/Film Visits The Set of ‘The Avengers': Over 60 Things We Learned, Behind The Scenes Photos and Video Blog
Posted on Monday, April 2nd, 2012 by Peter Sciretta
In June 2011, Marvel invited a handfull of journalists to the set of The Avengers. /Film was lucky to be a part of this amazing 2-day visit to Albuquerque Studios. Over the next week we’ll be publishing transcripts of our full roundtable interviews with the cast and crew of the production. Later today you’ll find interviews with the creative team, writer/director Joss Whedon and producer/Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige.
After the jump you’ll find both parts of the video blogs I recorded with Steve from Collider chatting about the visit. This is where you can hear about our experiences on set with more of an opinionated spin. We have a set of 8 behind the scenes photos from production, four of which is exclusive to our visit. And finally, you’ll find a list of interesting bits that I learned on the trip — over 60 in all. They range from the script, to why Avengers didn’t shoot in 3D, to where this ties in with the previous stories, and even some updates on future Marvel movie and television productions.
Behind the Scenes Photos:
Over 60 Things We Learned On The Set of The Avengers
The Avengers takes place “probably 6 months or a year” after the previous Marvel films
Marvel presented Joss Whedon with the basic skeleton of what they needed to happen, and Joss added the character moments, motivations, and execution.
Whedon on the stakes in The Avengers: What’s at stake has to be more than their lives. Bigger externally and smaller internally. It’s the risk of characters losing themselves over characters losing their lives.
Whedon compares the complexity of the character integration in the script to Vulcan chess.
Whedon did a quick polish on Captain America, which helped him get a good perspective on the character. Whedon describes Cap as being the eyes of the audience as he is coming into the world with fresh eyes.
Joss wanted a classical, almost John Williams, type score for The Avengers — Drawing from Captain America and that feeling of what we lost and trying to bring it together again.
The script was influenced by Civil War and the Ultimates comic book storylines.
Joss Whedon gave Chris Hemsworth a graphic novel of The Ultimates (the modern graphic novel story of The Avengers) on the set of Cabin in the Woods before Whedon was even involved in the project
The film will be distributed in 3D, but it wasn’t shot in 3D. The decision was made by the filmmaker. Joss Whedon did a day of testing for The Avengers to decide if he wanted to shoot the movie with 3D cameras. Whedon shot the end of the credits tag sequence in Thor using the RED camera in 3D camera rigs. They lost three and a half hours due to 3D camera rigging issues, which led to Whedon’s decision to shoot the movie in 2D. The movie was shot on the Arri Alexa camera and not film.
Producer Kevin Feige describes The Avengers as Marvel’s “disaster movie.” The film will have huge scale destruction and the fate of Earth hangs in the balance.
When asked about casualties, Kevin responded that there will be long term consequences from things that happen into this film.
Joss Whedon has done more previs on this movie than any movie Marvel has ever done, and it’s because there is much more action.
The Avengers is the biggest budgeted film Marvel Studios has ever made.
We saw action scenes filmed by the second unit featuring men in performance capture suits with crazy alien weaponry. No one in the production would talk to us about this aspect of the production. When we asked Feige about the Skrulls being in the movie, he responded that The Skulls are not in the film.
Where it all begins:
- Even though The Avengers is a sequel to all the Marvel movies that have come before it, they made sure to give every character “an introduction in this movie as if they never had a movie before.”
- The story begins from SHIELD’s point of view. As you know, SHIELD an organization in charge of the safety of the world. An event occurs which causes problems for Nick Fury, and he must try to get this group to come together and fight the threat.
- Thor is already back on Earth, and how he got back is explained
- Thor’s brother Loki is involved in the Chaos and Thor attempts to be hands on in the solution. Thor believes that Loki is still redeemable, while others do not.
- Hawkeye is on his own mission for most of this story.
- Bruce Banner has gotten past what happened in the previous Hulk movies. He has not transformed into The Hulk in years and SHIELD isn’t after him to be the Hulk. SHIELD has him aboard the Hellicarrier helping with some important lab work — they need Banner for his Gamma expertise.
- Captain America is struggling with the change in society, morals, values, and also technology.
- Black Widow is on anther mission when we find her.
The relationships in The Avengers:
- Avengers has less of a love story than any of the previous Marvel films.
