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Joss Whedon Talks About 'The Avengers'

With Cast Members Tom Hiddleston, Jeremy Renner, Cobie Smulders, & Clark Gregg

By Melissa Molina

Jeremy Renner, Tom Hiddleston, and Joss Whedon The Avengers Press Conference

Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye in 'The Avengers'

© Marvel Studios

The Avengers are finally assembling on the big screen for the first time under the guidance of Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige and filmmaker Joss Whedon. The movie has been getting a lot of buzz just because it's one of the biggest comic book crossover films that we've seen, but there's a lot more to it than just that. In order for The Avengers to be an entertaining movie, it doesn't just need the characters in place but requires the right amount of direction, acting, effects and story properly mixed together into what could be a brilliant concoction that we'll all be seeing in theaters soon.

While at the press conference, Whedon talked about what it's like to not only re-introduce characters but to be a part of the monstrous comic book movie along with the likes of Cobie Smulders, Clark Gregg, Tom Hiddleston and Jeremy Renner (who joined him to discuss the superhero film).

The Avengers Joss Whedon, Jeremy Renner, Tom Hiddleston, Cobie Smulders, and Clark Gregg Press Conference

Joss, what was the biggest challenge for you personally to wrap your head around? You were the guy to finally bring The Avengers film to life and to bring all these people from the other films together.

Joss Whedon: "I think the exciting thing kind of speaks for itself. That a bunch of characters, that a bunch of actors playing them, that much money - it was kind of a no-brainer. And the hardest part is and always will be structure. How do you put that together? How do you make everybody shine? How do you let the audience's identification drift from person to person without making them feel like they're not involved? It's a very complex structure. It's not necessarily particularly ornate or original, but it had to be right, it had to be earned from moment-to-moment, and that's exhausting. That was still going on in the editing room after we’d shot."

What in your mind separates a good comic book adaptation film from a bad comic book adaptation film?

Joss Whedon: "Well, there's all sorts, but for me it's capturing the essence of the comic and being true to what's wonderful about it, while remembering that it's a movie and not a comic. I think Spider-Man, the first one particularly, they figured out the formula of telling the story that they told in the comic. It was compelling, that's why it's iconic, but at the same time they did certain things that only a movie can do and were in the vein of the comic. I think you see things like the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, where they just threw out the comic, or Watchmen, where they do it frame for frame, and neither of them work. You have to give the spirit of the thing and then step away from that, and create something cinematic and new."

What was your most memorable moment making The Avengers?

Clark Gregg: "I'm going to say it was the day I got the script, just because I felt like this was not an achievable task as someone who writes sometimes and loves movies and watches a lot of them. I just didn't think it was really feasible to have this many characters and have them all get to kind of move forward and to have the story of them kind of coming together really work. And if it did work with that many amazing superheroes and movie stars, I felt it unlikely that Agent Coulson would do anything but bring some super coffee to somebody. So when I read it and kind of saw that it was my fan boy wet dream of an Avengers script and that Coulson was a big part of it, that was the great day for me. I just kind of drove around the streets with the script in the other seat, just kind of giggling."

Tom Hiddleston: "For me there are so many things that are memorable about it because it was such a long shoot, it was the whole summer for all of us and we had so many different experiences together. It was an amazing time for me to work with some of the greatest actors in the world, sitting at this table. But I think probably the thing, if you said, 'How was The Avengers shoot?' There's an image in my mind, which was the first day on set that everybody was there together, and it was insane. The picture of everybody in costume, of all of these actors and all of these characters in their chain mail and their capes and their armor, except for Mark Ruffalo in his grey and white pajamas in the back. But to see everybody finally assembled, it was an extraordinary moment just the picture of the Avengers. It was amazing."

Joss Whedon: "I don't remember any of it. [Laughing] Mine is super boring, but people kept asking me are you excited that you're directing this movie? And I kept saying, 'I will be.' I just don't feel things necessarily in the moment. It’ll happen. And we were in the lab where almost all of the Avengers get together for the first time and I was giving Chris Evans a piece of direction. I walked into the hall, I stopped and I just said to the producers, 'It happened. I'll tell you later.' And that was the moment. It just sort of flooded over me and I was like, 'Oh, that's nice - excitement.' [Laughing] That was it. I told you it was dull."

Jeremy Renner: "Ah, it's the same thing. It's when everybody was together. That's the most memorable, and creepy, funny and getting to play with Thor's hammer while he stroked my bow. I mean, that's terrible. [Laughing] Oh, here we go. That's gonna be great. Yeah, it's gonna get me in trouble. [Laughing] But I think it was getting all the actors in one room all in costume - it was like Halloween. I was fans of them as humans and now they're dressed up like silly people and it's great to laugh at each other, and that always stuck in my mind."

