While in L.A. for the Avengers Event our group of bloggers had the chance to chat with Avengers: Age of Ultron cast members Paul Bettany (Javious/The Vision) & James Spader (Ultron).
Two very talented actors with long impressive resumes. To be honest, I was a bit nervous, and star struck to sit at this table. Turned out, I had nothing to be nervous about. It was an incredible experience to talk with both of actors. They were both professional, and very generous with their answers. James Spader was just as you would imagine him – incredibly articulate, forthcoming, and very charming. He sure can tell a story, and has a way of taking over a room. In a good way. Below are some of the highlights from that interview.
James kicked off our conversation by sharing details of what it was like to film as Ultron..
I had multiple sessions doing additional dialog recording. But it really was sort of new stuff to further define, clarify, and so on, and sort of distill the prism. Most of the dialog that you hear in the movie and most of what you’re looking at, we shot on the set just in a fairly conventional fashion.
It didn’t feel conventional at the time, considering everything I was in. The dialog was all from what we shot on the set doing scenes with the other actors as you would in any film. And I was so pleased ’cause I haven’t seen the final film, but I was very pleased that I saw a lot of footage during post production.
So, I sort of saw big sections of the entire film. And even in its sort of formative stages, it was remarkable to see. I haven’t seen face really yet fine-tuned ’cause that’s the most sort of precise and infinitesimal thing that they do in terms of trying to take advantage of my expressions and translate them into a metal guy.
I was amazed that I saw, with this magnificent body, and made out of vibranium and all the rest of it, this sort of technological wonder. To actually see my 55-year-old sort of very comfy, physique, and to see all of my sort of gestures and posture and movements and expression and all of it was there. And then my son did see the film a couple of days ago.
And I said, “But how about the face?” And he says, “You know, I see you in the face.” He said, “Amazingly enough, considering it doesn’t really have a nose.” And he said, “I really saw your eyes and your expression and certainly head movements, everything. I saw it all there.” So it was worth it to go through all of the arduous process of motion capture, which is fascinating actually. Do you mind if I tell you just very quickly? Sorry Paul that, uh…
PAUL: No, no, no. I’ll just have a snooze.
JAMES: I’m just excited about it because somebody in an interview just before this had asked specifically about this and I hadn’t thought about it until now. But the very first day that I walked onto the studio lot, before I ever hit a set or anything, within a half hour, I walked into a room and, they had cameras set up around the room. The room was a big empty room, and there were cameras set up around and there was a bunch of guys with a whole bunch of laptops—and women—and so on, all sitting around.
And they put me in a fractal suit, which is just sort of a two-piece or looks like you’re gonna go for a run, but has shapes and colors and things and all over it. And then they dotted up my face and they, put a big rig on my back and a big headgear rig that had two sort of antenna that come down that are cameras that are right here with headlights right here, so I’m lit right here.
And they had me go through a range of motions. And then they put it into some program on the computer or something. Also set up around the room were these monitors, and in 15 minutes I could walk in my outfit into the center of the room and turn my head, move my fingers, and I could look at a monitor and see a sort of formative stage of Ultron doing everything I was doing.
So right from the very first moment I arrived there I could start getting a sense of what physicality would be appropriate for that 8-foot robot. And there was a guy there, quite small, who would’ve been proportionate to my height. I’m 5’ 10”. He was very small, sort of proportionate height to what, not Chris Hemsworth, but maybe what an average height Avenger might be in proportion to me if I was 8 feet tall.
And he was wearing a fractal suit; he was a stunt guy. He was wearing a fractal suit and all the gear as well, and they made him do the range of motion and everything else, and within 15 minutes he and I would go move around the room and he was a different character and so I was able to see right away me as an 8-foot Ultron with another actor who’s a proportionate height to what an average-sized person would be.
It was really amazing. So right from the very first moment I was already getting a sense of how to perform for this character.
This question is for Paul. We always knew you as Jarvis. What was your reaction when you found out that you would be The Vision?
PAUL: It was sort of vindication really because…I had just come out of a meeting with a producer who told me my career was over. And I, um, this is a true story. And I sat on the curb in Hollywood with my feet in the gutter and my phone went and I looked at it and went, “Hello?” I didn’t recognize the number and it was Joss Whedon. He said, “Do you want to play The Vision?” And I went, “Um,” it’s so quick these days, “yeah, I kinda do.” True story. So it was lovely.
How was it different for you on set? In the other movies where you’re playing Jarvis were you there interacting with the other actors or…?
PAUL: I was brought in at the last moment to solve any clarity, uh, issues the film had which was my superhero power as Jarvis. What was the difference? The difference was I had to go to the gym. I had to stop eating carbs. I finally got to be on set with a bunch of really lovely, creative, talented people.
JAMES: I did not have to cut back on carbs. Somehow amazingly enough, those animators were able to slim me right down.
For Paul – how much of the Vision was makeup and CGI?
PAUL: It was a lot of makeup! I would sit in the chair and then you would wait for eternity for it to come and then you’d be… done. So it’s all real, from about here (motions to face) forward the prosthetic, well the prosthetic actually stops here, and then this was painted purple.
They would have tracking dots so that they would then move the circuitry on my face and my musculature could move, and you could still see me express things. We tried having full prosthetics that went over everything and we lost a lot of expression in the face. So thankfully… because that was really, really uncomfortable.
