Robert Downey Jr and Scarlett Johansson in The Avengers
Tony Stark has such a big personality. How is he going to fit into an ensemble cast?
If you look at the evolution of Tony Stark in the two Iron Man films, he is growing toward being able to do Headline1 something like The Avengers. The first film is his origin story and he has an epiphany and redemption of sorts. The second film is about making space for others in his insular world and dealing with certain legacy issues. Now, if Tony Stark was at home and Thor walked in, he’d think it was hilarious. He knows that his dad was into some trippy stuff, but as an engineer and a scientist, as someone who thinks in terms of all the possibilities, he would think, ‘You know, this just might be possible’.
As an actor, does it change the dynamic of the film if you’re not the lead?
I know that I like having leverage and influence, but in the wrong situations, with the wrong people, that can create chaos. Plus, everybody works a different way. When you have seven, eight or 10 people in a room, six of whom are principals, you can’t turn and say to just one person, ‘Let’s stop for a minute and workshop this.’ That would be inconsiderate to all of the other actors.
What was your response on hearing Joss Whedon was directing The Avengers?
I told the people who work at my production company and they all got so excited. They gave me an education on why he was perfect for the job. One of the big reasons that Joss was the perfect guy is that he also wrote it. During a scene I can say, ‘Is this really quite right?’ and he goes, ‘I don’t know. Let me get back to you.’ Ten minutes later, he has three pages of options for me to try.
I think of myself as an actor who also writes, starting with the first Iron Man, then moving on to Tropic Thunder, Sherlock Holmes, Due Date. I like to wear both hats because that way I have more of a sense of ownership and responsibility. I like to think that I’m co-creating. With this film, it’s like I’m working with someone else’s kid, but Joss brings over all of these different kids and I get to say, ‘Well, that one’s kind of cute.’
How was the dynamic between the actors? You have a pretty impressive cast...
One of the greatest things about making the film is that I like everyone in the cast so much. I know Scarlett (Johansson) and I’m crazy about her. I feel like a big brother to her and I have a feeling we’ll wind up doing stuff together in the future.
As for Chris Hemsworth, I went and saw Thor and I said, ‘You know, Kenneth Branagh did a great job directing this and everyone’s great in the movie, but the reason it was a hit was because of what Chris brought to the role.’
I don’t really need to say anything about Jeremy Renner. The guy is a very serious actor who doesn’t take himself seriously at all.
I know Mark Ruffalo from life and from Zodiac. He’s a mensch and an incredible actor.
I’m extremely fond of Chris Evans. One of the things I love about him is that he’s a tough guy from Boston but he’s also a sensitive artiste. He really has an opinion.
Sam Jackson fits into the same category as Renner. What are you going to say? Everybody knows what’s great about him.
Ultimately, I think what’s most interesting about this cast is that everybody’s a nice person.
Do you think you want to play Tony Stark for a long period of time?
I’ve seen people become ungrateful about the very thing that’s giving them all of the other opportunities they have and I don’t want to do that. Then again, I have no idea what my predictive powers are at this point. They’re pretty negligible, I’m afraid.
Did it feel like you were making film history while shooting The Avengers?
Sometimes in the moment I would just go, ‘Wow, look at this! Look at little Hemsworth over there, just kicking it. And there’s Evans. He’s got his cowl off. He’s over at the craft services table.’ I just thought, ‘Wow, what a sweet deal.’ I tried to appreciate things while they’re happening.
After you appeared in Iron Man 2 as Black Widow, did you think your character would go on to appear in other Marvel films?
I’m such a huge fan of the Widow. I enjoy bringing my ideas of how she would look and act, sculpting her. I’ve never been able to return to a character before. So, in a way, putting on the suit is like, ‘Ah, the old familiar friend.’ You know where you’re going with the character and you have all of this history to fall back on.
The thing I love about the Widow is that she is all business. She’s sort of in a grey area; she’s not patriotic like Captain America. In a sense she’s been fighting the good fight, despite her dark background. But she’s committed because she has to be and her moral ground is more dutiful. She’s militaristic in that way; that’s how she knows right from wrong. That kind of attitude is what I love about her. She’s just a machine; you can’t get her down. But you can almost get her down.
What is your new costume like?
Black Widow’s costume is pretty much the same. But I do have two guns now instead of one, and I do use them. It’s been nice to have the weapons and actually fire them.
There are so many renditions of Black Widow, whether it’s fan art or comic art that was so ’60s and
space-agey. Eventually she moves more into a utilitarian look and there are a lot of different costumes and hairstyles that come with that. Some are sexier or more over the top and others are gritty and dirty. Although she’s sexy, Black Widow’s never shied away from the grittiness of the character.
Did you learn any new fight styles for this film?
We definitely embraced Wushu [Chinese martial arts] a lot and there’s a lot more weaponry in this movie that I had to learn. But Black Widow isn’t always about the twirly stuff — she does some extreme damage with the butt of her gun and isn’t afraid to go there.
Can you talk about the tone of the film?
It’s like, ‘What are we all doing there?’ You have a Russian spy, an archer, a Nordic god from another planet, a man in an iron suit, another guy who’s been cryogenically frozen, and a monster. Basically you take all of these characters and put them into an unbelievable situation that you try to make reality. I think that Joss (Whedon) did a brilliant job by giving a nod to the fan-boy world and also giving fans of big action movies something to escape to for a couple of hours. There’s betrayal; there’s suspicion. These are real feelings and I think the audience will relate to them just as they did in Iron Man, Thor and Captain America.
What makes this film stand out?
The cast is just insane. When do you ever get to see this group of actors come together in this kind of fantasy world? It’s everything Joss loves about fantasy, which is being able to escape into this ultimate kind of otherworldly reality, but still have it be heartfelt and sincere.
WHAT IS The AVENGERS?
Based on the ever-popular Marvel comic book series first published in 1963, The Avengers assembles Earth’s mightiest superheroes to save the world from disaster. The film centres around Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson)’s secret peacekeeping force S.H.I.E.L.D., which unites Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, Black Widow, Hawkeye, Pepper Potts and The Hulk to thwart nemesis Loki.