Being in a room with all of earth’s mightiest mortals is less daunting than you’d think. Hulk is permanently Banner, Thor has short hair and a suit that covers up his biceps, Ultron is an older guy in a hat, and Tony Stark…well, he still owns the room, let’s face it. But when they’re all relaxing and doing their best to be warm, approachable, and above all, deadpan-dickish in the Downey mold, it’s easy to get comfortable.
I was front-row center for the main event. Here are the very best quotes from the Avengers: Age of Ultron press conference. Minor spoilers ensue.
1. We Are All Huger Nerds Than Expected.
Kevin Feige, on the original Avengers movie plan: “With Robert and Iron Man 1, with the notion of Samuel L. Jackson coming in at the end and saying ‘You’re part of a bigger universe, you just don’t know it yet’…[I was] thinking most people wouldn’t know what that meant, but occasionally somebody would go ‘What did that mean?’ and I’d go ‘It means maybe that we’ll introduce all the different characters and put them together; it’d be great!’ But the minute that happened, the world sort of got it. Much more quickly than I’d anticipated.”
2. Hawkeye, Piercing.
Jeremy Renner, on the changes to Clint Barton this time around: “Have we seen the movie? I feel like I can’t talk about it. I feel like I’m gonna get shot if I talk. I speak in this movie, which is awesome.”
3. Bike Curious.
Scarlett Johansson reveals the truth about the motorcycle scene: “I don’t think you’re allowed to ride a motorcycle when you’re so pregnant. I embarrassingly rode some sort of a mechanical bull type of motorcycle, which goes nowhere and doesn’t look cool at all.”
Joss Whedon discusses his biggest challenge in directing: “There’s like 47 of these people. I really didn’t think that through. I regret very much doing this at all. You know, it’s just making sure that everybody’s got their moment, that everybody’s got their through-line, that it’s connected to the movie. I have all these people. I love all these people. They’re extraordinary. But making sure that they’re not just all being served, but that they all live within the same narrative structure, that they’re in the same movie, that it’s all connected to the main theme.
At some point during the editing process I could not have told you who they were, who I was, what movie I was making, I got so lost in it, but I think it all came together. It’s just about making these guys look good…which takes a LONG time.”
5. Stark Relief.
Robert Downey Jr. answers a question about Tony Stark’s fatherly impulses by ignoring it completely: “I must be mellowing with age, but I wanna say this very clearly. The next time I’m not asked the first question, I will fucking walk out. [laughter]I’ve read Joss’ script; I said ‘I think this is great.’ Now, ask Kevin – didn’t I say that? I said that. Kevin said ‘You never say that. You can’t mean that.’ I said, ‘Yeah, I think it’s great; let’s go shoot it.’ I thought it was a Swiss watch to begin with, and Joss created some great new situations for Tony to be in, so rather than dig in my heels and try to rewrite every scene to make it better, I just showed up and it turned out great.”
6. Smashing Boundaries.
Mark Ruffalo, on distinguishing Banner from Hulk: “I was helped out by the fact that I was green. And huge. That helped me with the distinction between the two characters. I can’t take full credit for that. Except for the accent I was using, maybe. [pause]I’m done.”
[Note: Hulk does not talk in this movie]
7. Brevity is the Soul of Wit, if Your Name’s Not Robert Downey.
“Yes.” – Joss Whedon, when asked if he could comment on Ultron and Vision representing two sides of Tony Stark.
8. A Beautiful Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Waste.
Paul Bettany, on the difference between playing the Vision and JARVIS: “Well, the main difference is I have to show up. The great thing is being able to work with all these incredibly creative and talented people. However, I also now have to show up at junkets, so everything’s a double-edged sword.”
9. Comically Delicious.
James Spader remembers reading comics as a kid: “Growing up, I never had any comic books at all but my friend had a trunk of them, and so comic books were like candy for me. I’d go over to his house for a sleepover and I’d just be devouring everything I could get my hands on…because the sleepover was gonna be over and I was going to back to my house and it was gonna be, you know, Kipling.”
10. From Tiny Seeds…
How did Whedon even begin to conceptualize a sequel to Avengers? “With the smallest thing I can think of. The thing that drew me back to the movie was, ‘What little moments are there between these characters that I haven’t gotten to do yet?’ What conversations haven’t they had? It’s never the big-picture stuff. It’s never ‘AND THEN WE CAN HAVE AN ARMY OF ROBOTS’…although that’s cool too.”
11. Spoiling Without Spoiling, Sort of.
Scarlett Johansson reveals Black Widow’s entire arc in vague terms: “In the beginning of Avengers 2 – I’m not gonna get shot, am I? – there’s some sense, finally, of there being a kind of normal, in a way. It’s a well-oiled machine where we’re tag-teaming with each other, the introductions are over and we’re at work, we’re digging our heels in. And at the end of Avengers 2, I think Widow is – she let her guard down, she was hopeful for something. I think she had this moment of false hope where she kind of felt like she put in the work, and there should be some kind of personal payoff, she was ready to accept it, and she realizes her calling is a greater one, and that’s not necessarily something that she’s thrilled about, but that’s what is most heroic about her. She’s accepting the call of duty at her own personal loss.”
12. Clash of the Titans.
Did any Phase 2 Marvel movies have to change to fit with Age of Ultron? Whedon will only name one: “There was gonna be more Thanos in Guardians of the Galaxy, but I said no, we need to thread him in more gently.”
13. Ultron: Legacy.
Spader: “I really don’t have any idea what was happening. It all happened very quickly. I really was just trying to hold on to the train that was moving very, very quickly. I arrived in London, and within the first half hour, I was – they’d put on a suit, they’d put on all this gear, and I dug on to a range of motion, and then within 15 minutes, I was watching me walk around a big room, moving and doing this and that and everything else, and watching Ultron. Or at least a formative stage of Ultron, on a monitor. And it just started right there. And the next day I was on the set shooting a scene with Scarlett. And so really, that pace was what it was, through the entire project. Luckily I’d had some conversations with Joss, and one fantastic meal with a whole bunch of wine, to figure out who this guy was. That was it. That really was it. It was just trying to hold on.”
14. He’s Not Super, Thanks for Asking.
Why Jeremy Renner wants no powers: “I could never do what these gentlemen do. I don’t have that creative of a mind. I understand Hawkeye just as a human with a high skill set, so I could tap into that.”
15. Who Ya Gonna Call?
The Hulkbuster armor in the movie is code-named “Veronica,” and not because of Resident Evil. Whedon reveals, “I decided to call it Veronica because he used to be in love with a woman called Betty, and Veronica’s the opposite of that.”