Cobie Smulders: "That's the same for me. I was very much a newbie coming in and when I got to do a scene where most of them were sitting at the table for the first time, I got to kind of stand back and see everybody."

Joss, you've done movies with big ensemble casts before, like Serenity. You had to introduce characters then. How did you go about introducing all of the cast members of this film?

Joss Whedon: "Well, it's the same problem I had with Serenity and swore I'd never have again. Tracking the information is almost as difficult, more difficult because it's not as much fun as tracking the emotion of the thing. You have to know how much people need to know, because some people come in knowing everything, and you don't want to tell them too much. And some people will come in knowing nothing and you don't even want to tell them too much. You want some things to be inferred. It's fun to see a movie that has texture beyond what you understand necessarily that you know. Like, when I watched Wall Street, I didn't know what they were talking about, but I was very compelled by it. It clearly mattered a lot. [Laughing] Or if I watch any film about sports, I feel the same way. If you feel that they, there's a life behind the life. If there's a life outside the frame, then you feel good about it, so you don't necessarily have to lay everything out, but organizing that is and was the most exhausting part of the film because the stuff between the character, that's just candy. That's just booze and candy all day."

Cobie, what was your experience transitioning from a weekly regular routine of a sitcom to being a part of this blockbuster ensemble? Clark, you could also answer as well.

Clark Gregg: "Yeah, well very few people know this but the CBS Tuesday comedy block is actually like the farm leagues for The Avengers."

Cobie Smulders: "It's true. It's true."

Clark Gregg: "It's The Groundlings, really."

Cobie Smulders: "Yeah, it was definitely a shift in schedule alone. I made it a point to do a lot of training to prepare myself for this role with weapons and to get myself mainly comfortable using them. That was the thing that I tried to do the most. In terms of schedule, it's very different. I'm very blessed at my job at How I Met Your Mother. We have a very nice schedule, and this too was very good but we had a lot of stunts to do and a lot of fun things to explode, so it's very different."

Clark Gregg: "First of all, Cobie is one of the best stunt people on The Avengers team. She did all her own jumpin' and flippin' and shootin' and stuff, and she's got that tomboy thing. You know what I'm talking about, that hot mom, tomboy thing." [laughing]

It's fascinating that a bunch of comic book fans universally accept and love the character of Agent Coulson, a character that's never been in the comics.

Clark Gregg: "I do too!"

How do you feel about that in general?

Clark Gregg: "I think it's amazing. At first, people were a little bit upset that they've kind of elevated this one character who wasn't in the comic books to the level of this movie. And then they kind of rallied around him and now he's in the comic books. I'm still trying to figure it out; it's just amazing to me."

Jeremy, talk about preparing for this role. Did you read a lot of the comic books? Did you go into some kind of archery training? Weren't you injured during filming?

Jeremy Renner: "Yeah. I broke my heart. [Laughing] No, I stretched a lot, and I prepared by stretching. Yeah, I did take some archery, but I realized very quickly that I couldn't really use it in the film. It ended up being superhero-type archery, which is nice to know the technique behind it but then shooting behind my back and over my shoulder and using fake arrows and blah, blah, blah. But I gave it a go and shot a few bales of hay and missed a few. I think most of it, again, was the physical part, is just stretching so I don't get injured. You get injured, banged around every day when it's hand-to-hand stuff, like Scarlett [Johansson] and I, we beat each other up pretty good. That's fun. I love getting beaten up by Scarlett. Wouldn't you?"

For Tom, knowing how old school you are regarding video games, are you equally as old school when it comes to comics?

Tom Hiddleston: "Well, it's funny because in the U.K. I grew up on these U.K. comics called The Beano and The Dandy, and most people's access to Marvel and DC is a later one and it's through cartoons and trading cards. But in terms of comics, the thing is I was introduced to American comics really through the movies. It was Christopher Reeve. Superman was the first superhero I ever conceived of when I saw the movie when I was six. I loved it and it's really that film and also Tim Burton's Batman that kind of were my first early superhero contacts."

Any trepidation about such an iconic character such as Loki?

Tom Hiddleston: "I never get afraid of things; I only get excited. It’s just so much fun. He’s such a great character. He's just a treat, never mind the iconography. It's like playing an iconic Shakespearean character or something. It's just a privilege to be asked to do it. And with a character like Loki, he's got such a level of complexity and so many layers to him. So many things to explore, especially when he is as well written as he was in this film by Joss. I mean, when I read it, I couldn't believe my luck. The film was called The Avengers and yet Loki was almost on every page. And [Whedon] had taken what I’d sort of built with Kenneth Branagh and he's taken it further and he was as damaged and psychologically interesting as I hoped it would be, but it was also darker and funnier and it demanded so much commitment. I just was so excited about it, so there was no trace of fear, just a huge amount of fun."

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