SFX WHEDON SPECIAL PREVIEW: The Avengers

Joss Whedon talks exclusively to SFX about his biggest directing challenge yet

In late July, the long-swirling rumour that Joss Whedon was writing and directing Marvel Studios’ colossal, perfect storm of superhero movies, The Avengers, was finally confirmed at Comic-Con. Joss admits he’s been on the project for some time with Marvel boss Kevin Feige, as well as re-writing Captain America (currently in front of the cameras with Chris Evans filling the blue Spandex), and figuring out how to merge four superhero franchises into one cohesive film.

Daunting, much? Whedon would say tiring is more like it, but his voice lights up with passion as soon as he talking about the project in the SFX Worlds Of Whedon special. “I’m feeling that everything that I have done before has prepared me for this, besides the fact that I’ve been reading The Avengers since I was 11.”

But Whedon fanboys are already chattering that the sheer magnitude of the endeavour won’t allow him to do what he does best, which is tell character stories. The man himself disagrees: “There are definitely stipulations and restrictions, but Kevin Feige is very active as a producer and worked with me a lot on the story, but they are absolutely honouring the fact that this is my film. What I kind of think ultimately defines Marvel Studios was the first thing they did and that was cast Robert Downey Jr. They said, ‘What if we got great actors and let them have some time to be the people they’re supposed to be instead of going through the paces of hitting this mark and that mark?’ They don’t always ?get it right, but nobody does. But if ?you look at who they already had, and who they allowed me to add to the cast, they are thinking about the integrity of the characters. Obviously we have to get from point A to point B, and fans really want to see this  – and ideas for set-pieces which I said are great. Now I’m going to make them matter and they are completely on board with the idea.”

In the outlining phase of scripting, Whedon admits it’s “been a bear and I’m still doing it because it’s finding out how to introduce people to all of these people in this world.” He mocks his predicament: “’By the way, there’s a thunder god. You guys are cool, right? This guy is big and green and this character wears an American flag. It’s all good, right? It’s totally real world.’ Finding the tone and plots that are coherent is what I go to bed thinking about and wake up thinking about, but it’s doable.

“What I will struggle with, in the outline and throughout, is that I would like to put these actors in a room and just make Glengarry Glen Ross,” he laughs. “We’re talking about really exciting people and at the same time I have to keep the momentum of the thing going. I can’t let it turn into a lull fest. Knowing that I have enough time to do both of those things – that by the end of the movie you will feel ‘in’ with these guys – is the trick. It’s not an easy one but one that Marvel absolutely honours. They don’t hire Mark Ruffalo [the new Hulk] to say one iconic line and strike a pose. They hire him because he has so much humanity in him. He’s the antithesis of the iconic actor. He’s so human. He was my first choice to play the part, and the fact he is playing the part is nuts! They went to great lengths to make that happen and they understood exactly why he was right for the part.”