- Natalie Portman does not appear in Avengers, and it is explained why that Thor subplot isn’t continued in this movie. Jane Foster’s plot will be continued in Thor 2.
- Black Widow and Hawkeye have a history together, having fought a lot together and worked with each other for years as agents of SHIELD. When asked if we see the characters in a romantic situation, Scarlett Johansson quipped “There’s no time for romance, we have shit to Avenge.”
- Robert Downey Jr. on his relationship with Captain America: “imagine you met your long lost brother who was your father’s favorite and is town but doesn’t want to hang out.”
- Jeremy Renner describes his character as a loner in general, because he is a sniper.
- Agent Coulson meets Bruce Banner and Captain America for the first time in this movie. In the Marvel Universe, everyone grew up idolizing Captain America. So it’s a big day for Agent Coulson when he first meets the Cap. Clark Gregg describes Agent Coulson’s job in The Avengers: He needs to get all the rockstars together on the stage at the right time.
- Loki’s actions are hard for the Avengers to nail down. Tom Hiddleston described his role in the film as “he is a chess master ten steps ahead of the game, and he’s playing everyone so beautifully” Loki is trying to manipulate the situation by going to each of the characters separately and play good cop/bad cop so that he can disassemble the group. Joss says that Loki is the prime villain and that he didn’t want to talk about the secondary villains because Loki is really the prime mover.
New looks for our superheros:
- Captain America sports an updated costume. Chris Evans says Captain America’s new suit is a lot easier to do action scenes in, and that his cowl is so much more like the comic book version, and less like a helmet
- Iron Man will have a couple new suits. Iron Man will start off with a Mark 7 armor and later transition to Mark 8.
- Hulk is completely redesigned from when we last saw him
- Loki will have a roughed up look with the same costume
- Some minor tweaks have been made to the Thor costume which gives it “more edge” (also: no cape on Hellicarrier)
They shot exteriors in Cleveland to substitute for New York City, and also planned for 4-5 days in NYC with the main cast at the end of the shoot.
Tom Hiddleston (Loki) didn’t even know he was going to be in The Avengers until February when Joss sent him the script, just over two months before filming began.
Clark Gregg (SHIELD Agent Coulson) also joked that he rarely knows he has a job on the next Marvel movie until the last minute when he gets a phone call.
Mark Ruffalo signed on to do The Avengers before he even saw the script, which he had never done before. Mark claims that he told Joss not to write him into scenes if he’s just going to be standing around, and Joss assured him that he would have a great character arc.
Joss Whedon joked that he’s still working on the script and he hopes to finish it sometime before the DVD release
After being offered the role, Mark Ruffalo called his friend Ed Norton to ask if he should take the part. Norton told him to do it, and Mark says they joke that playing the Hulk is our generation’s Hamlet.
The first time Tom Hiddleston read the script, he didn’t look at his watch once. Hiddleston read it in one sitting and ended by saying to himself “that’s amazing”. He was most impressed with how Joss put all the characters together and made it feel new.
Clark Gregg calls The Avengers “one of the best superhero scripts I’ve ever read”
Mark Ruffalo describes Joss a confident writer, which makes him “very collaborative.”
The fish out of water humor in Thor has been expanded to Loki in The Avengers
Joss saw Loki as “a damaged soul looking for his purpose in the universe.”
The story is partly about “the healing power of being part of a team.”
Mark Ruffalo is the only actor to play both Bruce Banner and The Hulk.
- You will be able to see Mark Ruffalo‘s performance in the computer animated Incredible Hulk.
- Ruffalo looked a lot at gorillas for research on how to play The Hulk.
- When Ruffalo puts the motion capture suit on in the mocap studio, he sees a version of The Hulk on the monitors in real time, like a virtual costume.
- On set, Ruffalo sometimes he acts as The Hulk on top of a table so that the eyeliner will work with the the other actors looking up at an 8.5 foot tall Hulk. Mark felt like an outsider on set, everyone else had kick ass costumes to wear but he was stick in dinky mocap clothes. The other cast would make fun of him.
- Ruffalo also voices the Hulk but jokes that “it doesn’t have all the components of a sentence.”
- He will also do three days of performance refinement at ILM after the production, looking at monitors for feedback.
Ruffalo on watching Banner in the previous films: “it’s hard to watch a movie about a guy who doesn’t want to be there.”
Joss wrote four pages of dialogue options for the cast to say in an important scene where The Avengers reunite at the climax of the story. The result ended up being four lines in the finished movie.
