Mr. Beaks Talks Avengin' And Singin' And Dancin' With Joss Whedon!
When Marvel Studios first teased the possibility of THE AVENGERS at the tail end of IRON MAN, it was easier to envision how it would spin apart than to conceive of a massive studio movie in which four big-time superheroes, all capable of anchoring their own tentpole release (with a little help from Nick Fury and a few then undetermined second-tier characters), would do battle with a formidable array of villains capable of wiping out humanity. Even as kids, we knew better than to expect an actual Avengers movie; the whole thing just seemed too big, too complicated and, frankly, way too easy to screw up.
But Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige stuck to his plan, and when it came time to greenlight the Avengers Initiative, he wisely placed his dream project in the hands of a writer-director who understood its importance as a filmmaker and a fan. And while Joss Whedon was a little light on tentpole-directing experience, he’s been writing and/or rewriting mega-budget behemoths for two decades. He’s seen how these films can go very right (SPEED) or very, very wrong (ALIEN: RESURRECTION). He’s also spent time in the monthly trenches writing actual comic books for Marvel (most notably THE ASTONISHING X-MEN and RUNWAYS). All told, Whedon was probably the most qualified director out there for THE AVENGERS. All he had to do was manage an intimidating number of story arcs, get on the same page with the project’s alpha dog (Robert Downey Jr.), and give audiences the rousing finish most Marvel films have lacked. No sweat, right?
Whedon’s affection for these iconic characters is evident throughout THE AVENGERS, but it really comes shining through down the stretch, as Earth’s Mightiest Heroes band together for a Manhattan-decimating showdown with Loki and his otherworldly friends. If you had concerns about a guy most renowned for his TV work (BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, ANGEL and FIREFLY) delivering the requisite big-screen bang, forget about it. The final forty minutes of THE AVENGERS are spectacular (though I’d highly recommend that you stop watching trailers and commercials, because they’re giving away some of the best beats). Whedon’s stepped up to the plate and put just enough lumber on the ball to knock in the game-winning run.
And now that he’s got a blockbuster on his résumé, it’s time to make a great big movie musical! I discussed this and other stimulating topics with Mr. Whedon at last week’s AVENGERS junket. Spoilers were largely avoided (unless you consider what didn’t make the finished film a spoiler).
Beaks: I’m curious how writing a massive film like THE AVENGERS compares to, say, writing your run on [THE ASTONISHING X-MEN comic book].
Joss Whedon: Those are pretty similar. When I was on X-MEN, there were certain things they wanted and restrictions they had. I mean, halfway through my run they were like “Oh, we’ve replaced Nick Fury with this woman, Maria Hill.” I’m like, “What? Okay…” “And by the way, most of the mutants have been wiped off of the face of the earth.” “Huh?” You sort of have to take as much information as you can, and then build within that. It’s the same with the movie. “We want the following things,” or “You should avoid the following things.” But that’s not a problem. That’s useful more than anything else. I mean, every now and again you feel a little boxed in, like “How do I pay this off?” But figuring out how to connect all of those dots and avoid all of the sand traps - yeah, way to mix those metaphors - is difficult, but also part of the fun.
Beaks: Sitting down to actually write THE AVENGERS, you had certain parameters, but were you also indulging every childhood fantasy you had had about The Avengers at that moment?
Whedon: Not all of them, but enough of them. Marvel had certain stipulations about what should happen in the story, and that was really all I had to go on. What I got to bring to the party was sort of what the essence of the ideology and the tone of the film was going to be, and how these people were all going to get into the positions that they needed them to get into in this game of Twister. It just… I’ll only ever focus on bringing the audience in through character, through enough believability, and make the stakes big enough that you can actually endanger “Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.”
Beaks: You’ve got to come up with something really big.
Whedon: They had their idea of what the third act should be in one sentence, “Army, Portals…” which was great.
Beaks: Was New York City a part of that?
Whedon: Yes, it was, but since it’s a reveal, I’m not going to say it…
Whedon: But, again, that’s great. “I know where I’m going. That’s fine, all I have to do is find the path,” which is not easy to do, but it is easier when you do have a compass.
