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Director of upcoming summer blockbuster ‘The Avengers’ talks about the process

Interview | Joss Whedon

Published: Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Updated: Tuesday, April 24, 2012 05:04

Joss Whedon

Craig Gobler via Flickr Creative Commons

Director Joss Whedon, whose film ‘The Avengers’ hits theaters on May 4, discussed the inspiration for the film with college media from across the country.

As part of a promotional campaign for the highly anticipated Marvel Studios production, “The Avengers,” director and writer Joss Whedon recently took part in a college press conference, fielding questions from students across the country.

Question: How did you become attached to this project?

Joss Whedon:  I’ve known [Marvel Studios President] Kevin Feige for a while. I’ve known comics for a lot longer and I think Marvel has a great nose for a director who has a passionate vision, who’s not famous for turning out big-budget hits but will bring something a little bit fresh to the concept of a hero movie. It’s one of the things that I respect the most about them. It just seemed like a good fit. The only other movie I’ve made had a very similar problem: How do you structure a story that some people know very well, and other people don’t know at all? … I think they regret it now, but, too late [Laughs].

Q:  What was your process for writing the film? Did you already have a directorial vision when you were penning the screenplay?

JW: Yes, I did. Half of writing a script is writing visually, figuring out what you need it to look and feel like as much [it is about] what they’re going to say. The process, therefore, was pretty organic, particularly because we had such a tight schedule. They needed some things to be worked on before I’d even written the script. So I was writing visual cues and action and descriptions before I had finished structuring the story.

Q: How did you mentally prepare yourself to carry on the stories of all these established superheroes with an already fervent backing?

JW: I am the fervent backing, so it wasn’t that hard to key in. I’ve done a lot of work for things that already exist. I’ve worked on the “X-Men” [films], I wrote an “Alien” movie and, in working as a script doctor, you come in after things have been established. On a TV show, even if you’re the one who established it, every time you write a script, you’re dealing with an established universe.

Q: Because Marvel is attempting to create an interlocking film universe, did you feel the need to maintain a directing style, an aesthetic similar to work of the other Marvel Studio directors?

JW:  There’s no way you could make a movie that looked like a Jon Favreau, Kenneth Branagh, Joe Johnston or Louis Leterrier movie. You have to take from each of them the thing that is useful and will jive with the rest of them. I do think the DNA of the Marvel movie begins with “Iron Man,” and that’s very grounded in the real. I tend to be a tiny bit florid with my camera work and my dialogue, but hopefully in a way that feels like a realistic version of a comic book universe. My own style is actually kind of smack dab in the middle of what all those guys do.

Q:  Did you have any particular combination of superheroes that you thought were the most interesting to see interact?

JW:  You know, the tragedy of the movie is that you don’t get to have scenes of everybody interacting because they are all so interesting up against each other. I love the Bruce Banner/Tony Stark relationship. Bruce is the first guy Tony’s come across that really operates on his level intellectually, who isn’t a villain. So the way Tony nudges him and Tony’s particular attitude about the Hulk is both endearing and cool. But I also love Tony and Steve and how much they can’t stand each other.

Q: College students have a lot of options this summer with movies to see during their break. Why should “The Avengers” be first on their viewing list?

JW: I think “The Avengers” is the kind of movie that I grew up wanting to make and thought they had stopped making. When I grew up, the summer movie was literally created as a concept, and all my life I wanted to do something like that, something like the first “Indiana Jones,” something that was steeped in character, in love of the genre that it was portraying, that had intelligence, real acting and a story that wasn’t just a sort of big premise you already knew going in. More and more summer movies have felt a little cynical —… they’re not interested in a story, they’re interested in barraging you with excitement, imagery and brand names. Marvel doesn’t operate that way. They care about the people. That’s why they hire some of the best actors in the business to play their heroes. This is an old-fashioned movie, and it’s a little bit bigger than life, but it’s very human.

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