Making any movie is difficult, but making the sequel to one of the most popular movies of all time? That’s downright Herculean and Joss Whedon refuses to play the modesty game with it comes to Avengers 2. Describing the film as a “nightmare” and the “hardest juggling act he has ever, ever tried to pull off,” the beloved writer/director pulled no punches in talking about the difficult creative decisions that went into making the movie.

Speaking with SFX (via The Hollywood Reporter), Whedon said that he longed for the days of making simpler movies like Serenity.

And Whedon isn’t even talking about the actual shoot, which took place across several continents and required precise management of a massive budget. In this particular case, Whedon is referring strictly to the film’s storytelling, which required him to find time for the six original Avengers, new heroes like Vision, Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch, a new villain in Ultron, and returning characters like Nick Fury, Maria Hill and Eric Selvig. When you have that many wildly different characters competing for screen time, you have to make a lot of tough calls. It was a process that not even a man with plenty of experience in managing large television ensembles could fully grasp:

They’re very disparate characters. The joy of the Avengers is they really don’t belong in the same room. It’s not like the X-Men who are all tortured by the same thing and have similar costumes. These guys are just all over the place. And so it’s tough. Honestly, this is as though as anything I’ve ever done, and I haven’t worked this hard since I had three shows on the air.

By this point, it’s easy to have faith in Whedon. The man earned his status as a god among geeks a dozen times over before he somehow made The Avengers work. If anyone can crack the puzzle that is Avengers 2, it’s him. Plus, he probably wouldn’t go around telling publications about how tough this whole process was unless he thinks he found a solution.

The rest of the interview delves in additional details about the film, including the Hulk’s expanded role. Mark Ruffalo’s giant green rage machine was the breakout star of the first film, so it makes sense that he has a lot more to do this time around. In fact, Whedon says that his main priority with the gamma-powered beast was to stop treating him like a special effect and better integrate him into the fabric of the film. In other words, this massive creature had to become a character:

What I love is we have the opportunity, because we went in with this mission statement, to shoot the Hulk like a character in a movie, and not like a ‘Look what we’ve got!’ We have ‘overs’ – blurry ‘Hulk’s over there! Bits, very quick shots. Everything isn’t ‘We built the Hulk so for god’s sake you’re going to watch him in this long take, full frame, the whole time!’ We really got to make him one of the characters in the movie. And that was a gift.

It may have been Whedon’s nightmare, but for comic book movie fans, it looks like a dream come true.

Avengers: 2 opens in theaters on May 1.

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