Beaks: To set a path for an AVENGERS movie is, I imagine, kind of like working on a mathematical equation sometimes. It’s hard enough when you’re dealing with a regular group of characters. Here you’ve got to serve all of these different arcs. And you have these movie stars. Did you ever feel overwhelmed?
Whedon: You know, not intellectually, but I did find at some point in the process that every time I would read the synopsis of a movie that said “It’s the story of a man…” (Makes crying noises) “Just one? You lazies! I can do that. That sounds great.” Yeah, it took a toll trying to find a place for everybody and a voice for everybody and a pay off and a through line, but, you know, it’s THE AVENGERS. It’s worth it.
Beaks: There was an article yesterday in THE NEW YORK TIMES where Downey said that he has “everything approval” on movies. In writing Stark, was there a moment where you two got together and discussed your idea of the character versus what he thought the character would do?
Whedon: We worked it out together. There were a lot of ways you could go. They were still deciding what they were going to do for IRON MAN 3, so there was some grey area - although they had a concept. There was some grey area there, and we butted heads a couple of times early when we were sort of sniffing each other out, but then ultimately came to a vision of the thing that we both felt was right on the money. Then it was just about sort of honing it. It was actually enormous fun. When he came on set, he came on set as an eager actor and we’d go over the stuff. He likes to make changes. He likes to go through everything. I think he likes to have things fresh, so that he comes at it fresh. I mean, he could read something that was written 400 years ago and make it sound like he just thought of it; that’s one of his great talents. But the process at that point, because we were both so locked into what we were trying to do, was so much fun. I’d be like “Try this! What about [joke spoiler]? Try this.” He was like “Can I do this then?” “Yeah!” He’s anxious for direction. He’s there to make it as good as he can, and as soon as I felt like he trusted me we had the best time. There were one or two things where he was like “I’m not comfortable with this” and I’m like “I know, and here’s how we are going to change that.” It’s like we could read each other pretty well at that point. I would say it was one of the most fun collaborations that I’ve had.
Beaks: As for CAPTAIN AMERICA, that film, with Stark’s father and his admiration for Steve Rogers… there’s an interesting potential for conflict there with Tony and Howard Stark’s hero worship of Cap. Was there ever anything more about that resentment?
Whedon: There was a ton more. One of the problems we had early on was that I had way more Iron Man, and at some point I realized “This is turning into IRON MAN 3. That’s a mistake for them, that’s a mistake for me, and it’s putting too much responsibility on Robert’s shoulders. He needs to be the rock star who shows up and says ‘Oh, let me handle this, because I’m a rock star.’” That felt very right. But I had written endless scads of pages of him and Steve Rogers arguing, and a lot of it was about [Howard Stark]. Not so much, because his daddy issues had been the thing in the second movie, but enough because of that relationship. Actually the only time Chris and Robert were in the Quinjet, I had a little run about the father, and on the day they were like “We’re not so comfortable with this.” I went “Okay, let’s pull it,” so there’s really just the one comment. But I feel like you don’t necessarily need to say it. It’s there. I mean, Chris is such a father figure as Steve Rogers - even though he’s young and maybe just by virtue of the fact that he is a beautiful fuddy-duddy. Their relationship I think resonates without having to call it back too much. And when he says “And every time I would think ‘You know, your father would never say that’”, I wanted Tony to say “My Dominic Cooper father or my John Slattery father? Because they were very different guys.”
Beaks: (Laughs) Yeah, I could see where that would be confusing. Okay, so when you make a film like this that’s going to be a huge gargantuan hit, there’s the expectation that this buys you maybe a little bit of freedom, that maybe you get to make a larger film that you’ve kind of always wanted to do. Do you have that project?
Whedon: I don’t have like, “Here you go, studios!” (Mimes handing over a screenplay) I have a lot of ideas about dream projects, and I haven’t landed on the idea of if there’s one I’d like to parlay this particular moment into. Ultimately, there’s no such thing as a track record. People are still going to be looking over your shoulder. The freedom that I’ve had doing things like DR. HORRIBLE and MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING is like a drug. It’s very hard to imagine to not going back to some of that.
Beaks: You obviously have an affinity for musicals. Have you ever thought of doing a big movie musical?
Whedon: Yes, I sure have.
Beaks: Would it be an original?
