The Mightiest Avenger
An Interview With Joss Whedon
Published: Thursday, May 3, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 19:01
Q: What was your process in writing the film? Did you already have a directorial vision when you were penning the screenplay?
JOSS WHEDON: [Laughs], This is so weird. Yes, I did. Half of writing a script is writing visually, is figuring out what you need it to look and feel like as much what they’re gonna say. The process, therefore, was pretty organic, particularly also because we had such a tight schedule, they needed some things to be worked on, set pieces and action sequences before I’d even written the script. So I was writing visual cues and action descriptions before I was, you know, I had finished structuring the story, since we knew where we were going. So all of that was happening all at the same time. So it was very difficult structurally to figure out how to make it work, but in terms of the process, very organic because it was all, everybody in the pool.
Q: Is there something from your childhood experience with the Avengers that especially resonated with you and that you’re bringing to this movie?
JOSS WHEDON: Well, the fact that the Avengers are all really, really messed-up people, I think is a fine reflection of me. You know, with The Avengers itself, the thing that I loved was that it was, one, the comic books, it was a little bit steeped in science fiction. Marvel was known for its gritty realism, and Spider Man was sort the template for, oh, they could just be people in New York.
And even though the Avengers made their home in New York, they were so often out in that space and dealing with, you know, artificial intelligence and grand beings from another world, and gods and monsters. And I love that element. That’s definitely a part of the film.
Q: How did you mentally prepare yourself to carry on the stories of all these established superheroes with an already fervent backing?
JOSS WHEDON: I am the fervent backing, so it wasn’t that hard to key in. I’ve done a lot of work for things that already exist, that I’ve worked on the X-Men, I wrote an alien movie, not necessarily the best one, but … and at working as a script doctor, you come in, you know, after things have been established. Even on a TV show, even if you’re the one who established them, every time you write a script, you’re dealing with an established universe. So, it’s not hard for me to fall into the cadences of these people. In fact, it’s a lot easier when you’ve already seen them being acted in the other movies.
Q: Because Marvel is attempting to create an interlocking film universe, did you feel the need to maintain a directing style, an aesthetic similar to work of the other Marvel Studio directors?
JOSS WHEDON: There’s no way you could make a movie that looked like a Jon Favreau, Kenneth Brown, Joe Johnston, Louie Lettieri movie. You have to take from each of them the thing that is useful and will jive with the rest of them. I do think, you know, the DNA of the Marvel movie begins with Iron Man, and that’s very grounded in the reel. I tend to be a tiny bit florid with my camera work and my dialogue, but hopefully in a way that feels like a realistic version of a comic book universe.
So it is, you know, the way that I can reconcile the different styles. My own style is actually kind of smack dab in the middle of what all those guys do. Therefore, it plays.
Q: The Avengers is filmed in Cleveland. Why was Cleveland picked as a shooting location and what was it like shooting there?
JOSS WHEDON: Cleveland had some financial advantages, rebate-wise, and that’s always a big thing for Marvel. And then they also were very, very accommodating in terms of letting us blow up their city. Filming there was actually a joy. Cleveland is a really cool place, and it has a lot of great culture, it has a lot of great restaurants—and I’d been in the desert for almost a year, and so by the time I got to Cleveland, it was like being in Versailles. It was so opulent and fun.
And it had so many locations that worked beautifully for so many different places without, you know, hardly any dressing. You know, we found, particularly Stuttgart and New York were the two main places that it was replicating. But we were able to shoot so much practically because of that. It was very, very gratifying for us, and the people were really, really welcoming.
Q: Did you have any particular combination of superheroes that you thought were the most interesting to see interact?
JOSS WHEDON: You know, the tragedy of the movie is that you don’t get to have scenes of everybody interacting because everybody is so interesting up against each other. I would say, you know, I love the Bruce Banner-Tony Stark relationship. Bruce Banner’s the first guy, Tony Stark’s come across as really who operates on his level intellectually, who isn’t a villain. And the way Tony nudges him and Tony’s particular attitude about the Hulk is endearing and cool.
But I also love Tony and Steve, and how much they can’t stand each other—and I’m very invested in Natasha and Hawkeye and their deep, deep friendship, so, you know, oh, I love them all. I hate this question.
Q: What advice would you give to any student with ambitions of one day sitting in the director’s chair?