Talking Hulkbuster, Vision and Big Secrets With Robert Downey, Jr. and Mark Ruffalo on the ‘Avengers 2′ Set
Tony Stark stands at large computer monitor, typing furiously; his sunglasses barely concealing a cut and bruise on his cheek. Behind him, lights on giant internet servers blink and flash while young lab assistants try to discreetly take a selfie with Iron Man (continuing to blur the line between Stark and the man who plays him). He's searching...for something. "It's like looking for a needle in the world's biggest haystack." What he's looking for, we don't know, but we share his frustration.
We're here on the top secret set of 'The Avengers 2' searching for something, anything, to tell you about one of the most anticipated, and guarded, movies of 2015.
It’s a big, empty soundstage. There are some laborers yanking up chains in the corner. Behind me is a wooden ship with cartoony ocean waves painted on the bottom. It looks like something out of a 6th grade play. It all seems oddly out of place.
This is the top secret set of 'The Avengers 2'? Where are all the superheroes? Shouldn't someone be cracking a shiny robot across the head with a hammer or shield or something?
OK, it's not all vacant warehouses and giant green curtains. There's also a massive [REDACTED] and a full-scale construction of [REDACTED] and then there was this amazing sequence where [REDACTED] was [REDACTED]-ing with [REDACTED] in [REDACTED].
OK, so we're not allowed to talk about any of that. But, from my experience on the first 'Avengers' set, star Mark Ruffalo likes to talk. He's really excited about being a part of the Marvel universe and wants to share that excitement. Except they've gotten to Ruffalo too. Mark Ruffalo ambles in almost discreetly. Wearing a tracksuit covering up his motion-capture outfit, he almost blends in with the crew (and we say this despite him being a dead ringer for the set publicist). It's clear that Ruffalo still wants to talk. He's still bubbling with enthusiasm. But, to his right is someone whose job it is to watch what Ruffalo is saying. "Can I say that?" is heard often as Ruffalo looks to the side for approval. Occasionally he'll get a nod. More often than not, a firm no.
By contrast, Robert Downey, Jr. is, well...Robert Downey, Jr. It’s mostly quiet on that empty soundstage until a metal door slides open and in walks Robert Downey, Jr. It's less an entrance than a reveal. His arms outstretched in a very familiar pose. He is, by his own description, the “Mayor of Marvel,” but this feels almost regal. We are his people. He approaches this nearly empty room with the same amount of energy and enthusiasm as he does entering Hall H at Comic-Con.
"This movie's gonna be great."
It's the kind of platitude you hear all too often as a film reporter, but Downey says it with such conviction and that mischievous half-grin, you have to stop yourself from gulping down the Kool-Aid.
So here, on a more factual level are some of the things we learned on the 'Avengers 2' set from an afternoon spent with Robert Downey, Jr. and Mark Ruffalo. This is just Part 1 of our coverage from the Marvel set and there's still a lot (a lot) more to come.
Tony Stark and Bruce Banner: Science Bros
Tony Stark and Bruce Banner got along so well in the original 'Avengers,' they literally rode off into the sunset together. The two scientists found kindred spirits and intellectual equals in each other and their friendship lasted into the credits of 'Iron Man 3' (and the "Science Bros" meme on Tumblr). So, where does their relationship stand as 'Avengers 2' begins?
"They’ve gotten even more of a short hand together and really know how to work well together," explains Ruffalo. "Basically Tony took the orphan Banner into the fold. I was just made aware of where my apartment was in the, in the Stark Complex, um, the Stark Tower."
Downey is happy to have that extra time together. "You know, [the first film] was kinda like, you know, Thor’s in. Cap’s out. Tony’s in. Everyone’s together...twice (laughs) because that’s all they could manage ‘cause it was like working with mercury and herding cats. But, now it just seems like we’re all — we really are genuinely developing relationships with each other."
Ruffalo explains their working relationship, "You know I have a lab and, Banner’s working on a lot of stuff and Tony’s working on his own stuff and you know they complement each other. So you could tell that into this film that they’ve been working together."
We'll get to what Banner has been working on later, but if you've seen the trailer, you've certainly noticed what Stark has been building in his spare time.
The Age of Ultron
In the comics, Ultron is created by Hank Pym, the superhero known as Ant-Man, who is definitely not in 'Avengers 2.' In this cinematic world, Ultron is a creation of Tony Stark. As you saw at the end of 'Iron Man 3,' Tony Stark seemed to be done wearing the Iron Man suit. And, it's this very idea that gets Stark back into the whole "saving the world" game. "His focus is more now on how can we make it so that there’s no problem to begin with. That, you know, there’s a bouncer at our planet’s rope. That’s the big idea." That bouncer would be what becomes Ultron, the psychopathic villain at the center of the new film.
'Wow, this is going to be really cool,' says Downey with a knowing smile.
While he is the film's villain, Downey hesitates to call him a "bad" guy. "I always read this as the concept that every impulse starts off as a positive impulse." Stark is trying to "make it so that there's no problem," except the only issue is that Ultron sees mankind as the problem; a problem that needs to be eliminated. So, Ultron is only doing as he is programmed.
Ultron is both voiced and performed by James Spader and Ruffalo, for one, is happy to have someone else in the motion capture suit on set. "I have a couple of one-on-one things with him. I love him. He’s great. And he’s gonna be...it’s like King Lear. It’s great."
Or, as Downey puts it, "He’s scary and he’s, you know, bright and hurting and all that."
If Stark and Banner were working together on what ultimately became Ultron, that doesn't mean that each of them don't have their side projects. One of them was a rather large side project you caught a glimpse of in the trailer.