Whedon: Probably an original. If given the opportunity to write songs, who wouldn’t? Having said that, great musicals are about songs, and great film musicals are about dance. But I love dance, so it’s very different, a film musical than a stage one. With BUFFY, I was evoking something more from the stage really than film, with a few reference exceptions aside. That’s definitely one of those “Maybe I could get this made” kind of concepts, but we will have to see. Sorry to be so vague.
Beaks: No worries. Real quick, who’s your favorite choreographer?
Joss Whedon: Well, it’s always going to be Jerome Robbins. I think he’s one of the great icons of the century.
THE AVENGERS hits theaters May 4th, 2012.
Readers Talkbackcomments powered by Disqus
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April 25, 2012, 3:25 p.m. CST
April 25, 2012, 3:26 p.m. CST
Cmon! Someone from upside down land aka australia.
April 25, 2012, 3:28 p.m. CST
by Mike Holdbrook
....Gonna see it in 'ole blighty Friday evening. Can't wait.
April 25, 2012, 3:30 p.m. CST
by Mike Holdbrook
April 25, 2012, 3:34 p.m. CST
... Friday morning.
April 25, 2012, 3:36 p.m. CST
by Mike Holdbrook
Sorry, looking forward to your review as well!!!
April 25, 2012, 3:37 p.m. CST
the Avenger's climax will feature the hulk dying.
April 25, 2012, 3:39 p.m. CST
I am going to this opening night. I can't wait. I still can't quite believe it is all going to come together and work as well as I want it to. I just finished the first season of Game of Thrones. I want all movies to be that well written. I am a comic book fan and love that I am living in an age of film making where comic material is getting some of its due. Visually they are able to do so much and the stories are consistently ok to decent. With better than decent due to Nolan's Batman. It would be cool to have a movie of a comic that ran like Game of Thrones, only on the big screen. Have it be a serial. Make 3 movies back to back and release them one every four months. When the first run came out they could make the second run.
April 25, 2012, 3:55 p.m. CST
Released here (Australia) yesterday.. LOVED IT.. It does justice to each character.. has a good cerebral component with lots of wit, and delivers on the kick ass action. Thanks Joss!
April 25, 2012, 4:19 p.m. CST
by Evan T
I don't get it everyone has it up including HitFix why wait?
April 25, 2012, 4:20 p.m. CST
Well done Mr. Wheddon, you knocked it out of the park. Tight security on the screening- bagging peoples mobile phones etc - even saw them take a Nintendo DS off a 10 yr old in the audience before the screening started. Beaks is right about the last 40 mins - balls to wall action - including one fantastic all in one shot following the action through the city street lingering for a moment on each of the heroes - you'll know it when you see it. What he fails to mention is that the action throughout the rest of the movie is also just about the best in all of the Marvel films. Each character is served really well - I really want an Agents of SHIELD movie - that would be fantastic. Best of all the movie is funny - laugh out loud funny - in many places. And The Hulk - done right at last. Can't wait to see this again when it opens proper this weekend.
April 25, 2012, 4:25 p.m. CST
did any of you get the the new dark knight rises and spiderman trailers? i'll be gutted if we in the UK dont get the trailers because we get it a week before the Americans.
April 25, 2012, 4:31 p.m. CST
No trailers at all....straight into the movie for the preview. Should have added that this is the first time I have heard an audience clap at the end of a movie in the UK for a longtime... there were even some whoops and cheers during it - I know it was an excited preview audience, but still - just something you don't hear too much of on this side of the pond.
April 25, 2012, 4:32 p.m. CST
Someone at the studio stuffed up here.. got a trailer for Act of Valour.. that said out in Feb 2012 WTF?! It's April now Mr Trailer man.. and a trailer for Dark Knight, but not a new one.
April 25, 2012, 4:35 p.m. CST
It's not the best superhero movie imo - that's still a power struggle between Superman & TDk - but the avengers is the funniest.
