Q: What was your process in writing the film? Did you already have a directorial vision when you were penning the screenplay?
JOSS WHEDON: [Laughs], This is so weird. Yes, I did. Half of writing a script is writing visually, is figuring out what you need it to look and feel like as much what they’re gonna say. The process, therefore, was pretty organic, particularly also because we had such a tight schedule, they needed some things to be worked on, set pieces and action sequences before I’d even written the script. So I was writing visual cues and action descriptions before I was, you know, I had finished structuring the story, since we knew where we were going. So all of that was happening all at the same time. So it was very difficult structurally to figure out how to make it work, but in terms of the process, very organic because it was all, everybody in the pool.
Q: Is there something from your childhood experience with the Avengers that especially resonated with you and that you’re bringing to this movie?
JOSS WHEDON: Well, the fact that the Avengers are all really, really messed-up people, I think is a fine reflection of me. You know, with The Avengers itself, the thing that I loved was that it was, one, the comic books, it was a little bit steeped in science fiction. Marvel was known for its gritty realism, and Spider Man was sort the template for, oh, they could just be people in New York.
And even though the Avengers made their home in New York, they were so often out in that space and dealing with, you know, artificial intelligence and grand beings from another world, and gods and monsters. And I love that element. That’s definitely a part of the film.
Q: How did you mentally prepare yourself to carry on the stories of all these established superheroes with an already fervent backing?
JOSS WHEDON: I am the fervent backing, so it wasn’t that hard to key in. I’ve done a lot of work for things that already exist, that I’ve worked on the X-Men, I wrote an alien movie, not necessarily the best one, but … and at working as a script doctor, you come in, you know, after things have been established. Even on a TV show, even if you’re the one who established them, every time you write a script, you’re dealing with an established universe. So, it’s not hard for me to fall into the cadences of these people. In fact, it’s a lot easier when you’ve already seen them being acted in the other movies.
Q: Because Marvel is attempting to create an interlocking film universe, did you feel the need to maintain a directing style, an aesthetic similar to work of the other Marvel Studio directors?
JOSS WHEDON: There’s no way you could make a movie that looked like a Jon Favreau, Kenneth Brown, Joe Johnston, Louie Lettieri movie. You have to take from each of them the thing that is useful and will jive with the rest of them. I do think, you know, the DNA of the Marvel movie begins with Iron Man, and that’s very grounded in the reel. I tend to be a tiny bit florid with my camera work and my dialogue, but hopefully in a way that feels like a realistic version of a comic book universe.
So it is, you know, the way that I can reconcile the different styles. My own style is actually kind of smack dab in the middle of what all those guys do. Therefore, it plays.
Q: The Avengers is filmed in Cleveland. Why was Cleveland picked as a shooting location and what was it like shooting there?
JOSS WHEDON: Cleveland had some financial advantages, rebate-wise, and that’s always a big thing for Marvel. And then they also were very, very accommodating in terms of letting us blow up their city. Filming there was actually a joy. Cleveland is a really cool place, and it has a lot of great culture, it has a lot of great restaurants-and I’d been in the desert for almost a year, and so by the time I got to Cleveland, it was like being in Versailles. It was so opulent and fun.
And it had so many locations that worked beautifully for so many different places without, you know, hardly any dressing. You know, we found, particularly Stuttgart and New York were the two main places that it was replicating. But we were able to shoot so much practically because of that. It was very, very gratifying for us, and the people were really, really welcoming.
Q: Did you have any particular combination of superheroes that you thought were the most interesting to see interact?
JOSS WHEDON: You know, the tragedy of the movie is that you don’t get to have scenes of everybody interacting because everybody is so interesting up against each other. I would say, you know, I love the Bruce Banner-Tony Stark relationship. Bruce Banner’s the first guy, Tony Stark’s come across as really who operates on his level intellectually, who isn’t a villain. And the way Tony nudges him and Tony’s particular attitude about the Hulk is endearing and cool.
But I also love Tony and Steve, and how much they can’t stand each other-and I’m very invested in Natasha and Hawkeye and their deep, deep friendship, so, you know, oh, I love them all. I hate this question.
Q: What advice would you give to any student with ambitions of one day sitting in the director’s chair?
JOSS WHEDON: My advice would be: sit down. Now you’re in the director’s chair. We live in an age where anybody can make a movie. If you have a phone, you can make a movie. Okay, maybe not a huge movie, maybe phone-sized, but it’s there. When I came up, you wrote a script, and you hoped and hoped. Or you raised enough money to make a short film. Things are different now, and the best way to get your work out there, not just, you know, as an offering to somebody else to hope they’ll make it, but to show yourself as a filmmaker, and to learn as a filmmaker is just make movies. You know, there’s no excuse not to now.
Q: Both your father and grandfather were screenwriters. In what way do they influence your work?
JOSS WHEDON: Well, they were both enormously funny men. They both worked extremely long hours to do, you know, to do their jobs. They are cold, and distant, and frightening like me- no, my dad’s actually a teddy bear. I learned a great deal about story from my dad. Sometimes just inadvertently by listening to him, or watching him, or reading what he did. Very often, he’d just throw down a little piece of advice, and I find that almost with exception, the things he said to me are the things I carry the most.
Q: If you were going to insert yourself into a superhero movie, what powers would you have?
JOSS WHEDON: I would have the power of invisibility, and then I wouldn’t have to show up for as many shooting days.
Q: How did you become attached to this project?
JOSS WHEDON: I’ve known Kevin for a while. I’ve known comics for a lot longer and, you know, I think Marvel has a great nose for a director who has a passionate vision, who’s not, you know, famous for turning out big-budget hits, but will bring something a little bit fresh to the concept of a hero movie, and it’s one of the things that I respect the most about them. And so it just seemed like a good fit. The only other movie I’ve made had a very similar problem.
How do you structure a story that some people know very well, that other people don’t know at all? But you have, you know, eight main characters and they’re all friends already. So it seemed like a fit. I think they regret it now, but, too late [laughs].
Q: College students have a lot of options this summer with movies to see during their summer break. Why should college students have it first on their list to see The Avengers?
JOSS WHEDON: I think The Avengers is the kind of movie that I grew up wanting to make and thought they had stopped making. When I grew up, the summer movie was, literally, created as a concept, and all my life I wanted to do something like that, something like the first Indiana Jones, something that was steeped in character, in love of the genre that it was portraying, had intelligence, had real acting, had a story that unfolded and wasn’t just a sort of big premise that you already knew going in, or isn’t based on, you know, Parcheesi or something just because it has a name.
More and more, summer movies have felt a little cynical. There are very, very big exceptions to that, but that has, you know, been the case when people throw so much money down. They’re not interested in a story-they’re interested in just barraging you with excitement and imagery, and brand names. And Marvel doesn’t operate that way. They care about the people. That’s why they hire some of the best actors in the business to play their heroes, and this is an old-fashioned movie. It’s a little bit bigger than life, but it’s very human.