The Avengers / Avengers Assemble opens in UK cinemas this week. In the run-up, Impact meets some of the stars....
Though he doesn't have a franchise named after him, The Avengers marks Tom Hiddleston's second turn as the God of Mischief, Loki. We last saw him plunging away from Asgard (or, if you stayed until after the Thor credits, managing to exert some ungodly influence on mere mortals working on the maguffinish 'Tesseract', the mean machine further featured in the Avengers outing). Hiddleston was coy at the time as to whether he'd even be returning, but the truth is he's a key player and the major antagonist in the ensemble feature.
He was glad to return and said one of the big attractions was the script itself and working with Joss Whedon.
“I should say that the thing that was most impressive about Joss initially was the incredible way he wrote. It’s an achievement in itself as a film-maker. His screenplay was simply phenomenal. All of us weren’t quite sure what to expect and it was the most extraordinary answer as to that first question of how you get so many superheroes in ONE film. I take my hat off to him on that because I think that was the hardest job and must have made actually directing it seem like a walk in the park. Maybe not a walk… maybe a light jog," he laughs. "But he was incredibly open and really that’s all you want as an actor… you want to collaborate. Everyone at this table has a degree of ownership about the characters they play and he’s very respectful of that possession. He’s respectful that we’ve all lived under the skins of our characters for some time and he was constantly asking ‘Does this feel right to you, is this your voice…’ Most of the time I just switched off and said the brilliant lines…”
Was he at all intimidated by the existing fanbase and the attention that he must have known would follow the production?
“One of the strange things about being in these films is that we are lucky enough to HAVE a fanbase. I mean, it’s so often you make a film and put your heart and soul into it and you really care and you think it’s half-decent and then you turn up and say ‘Does anyone want to see it?’ and maybe nobody does. We’re lucky that we have people who love the characters as much – if not more – than we do," he offers. "I find it thrilling that there’s a pre-existing passion for the material. It’s like… a privilege to have people that care so much, rather than being paralysed by a fear of what people might think, it’s fun and a challenge to deliver what they might enjoy…”
It's Mark Ruffalo's introduction to the big-screen Marvel Universe, taking over a role previously played in recent years by Eric Bana and Edward Norton. He admits that his experience of thhat aforementioned fanbase... well, wasn't so positive to begin with.
“I was overcome by a moment of very poor judgement early-on… by going online and seeing the response to me coming on to play Banner. I won’t do that again. It wasn’t … glowing. I found the fans’ exuberant passion to be… very, very brutal. I hope we’ve amended that..." he offers.
It's likely they have. Ruffalo's role as Banner/The Hulk is pivotal to the film and the actor manages to bring a humanity and tempered weathered life-view that was somehow missing from all the incarnations since Bill Bixby in the famous 1970s TV version. Ruffalo manages to provide some of the best moments in the film, including a direct confrontation with Loki that many fans will enjoy.
“As a kid I was a Hulk fan and I was a particular fan of the TV show. But there’s also the added element that people think actors seek out the material, but it’s more a matter of us being given something. I was offered Banner/the Hulk and I talked to Joss Whedon about it and he wanted Banner to return to the Bill Bixby world where Banner has the weary charm of a man on the run but still trying to live his life and have a sense of humour about himself," Mark explains. " I also liked the idea that I’d be the first actor to play both Banner AND the Hulk. That was probably the most exciting thing to me. The one thing we enjoy now is the technology that brought is to a place where an actor CAN play the Hulk. I loved Joss’s take on it but I also loved the idea of getting to busy out into a ‘big green rage machine’...”
Through the beauty and the cutting-edge of performance capture (something we are almost starting to take for granted after the likes of Lord of the Rings and Planet of the Apes), Ruffalo plays both sides of the infamous split personality with anger-management issues.
“The process was motion capture and, yes, there was the element of wearing a leotard that reduced me to a Chinese checker-board, but other than that, it was a very involved process, a three-part process were we did all the motion-capture before we shot the movie, we did it while we were shooting the movie and we did it afterwards. It was a very, very intense process and by myself most of the time…which was lonely (laughs). The leotard makes all the wrong places look big and all the right places look small!” he jokes.