Saw it Tuesday, it is a good movie considering what had to be done to make a movie with so many leads. The pace is uneven, mainly in tthe 1st two acts, the dialogue is funny though-but this causes the main problem for me because the movie is about a so called alien invasion to destroy the human race but the levity and banter is contrary to the theme of the plot. Stark jokes about everything, which became a bit dull, Thor and Banner sulk much of the time. But the final act of the big battle and the avengers coming together is good, the hulk does steal the show here and his giht with loki is good. My verdict is there is lots of cgi effects and action but very little drama or peril despite the story line. The avengers is a goos introduction to these characters but more effort is needed to produce a senario in a sequel that really stretches the audience to feel there is genuine danger for them. I'd give it 8/10 for spectical and 6/10 for story. Summer's yours to win or loose Nolan....your move.
April 25, 2012, 4:38 p.m. CST
I can't believe almost everyone gets up the moment the first credit hits the screen. For a bunch of geeks who turned up on opening night and waited in line for an hour.. you're all either ignorant or didn't care.. which just doesn't make sense. The extra scene, after the 3D credits, was very memorable.. by the end of the 2D credits there was only one other person still sitting in the cinema.. however there was no further scene there.
April 25, 2012, 4:39 p.m. CST
I guess it'll have to be a youtube video at 720p because everyone knows thats the best way for half the world to see the previews for 2 of the biggest films of the year. has anyone else noticed how up in arms a lot of american fans are getting because they aren't getting it first. not last, just "not first"! bizarre.
April 25, 2012, 4:53 p.m. CST
This thing is in a league of it's own. I never thought Joss Whedon could pull this off, but he fucking delivered. Not only does he understand comics. He LOVES them as well. He respects the source material and he doesn't try to change it into something it's not.
April 25, 2012, 5:20 p.m. CST
Nice to see a genuine Hollywood hard-worker getting some Sun light. Way to go, Joss. Have a blast.
April 25, 2012, 5:34 p.m. CST
There was an extra scene after the 3-D version but not the 2-D? I'm going 2-D because I respect my vision in the long run. Am I gleaning the fact that they are only adding a special scene at the end of the 3-D version? If so, that's bollocks.
April 25, 2012, 5:50 p.m. CST
Joss pulled off an amazing juggling act and his love for the material oozes from the film. First act is a bit slow, but Black Widow's entrance makes up for it. Renner gets a lot of great things to do too and if his screen time is short it doesn't feel like it. Coulson's moments are brilliant and of course the big four have plenty of great and iconic moments. Music is a bit of a let down... serviceable nothing memorable here. As to the bonus scene... happens immediately after the key credits and before the full production credits. I am sure it will be there whether you see it in 3D or 2D. Well done and thank you Joss and Marvel! hope you can continue to meet the high standards you've set yourselves.
April 25, 2012, 5:51 p.m. CST
What CKhappyanswer meant was that the extra scene came about a third the way through the credits after the 3D portion of them.....the credits then become 2D with the regular black screen and white writing - there was no further extra scene after this - I too stayed right through incase of anything extra tagged on right at the very end. Would have loved to see a Marvel themed Grr-Argh monster - would have topped off my night!
April 25, 2012, 5:53 p.m. CST
Two totally different films despite being superhero genre. I think TDK has the edge in terms of theme and a single performance in Ledger's electrifying Joker. But Avengers is more joyous, iconic and a rollicking adventure that leaves you with a huge grin on your face too many times to count. We're blessed to have both.
April 25, 2012, 5:57 p.m. CST
...That you can embrace the bright, four-colour origins of your hero. That you don't have to reinvent iconic costumes or shy away from the broad, colourful, bigger-than-life aspects of your hero. While I am happy and hopeful about a new Superman film, I have reservations when I see the muted, modified, armour-like costume they feel it necessary to dress him in. It robs Superman of mythos. Same with the grimey basketball-dimple suit for Spidey on Amazing Spider-Man.
April 25, 2012, 6:04 p.m. CST
...and Joss Whedon is EXACTLY the man I would've picked to direct! The stars couldn't have aligned more perfectly for me. Needless to say, I'm taking the 4th off and the wife and kids will be in the theater with me, wide-eyed.
April 25, 2012, 6:48 p.m. CST
2 TOTALLY different movies... One is basically based on hyper reality, and the other has aliens from space... nuff said. I think TDK has the edge though based on so many factors in that film working so well... and the acting was far beyond any superhero movie before it. Puts it on another level all together!
April 25, 2012, 7:30 p.m. CST
...this should give him the clout to make another Firefly movie with an actual budget and finally give me something I can shove up the ass of all those "What about Alien Resurrection" morons. Hey Whedon Haters...hate THIS.
