It’s times like these that really make me appreciate the kind of job I have. How else would a homeschooling stay-at-home mom like me get to have a down-to-earth chatty conversation with Paul Bettany and James Spader about Avengers Age of Ultron if not for blogging?! This combined with all the other interviews with Chris Evans and Chris Hemsworth, Joss Whedon, Kevin Feige, Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen, and Jeremy Renner and Cobie Smulders was just over-the-top awesome!
Avengers Age of Ultron: Paul Bettany & James Spader
It was surprising but refreshing to see James get all giddy while answering our questions. Soooooo different than the television and movie personas he usually shows. Poor, poor Paul just sat back and let James talk. The best part? James had such a great time that he ask if they could just drop a few other interviews and just stay to talk with us longer 🙂 That said, his answers were all very long and I had to cut some out to keep this post a decent length.
James’ dialogue was filmed during traditional shoots with other actors. The only difference was that he was outfitted with a fractal suit, an array of sensors, rigs, and cameras all the time. Seeing himself as Ultron was quite something though.
SPADER: I was amazed that I saw, with this magnificent body 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 all of my gesture, posture, movements, and expressions – all of it was there.
Avengers Age of Ultron: James Spader Gets REAL Comfortable
At one point, James thought of a fantastic story he wanted to tell us. As James’ eyes light up and he scooted to the edge of his seat, Paul was forced to just sit back and say, “I’ll just have a snooze.” It was sad but kind of funny at the same time. James then continued to tell us how it was to perform this huge robot.
SPADER: They had me go through a range of motions and then they put it into some program on the computer or something. About 10-15 minutes later I could walk in my outfit into the center of the room and turn my head, move my fingers, go like this, and I could look at a monitor and see a 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. There was a guy there, quite small, who would’ve been proportionate to my height. I’m 5’10”. He was very small, proportionate height to what, not Chris Hemsworth, an average height Avenger might be in proportion to me if I was eight feet tall. He was a stunt guy and he was wearing a fractal suit and all the gear as well. They made him do the range of motion and everything else and within 15 minutes he and I would go move around the room.
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 size person would be. It was really amazing. Right from the very first moment I was already getting a sense of how to perform for this character.
Avengers Age of Ultron: Paul Bettany on Jarvis & Vision
Q: We always knew you as Jarvis. What was your reaction when you found out that you would be The Vision?
BETTANY: 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. This is a true story. I sat on the curb in Hollywood with my feet in the gutter. 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.
Q: How is it different for you on set?
BETTANY: 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. However, it also means that I have to show up at junkets now, you know? The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away.
SPADER: I did not have to cut back on carbs. Somehow amazingly enough, those animators were able to slim me right down.
Avengers Age of Ultron: The Perfect Role for James Spader
It turns out that James had asked to be in a Marvel film some 2-3 years before being asked to play Ultron.
SPADER: I have three sons. I have never, in my entire career, ever chosen a film to work on for the sake of my children. Most of the films that I’ve done they really shouldn’t watch . . . My second son, he was about 18 at the time. He loved comics and loved superhero movies and fantasy and all that stuff. He just loved it. Then, by circumstance, I also at the time I had a three-year-old son again. He was already sort of raiding his brother’s little figures and little things like that and was excited about it. I just thought that I just want to make a film for them, you know?
Turns out that, when writing Avengers: Age of Ultron, Joss Wheden walked in the Marvel Studios offices and said, “You know, I don’t really have anyone else for this role except for James Spader.” He even wrote some scenes that weren’t in the movie just so James could get a better idea of the character. He thought it was a lovely gestures for Joss to go that far.
Avengers Age of Ultron: Makeup and Humor
Q : How much of Vision was makeup and CGI?
BETTANY: It was a lot of makeup. I would sit in the chair and then you would wait for eternity to come and then you’d be done. It’s all real. From about here forward the prosthetics, well the prosthetic actually stops here, and then this was painted purple. But they would have tracking dots on 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. Thankfully, because that was really, really uncomfortable.
Q : Is there any part of your humor in Ultron? Because we definitely see your mannerisms.
SPADER: I’m a great believer in chaos. I think that’s true in any film or television show or play or anything you do. You’ve been cast because that director intuitively knows that what they need, you’re going to be able to provide. He was looking for that sense of humor. He was looking for that irreverence in marriage with the other aspects. So he took advantage of it and we would play with things and I’d make a suggestion. I really was very faithful to what he was writing because he was really writing it so specifically to me.
AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON is now in theaters!
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I was invited on an all-expense paid media trip as a guest of Disney and Marvel in honor of the Avengers Age of Ultron movie. All opinions are my own.