Exclusive: Joss Whedon on the agony of writing the Age of Ultron script

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Apr 30, 2015

If you're a longtime fan of Joss Whedon's work, then it's likely you fell in love with the man's mad word skills somewhere back in his Buffy, Angel and Firefly writing days.  His prowess with the pen led him to the director's chair, where he could control how his words came to life, and on the strength of that, he's now a big-time blockbuster filmmaker with two Avengers films on his resume. However, Whedon admits to Blastr, in an exclusive chat, that wrangling the words for Avengers: Age of Ultron was way harder than he hoped, or wanted.

After the success of Avengers, was it easier to put together the Age of Ultron script?

Joss Whedon: It's tough, because in some ways I would like to have been able to say, "I nailed it in the first draft and we're off to the races!" But that's not what happened, or what ever happens -- except Cabin in the Woods was pretty much a first draft with a polish -- but usually, something like this is too hard, still finding it. The fact of the matter is, I was still writing the whole time I was filming, and I was still writing the whole time I was editing, partially because you are always trying to come up with a new, better idea, partially because something we thought would work didn't, or you need to drive it home. It's also a studio thing of "Well, shoot everything and we'll create the movie after the fact." It's how studios in general operate, and it's not my favorite way to work. But with something this massive, it's a little bit of an inevitability.

Aside from the obvious comic-book importance, why did you want to use Ultron as the Big Bad of the piece?

For me, I liked the idea of Ultron originally because, first of all, he was their uber-villain, historically. Also, he was a mad, self-replicating, artificial intelligence robot, so he was a worthy opponent physically. I also loved the idea of just playing somebody who was not like a robot, and not all calm and logical. I think the performance Spader created with ILM [Industrial Light & Magic] is indelible. It's going to be remembered as really special, insane, and funny, and really cool.

Why add the twins, Wanda and Pietro Maximoff [Elizabeth Olsen and Aaron Taylor-Johnson], to the mix when you have Ultron?

Wanda and Pietro teaming up with him was really about finding people who were not on board with the Avengers as a concept. With Wanda in the film, she has some telekinesis, and she a little bit of mind manipulation, so we really get to see into what make the Avengers tick, or what they are afraid of. With Ultron, because he has access into every recorded thing that has ever happened, he knows them really well, as well. For people to see into them and know them that well, and not like them, and believe they are actually the problem -- and not be totally wrong -- is what's interesting. Certainly the twins have a valid and emotional perspective on what these people are. And Ultron, for all the fun I have with him, has enormous pain about what the Avengers represent, and what they are attempting to do, and what they are doing wrong.

Critics and audiences were vocal about hoping to see more of Natasha [Scarlett Johansson], Banner [Mark Ruffalo] and Clint [Jeremy Renner] in this film. Were they a priority for you in this outing?

I'm always more interested in the peripheral characters. I also have a little more freedom with those characters because I'm less restricted by "Well, we need the next movie ... and the last movie was ... they may have been ...", so there's more to maneuver. And I am interested in those characters, too, because Natasha and the Hulk/Banner are very fascinating to me. Clint, in the first movie, was all about being reserved and laid back. He's still that guy, but we get to see a little more why, and we get to see a little of his weirdness. There's a dark thing about him that separates him from the team in a way that was very exciting to me. Letting Jeremy and Mark and Scarlett have that time to play was really exciting. Now, of course, everybody gets to play. That's how my filmmaking works. It's why, in every TV show, every movie, I want everybody in it to shine as much as they possibly can and to have as much fun and to have a new challenge, so they feel they are coming into this film with some meat to chew on. And every single one of them gave me great footage in return. They were so dedicated and so much fun. But yeah, it was nice to see these ... especially because, in a way, they are also the three weakest characters. Banner may be the strongest, but in a way he's not comfortable with, and then, when he's Banner, he's a nebbish and, thanks to Mark, a huge goof. I'm afraid we didn't get to put in as much as he did. Hawkeye and Natasha come from different worlds. When we say "Earth's Mightiest Heroes," everybody sits there and looks at them for a second. [Laughs]

Is there no Marvel movie that could tempt you back, like Ms. Marvel?

At the end of the day, I think it's time for me to create something of my own. It's been too long. Marvel has given me the greatest opportunity to have fun that a human being can get, and they gave it to me twice. I definitely would like to do something small, about one person, but I haven't created anything on my own in five years plus, and that's enough of that.

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