April 25, 2012, 8:11 p.m. CST
Loved Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and Iron Man 1. But every character is the same smarmy asshole.
April 25, 2012, 9:23 p.m. CST
check yourself before you wreck yourself
April 25, 2012, 9:26 p.m. CST
that doesn't even make any sense
April 25, 2012, 9:56 p.m. CST
by vic twenty
I'm sure Der Whedonschnitzel is much more proud of his little Runaways comic.
April 25, 2012, 10:26 p.m. CST
drstrangerlove, you're so full of shit. For the past few months, all you've done is piss all over this movie...
with your elitist, hipster than thou attitude, and now here you are, one of the first regular posters on here to see it, after all of your THIS IS JUST ANOTHER STUPID SHALLOW COMIC BOOK MOVIE steeze of yours.
April 25, 2012, 11:13 p.m. CST
Saw The Avengers it in 3D extreme screen in a packed house full of Aussie die hards. The heroes are great, with Downey Junior the main man whenever he is on screen, but heck the rest were just amazing too. My only minor quibble (sorry Joss, please forgive me) was with the handling of the great Captain A. He was a bit 2 dimensional and in 3D that’s not easy. For someone with his history and legacy he lacked the presence he deserved. This is Captain America here and he doesn't kowtow to anyone right, yet his lines were flat and impact on action minimal (or maybe C Evans just made it seem that way or maybe he was just blown away by the high octane level of the Stark, Widow and the rest). Cap's costume needed a major Ultimates upgrade (too bright Joss – it needs a serious toning down X style). Caps better than this Joss, but hey I forgive you because you delivered absolutely everywhere else in buckets and then some. Heck even the Hulk can now claim to be in a blockbuster movie at last and as for sultry Scarlet (scorching up the screen every second she's on) she just has to get her own Black Widow picture, or even a team-up with Hawkeye would do, just to see her in that cossie again. Spidey and the Bats next up, bring it on....
April 25, 2012, 11:26 p.m. CST
O.K., Just returned to Geek Headquarters from an asteroid field somewhere in deep space after viewing one hellacious battle to save the earth fought by "THE AVENGERS" in the 3-D streets & sky above modern New York City. Never thought Father Geek would witness writing, action, drama, & art direction as fulfilling and thrilling in a motion picture about a classic comic character superhero group as I did in this film tonight. It met this sixty year comics fan's every expectation and then some. Super effects, super sets, super style, cinematography, & characterization. I'm one great grinning geek this evening. Make sure to keep your seat through the end credits because the next villain the group will take on is one of the heaviest duty bad asses in Marvel comic book history...
April 26, 2012, 12:04 a.m. CST
good to see you there Harry! Haven't heard a crowd cheer like that at a screening in ages. Shame it wasnt at the Drafthouse. Avengers II better have Captain Marvel and Firefox!
April 26, 2012, 12:48 a.m. CST
Cause we're goin' COOOOUUUURRRRRTIN'!
April 26, 2012, 1:44 a.m. CST
April 26, 2012, 5:04 a.m. CST
Saw this in Australia yesterday. Knocked up a pretty big piece on it. http://thecrat.com/reviews/adam-vs-the-avengers/
April 26, 2012, 6:59 a.m. CST
Haven't seen the Avengers yet however I've never seen so much fanboi dick sucking in my life, plus I haven't seen one hater surface yet besides that Twilight bitch on Rotten Tomatoes. Looks like Wheedon has done the impossible, all while placating the fanboi's, the suits, and the general audiences alike.
April 26, 2012, 8:17 a.m. CST
What I love about what I've seen of avengers so far is that it embraces its source material, MOS is painfully ashamed of itself and if that's the case, why bother?
April 26, 2012, 9:25 a.m. CST
by rakesh patel
Possibly the best superhero movie i've seen. I have to watch this again #AvengersAssemble I say thank you because this is the movie I've been 25 years for. It didn't disappoint. All the characters had decent screen time. Black Widow had i feel a better presence here than in Iron man. Hawkeye was great played really well. The Hulk, brilliant, i thought Nortons hulk was really good. Ruffalo was magnificent. the back and forth sparing between Cap and Stark. perfection. Thors rivaly with the hulk fantastic. Subtle sfx, amazing action. Just brought a fucking tear to my eye watching this. In the UK, went to the early morning show at 11 and it was full. i fully intend to catch it on the big screen again. And i say thank you Joss, because you always knew how this should be on the big screen and because i don't want it going to shit when the studio tries to cut corners the budget and play politics with this series. Marvel, pay the man and lock him in for 2 more. fucking amazing. seriously.