Scarlett Johansson says that Black Widow employs combination of hand to hand combat fighting styles.
Ruffalo plays Bruce Banner as almost a throwback to Bill Bixby, with a charm about him and the ability to crack a joke.
The SHIELD’s Hellicarrier is Huge. Imagine an aircraft carrier which lifts up into the skies.
Stark Tower, a central location in this film, is a skyscraper right behind grand central station in NYC. It is where the MET Life building stands.
Joss asked Samuel L Jackson if there is anything he wanted for his character and Jackson responded “no, but thanks for asking. I just want to run.”
Whedon on Stan Lee‘s cameo: “You’re going to see a side of Stan Lee you haven’t seen before.”
Updates on Future Marvel Movie and Television Projects:
The story that Shane Black developed for Iron Man 3 brings Tony Stark back into his own world 00 it wouldn’t be too connected with The Avengers
Natalie Portman is not in Avengers, and it is explained why that Thor subplot isn’t continued in this movie. Jane Foster’s plot will be continued in Thor 2.
Marvel isn’t currently developing another Hulk movie, but Mark Ruffalo‘s contract allows for the possibility. Ruffalo says he would love the opportunity to do a Hulk movie.
Clark Gregg revealed that he has had talks with Marvel about writing something for the studio. Greg wrote the 2000 Robert Zemeckis film What Lies Beneath, and the 2008 film adaptation of Choke (which he also directed)
Marvel Studios are plotting out their storyline towards 2015
The Avengers is being looked at as a new franchise for Marvel, not just a one off team-up movie. We should expect an Avengers sequel in two or three years (by 2016).
TV projects, like the announced Hulk series, will probably not be part of the shared Marvel movie universe. Feige says that the Hulk tv series “will concentrate on a different part of Banner’s life and journey.”
Marvel has had discussions about the prospect of an animated superhero movie, which could be done at either Disney or Pixar.
Both Kevin Feige and Clark Gregg would love to see a SHIELD tv series, but who knows if that will actually happen.
The Avengers Set Visit Video Blogs:
- · :02 Intros
- · :58 Talk about the guarded nature of the set visit.
- · 1:27 Steve and Peter talk about how happy they were to be on the set of The Avengers.
- · 3:00 Their interview with Chris Hemsworth. Reiterate that everyone was really guarded. Hemsworth revealed that Thor is on Earth when The Avengers begins and he said there are a couple of lines of dialogue that explain why Natalie Portman isn’t there.
- · 4:15 They learned that every character has a moment to shine in the movie, and all the actors had great things to say about the script.
- · 4:46 Hemsworth said when he was working on Cabin in the Woods before he had the role of Thor, Joss Whedon gave him comic books to read to prepare for the audition.
- · 5:24 The Avengers is the disaster movie of the Marvel universe. Talk about the amount of destruction in the film.
- · 6:12 Their interview with Tom Hiddleston. The actor told a story about meeting with Whedon after he wrapped Thor and spending hours talking about the character.
- · 7:08 Hiddleston revealed that Loki has a key scene with nearly every member of The Avengers alone.
- · 7:34 Hiddleston said that Whedon made the film about the healing power of being part of a team. Talk about how articulate and insightful Hiddleston was about his character.
- · 8:41 Talk about a key scene between Loki and Black Widow where they sort of mirror each other.
- · 9:49 Their interview with Kevin Feige, President of Production for Marvel Entertainment. He described the movie as being from the point of view of S.H.I.E.L.D.
- · 10:56 Talk about what Feige had to say about the recruitment of The Avengers.
- · 11:32 The future of Marvel films. What Feige had to say about how The Avengers will affect the stories in future Marvel movies.
- · 12:32 This is the first time the actor playing the Hulk is also doing the motion-capture.
- · 12:53 Feige hinted at leading up to a big event movie in 2015.
- · 13:18 Talk about the 3D. Feige said on every Marvel movie they’ve done, it’s been up to the filmmaker to either shoot in 3D or post-convert. Joss Whedon shot the tag in Thor in 3D as a test to see if he wanted to shoot 3D for The Avengers, but he wasn’t crazy about the filming process.
- · 14:16 Whedon did more pre-vis for the action sequences than any Marvel movie they’ve ever done.
- · 14:57 Feige hinted at doing an animated Marvel movie.
