to the very last moment before I go around and get all the autographs on it, because I get to kinda pretend to be cool until then.

With that, the curtain was called on the afternoon.  The stars would re-emerge a few hours later to walk the red carpet in west London.  Check out our report on the European premiere.

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About LondonFilmFan

Amateur film critic and photographer residing in sunny London.

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