April 26, 2012, 9:29 a.m. CST
Glad to hear this is getting good word of mouth. Was a little worried after Cabin in the Woods, although to be fair, Joss is only half to blame for that.
April 26, 2012, 9:53 a.m. CST
Does Batman crush an ambulance like the hulk? A speeding ambulance? And smash it to a complete halt? No?
Well maybe I'll get more hulk-like batman action from Dark Knight Rises. Nothing beats Nolan's boring ass movies with no satisfying fight scenes
April 26, 2012, 10:16 a.m. CST
April 26, 2012, 10:17 a.m. CST
Although, it should be noted that I always thought the Dark Knight was over-rated.
April 26, 2012, 4:07 p.m. CST
Sorry, guys. My review will go up Monday. Just got too much on my plate between now and tomorrow to do it justice. Spoiler: it's positive.
April 26, 2012, 7:12 p.m. CST
Simply doesn't belong on this site. Go find some place called ~nobody loves me, everybody hates me, think I'll eat some worms ... news~ or something. Geez. I saw this movie in 3d imax in Sydney 2 days ago and my brain is still buzzing. It kills every other comics movie ever made. And I saw the first Superman on its opening night. And Ledger was a countryman of mine. But TDK just pales. I mean maybe it should be called The Pale Knight from now on. Or maybe ... The Puny Knight ... There really is no adequate way to convey how good this movie is for geeks except by comparison with Iron Man 1. IM1 was a supremely cool movie in its day. But compared to The Avengers ... it's a trailer. The Avengers is *that* good. Don't believe one word the effete dickless drudges say in talkbacks here. The Avengers will make your inner child cry tears of joy and look up at the starry sky with wonder all over again. Not because of the enormous energies and possibilities up there. But because of the ones down here.
April 27, 2012, 12:01 p.m. CST
by Dr Eric Vornoff
...RDJ sounds like a real pain in the arse to work with.
April 27, 2012, 8:26 p.m. CST
Like I mentioned in another talkback, they should have gotten Philip Glass and Daft Punk to collaborate together to make the music for Avengers.
April 27, 2012, 9:22 p.m. CST
Cabin in the Woods, a movie that cost $13 Million to make and made back $38 Million. How was it a let down? It was what it was, a love letter/fuck you to 80s/90s hollywood horror movies. Nothing more, nothing less. Hell, it was a better movie than 99.9% of the crap that passes as horror movies these days anyway. I'll admit that the first half of the movie is nowhere near as fun as the second half. Basically, Act 1 is the fuck you letter. Act 2 is the love letter.
April 28, 2012, 12:26 a.m. CST
Wonder what was on the Avoid list
April 28, 2012, 1:09 a.m. CST
EVERYTHING was spot on! Well done mr Whedon!
April 28, 2012, 3:32 a.m. CST
All characters were well done, pacing was great, dialogue/banter between ALL characters was well done. LOVED the Stan Lee AND Pat Keirnan cameos. (Pat's a NY1 anchor!) Hulk vs. Loki. Ho-Leeeee (Stan Lee) SHIT. LOL And some dude wrote abouve that Cap wasn't used well enough? Fuck that. Cap is coming into his own in this, dealing with new people and a new world, plus a fucking war. At the end, Cap is in charge and regulates. While Stark does alot of shit, Cap becomes eventually does become the man. Now THAT'S how you do a Superhero Summer Blockbuster. (No offense, Bats.)
April 28, 2012, 3:34 a.m. CST
I could've typed the "F!" word, but that's for douches.
April 28, 2012, 3:35 a.m. CST
April 28, 2012, 3:35 a.m. CST
April 28, 2012, 11:43 p.m. CST
Just saw this bad boy and man is it good!Loved every minute of it.My inner geek has been rewarded with such great visuals and great writing.
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