- · 15:33 The sets. Talk about the helicarrier bridge. Peter says he didn’t picture it this big. They fit 75 costumed extras on the bridge.
- · 17:03 Talk about seeing a research lab set and the containment chamber.
- · 18:24 Tony Stark’s NYC penthouse set. They say it was huge.
- · 19:02 They filmed for two weeks in the helicarrier and for two weeks in Stark’s penthouse.
- · 19:32 The lack of romantic subplot in the film.
- · 20:04 Closing thoughts.
- · :02 Intros
- · :46 Talk about going around the art room at looking at pretty much everything from the movie. Talk about the enormity of the helicarrier.
- · 1:58 Seeing art from Stark Tower. A lot of the action takes place around that area, and 20% of the movie takes place on the helicarrier. What the Enterprise is for Star Trek, the helicarrier is for S.H.I.E.L.D.
- · 2:39 Talk about the change in Iron Man’s armor. He’s refined the process so that as he lands and walks down the pathway to his penthouse, the armor is taken off. At some point in the film he switches to the Mark VIII armor.
- · 3:50 Steve says after learning what he learned about the movie, he was giddy. The action is ramped up a lot from the previous Marvel movies.
- · 4:52 Talk about Iron Man, Thor and Captain America talking/fighting in a forest.
- · 5:33 They saw concept art of Bruce Banner in Calcutta. He hasn’t transformed into the Hulk in a few years and thinks he’s gained control back. S.H.I.E.L.D. wants Banner for his brain, not for the Hulk.
- · 6:30 Talk about their interview with Mark Ruffalo. The actor implied that Marvel may be moving towards having Bruce Banner able to control the Hulk. His take on the Hulk has a bit more humor.
- · 8:28 Wrapping up the production art room.
- · 9:03 When filming wrapped, Ruffalo went to ILM for three days for more motion-capture. When he’s filming motion-capture, Ruffalo is able to see the Hulk move as he moves. Hulk is gonna be eight and a half feet tall, and Ruffalo called Edward Norton before he took the role.
- · 10:29 *MILD SPOILER WARNING* Describe watching a scene between Tony Stark and Captain America.
- · 12:41 *MILD SPOILERS END* Talk about how cool it was to watch Tony Stark and Captain America do a scene together.
- · 13:20 Talk about watching a scene take place in a train yard. They put green screen all on the inside of a warehouse on a set the size of a football field and a half. It’s supposed to be the area outside of Grand Central Station.
- · 14:41 In the action scene, they saw Jeremy Renner fighting guys in motion-capture suits. Talk about the crazy action sequence that made great use of Hawkeye’s bow.
- · 16:07 They learned that there’s a ton of second-unit on The Avengers. Whedon likes to shoot everything himself, but the sheer size and scope of the film made it impossible for him to do second-unit.
- · 16:37 Talk about the relationship and chemistry between Hawkeye and Black Widow. They’ve been members of S.H.I.E.L.D. together for years so they have a rapport.
- · 17:51 Their interview with Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Evans. Talk about trying to come up with the right dialogue for the scene when The Avengers actually assemble. Whedon went away for a few minutes and came back with four alternate versions of the scene that the actors could choose from.
- · 19:35 The relationship between Tony Stark and Captain America. Talk about the link between Stark’s father and Captain America.
- · 20:30 Their interview with Joss Whedon. He talked about the creation of the script and how Marvel gave him a basic skeleton outline of the film when he signed on.
- · 21:33 Whedon told a story about going on vacation right after he got the job and how he couldn’t stop coming up with storylines and dialogue while he was on vacation.
- · 22:20 What Whedon had to say about 3D and why he chose to post-convert The Avengers.
- · 22:41 Talk about them shooting the film with the ARRI Alexa.
- · 23:07 The stakes in the film. Whedon needed to create a sense of danger for the main characters that we know won’t die.
- · 24:02 Whedon was adamant that The Avengers stand alone as a movie and not be a sequel to Thor, Iron Man and Captain America.
- · 24:38 Whedon’s reasoning for wanting a classical-sounding score.
- · 25:09 Wrap up. Talk about their take-away from the set visit. Peter says the scale is much bigger than the other Marvel movies.
- · 26:59 Peter talks about being worried about the action sequences and Whedon’s direction, and says he was really impressed by what they saw. Peter and Steve talk about what Whedon will bring to the movie.