Hulk vs. Hulkbuster
One of the biggest questions left after watching the trailer is what leads to the confrontation between Iron Man and Hulk, and why Stark felt the need to build the Hulkbuster suit in the first place. Ruffalo tried to explain the how and whys of their battle without giving too much away.
"It’s a little bit like ‘Cool Hand Luke’. You know, you think you could beat me and then I’ll beat the crap out of you and then I beat the crap out of him. It’s kinda’ like that, but not totally like that. It...has a surprise. A little twist to it as well."
Well, if Stark has his Hulkbuster, Banner has been cooking something else on the side as well.
Enter: The Vision
"He is so dope."
Mark Ruffalo is pretty excited about The Vision, one of the new characters in the 'Avengers' universe and the physical manifestation of Iron Man's JARVIS. We're, um, not allowed to talk much about what we saw of The Vision, so we'll let Ruffalo do the talking for us.
"Yeah he’s pretty incredible. And, the idea of him and where he comes from and he’s not– he’s very independent. He’s a really great character. People are gonna love the Vision." He then adds this bit of information on Vision and Banner, which we'll present without comment: "He’s my baby."
Robert Downey, Jr. loves Vision too, but for slightly different reasons. "There is no one I would rather have the delight of seeing in the extreme discomfort (laughs) than Paul Bettany." Unlike his co-stars Spader and Ruffalo, Bettany's work on 'Avengers 2' isn't mo-cap, but goes the old-fashioned route, which means a lot of time sitting in a chair. "I'm happy that I walk in and I leave the trailer and I can go back an hour later and Paul Bettany’s still in make-up," Ruffalo says with a laugh. "Sorry, Paul!"
Joking aside, both Ruffalo and Downey get very excited when talking about what Bettany brings to the sequel. "Just even seeing Paul Bettany within a thousand miles on set where we’re shooting is just like wow," says Downey. "This is gonna be really cool."
Hulk vs. Banner
As Short Round once warned Dr. Jones, there's no time for love; not when you're busy trying to save the world. The first film hinted a relationship between Black Widow and Hawkeye (later, seemingly supported by the arrow necklace she wore in 'Captain America: The Winter Soldier), but Black Widow has a new love interest in 'Avengers 2.' Well, at least as much as anyone on a superhero team trying to save the world can have a love interest.
"There’s a really important relationship between..." Ruffalo pauses and glances to a Marvel publicist for approval. Negative. He continues, choosing his words carefully. "Um, I was just happy that I was in the movie at all. And any scenes that I got to be with [Scarlett Johansson] were a big bonus. But I think in this version he’s sort of as close to having a normal life as he possibly could. Which might include some...romance. But, is that ever possible for Banner is really the question."
And that's a question that will shape not just a large part of 'Avengers 2,' but also Hulk's storyline throughout the Marvel Cinematic Universe. What kind of normal life can Banner have with Hulk living inside of him? Banner seems to feel like he has some sort of control over it - "I'm always angry." - but as Ruffalo cautions: "Like anger, when you think you have control over it, you absolutely don’t."
Because Ruffalo's Hulk is one of the few Avengers to not have his own movie or make a major appearance in another MCU film, you'll see a lot more of that character explored in 'Avengers 2'. "I think Banner and Hulk kinda have come to a détente. But, there is a confrontation, uh, brewing between the Hulk consciousness and the Banner consciousness that we’re starting to head into right now." Will that battle lead to a more vocal Hulk talking throughout the film?
"We’re sorta’ still working that out. He will. We’re just kind of trying to figure out…there’s a couple of different places [where Hulk could talk]. But, he’s not gonna’ have a soliloquy. Not yet anyway. Joss has a couple ideas where to put it."
Has he told you the lines yet?
"No. I kinda’ know where we’re headed with it, but he hasn’t given me the line yet."
As Hulk grows smarter and The Avengers need Banner to be Hulk more and more often, that only feeds the beast. "The more [Banner] turns as the Hulk, the more established the Hulk becomes in his identity. And so you have these two identities that really wanna dominate the other."
I ask Ruffalo point blank: can the Hulk and Banner co-exist? "I don’t know... But, they’re gonna’ have to work it out ‘cause there’s serious tension there and it’s only growing."
Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch Join the Team
Vision isn't the only new superhero joining the Avengers for the new movie. Aaron Taylor Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen have joined the cast as what the cast affectionately refer to as "the twins." "I love the new kids on the block," says Ruffalo. "I love Wanda and Pietro, Quicksilver. They’re really cool."
Both Stark and Banner are both men of science, facts and numbers. So, how do they explain what they see in Scarlet Witch, which is something they've never seen before?
"She’s able to bring out the worst in us. And there are people in our lives who can do that. And somehow when you’re an actor you tend to gravitate towards those people. It’s like Sid and Nancy. She’s the Nancy. She’s everyone’s Nancy."
Downey has a more succinct analogy. "She’s like, you know, that gal from college who was crazy."
If you stayed through the credits of the last 'Captain America' movie, you caught a glimpse of their origin, one Downey says we'll see even more of in this movie. "To me Quicksilver and the way that [The Twins] have been put together and their origins take on Joss’s behalf to me is just like dude, I never would have thought of that. That’s the absolute coolest way you could have done it."
If you're reading this and getting excited for 'Avengers 2' next summer, you're not the only one. Downey, the self-professed Mayor of Marvel, already knows how the film ends and even he can't wait. "I read that last page and I got chills for a reason I definitely can’t explain." Well, he could explain, but that would be [REDACTED].
Stay tuned for much more from the 'Avengers 2' set including interviews with Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans, Jeremy Renner and director Joss Whedon, plus an up close look at one very exciting fight scene.
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