WARNING: SPOILER ALERT! If you don’t want to know, skip the next question.
For Paul – what’s it like being the only other superhero who can wield Thor’s hammer?
PAUL: I’m not sure I’m even allowed to talk about that. I think that’s number one in bold print on my things not to talk about. If you want another question…
James: Now I can say, I think it’s rather impressive.
I have a question for James. You have played the bad guy we love to hate in so many of your films.
JAMES SPADER: You don’t hate him. [LAUGHS]
Question for James. Did you have to be convinced to play Ultron?
JAMES: We had met about two to three years prior…Joss Whedon, I had met with Kevin Feige and Jeremy Latcham. My agent is also Sam Jackson’s agent. And, so she’s very in tune with what’s going on in the Marvel world. And, I have three sons.I have never in my entire career ever chosen a film to work on for the sake of my children. And most of the films that I’ve done they really shouldn’t, shouldn’t watch. Both my mother and father have sat through some… they’re both passed away… but they both have sat, lovingly, through, you know, just an array of perverted little movies that I’ve made. But in any case I wanted my second son… and he was about seven. He’s now 21 or 22. I’m terrible at ages, but in any case he was about 18 at the time, something like that, 18 or 19. And he had all, he loved comics and loved superhero movies and fantasy and, you know, all that stuff. He just loved it. And then, uh, by circumstance I also at the time, I had a three-year-old son, again, and he was already sort of raiding his brother’s little figures and little things like that and was excited about it. And I just thought, I just want to make a film for them, you know? So I went in and I sat down with Kevin Feige and Jeremy Latcham and they had reached out to my agent and said, “You know, we’d love to sit down with James.” So I sat down with him and I said, “I just would love to do one of these things and just be such fun.” And I told him (Kevin Feige), the reasons why and I think he really responded to that ’cause that’s his fan base, you know? …all of a sudden, like, about two or three years after that meeting, Joss Whedon walked into their offices and said, “You know, I don’t really have anyone else for this role except for James Spader.” And they said, “Well, funny you should mention that ’cause we’ve been trying to find the, the right thing. And so the next thing was a phone call from Joss and, as soon as I spoke to him and .. I’m sorry. I’ve never been able to answer anything in a short and precise… But anyway I said, “What the hell can I bring to an eight foot robot, you know? That’s not my skill set.”
Is there any part of your humor in Ultron?
Okay. Cause we definitely see your mannerisms.
PAUL: (jokingly) And his world view, in fact. Global devastation and James’…
JAMES: I’m a great believer in chaos. But… but no, yes. Yes. I think that’s true in any film or television show or play or, I mean, anything you do. I think that if the casting works, you’ve been cast because that person intuitively knows, that director intuitively knows that what they need, you’re going to be able to provide. And he was specifically looking for that. He was looking for that sense of humor. And he was looking for that irreverence in marriage with the other aspects…. We would play with things and I’d make a suggestion. But I really was very faithful to what he was writing because he was really writing it so specifically to me.
PAUL: And if you’re looking for a James Spader type there’s not many places to go, you know. It’s, like, there’s a one-stop shop.
JAMES: And I think the reason why he probably walked in to Kevin Feige and said, “James Spader’s who I’m thinking about for this and I don’t really have anyone else on the list,” is ’cause I think he probably, he’d already written to that.
At the end of each interview during the Avengers Event a group photo was taken…
JAMES after our photo: Is that it? Oh my God…It seems like we should dump something else and just stay here for a little bit.
Like I said in the beginning, charming… which makes me just a little bit more of a James Spader fan than I was before. If that is even possible.
Be sure to check out our already shared interviews with Jeremy Renner (Hawkeye) & Cobie Smulders (Agent Maria Hill) ,Chris Evans (Captain America) and Chris Hemsworth (Thor) , Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Quicksilver) and Elizabeth Olsen (Scarlet Witch), director Joss Whedon, and producer & the President of Marvel Studios Kevin Feige.
Marvel’s “Avengers: Age of Ultron” stars Robert Downey Jr., who returns as Iron Man, along with Chris Hemsworth as Thor, Mark Ruffalo as Hulk and Chris Evans as Captain America. Together with Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow and Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye, and with the additional support of Don Cheadle as James Rhodes/War Machine, Cobie Smulders as Agent Maria Hill, Stellan Skarsgård as Erik Selvig and Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, the team must reassemble to defeat James Spader as Ultron, a terrifying technological villain hell-bent on human extinction. Along the way, they confront two mysterious and powerful newcomers, Pietro Maximoff, played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson, and Wanda Maximoff, played by Elizabeth Olsen and meet an old friend in a new form when Paul Bettany becomes Vision.
Written and directed by Joss Whedon and produced by Kevin Feige, p.g.a., Marvel’s “Avengers: Age of Ultron” is based on the ever-popular Marvel comic book series “The Avengers,” first published in 1963. Get set for an action-packed thrill ride when The Avengers return in Marvel’s “Avengers: Age of Ultron” on May 1, 2015.
Like THE AVENGERS on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/avengers
Follow THE AVENGERS on Twitter: https://twitter.com/avengers
Visit the official website: http://marvel.com/avengers
Avnegers: Age of Ultron is playing now in theaters everywhere!
FTC Disclaimer: I attended an expense paid trip by Disney/Marvel to press events for Avengers: Age of Ultron. All opinions shared are always honest and my own.