Joss Whedon: Geek Elite
After delivering fan-boy TV favourites, Joss Whedon now applies his pop culture savvy to the epic superhero team-up movie, 'The Avengers'.
"You can't feel the weight," says producer, writer and director, Joss Whedon, on the set of The Avengers. "If I felt the weight of how famous these guys are, the budget, and fans' expectations - if I actually processed all that stuff - I'd be in my bed right now with the covers thrown up over my head. I'm an Avengers fan. I believe that you can die from fan expectations, because there are two things that they can't stand: being ignored and pandering. And they are well aware of both. With The Avengers, they are going to see everything that they ever hoped to see from every single one of these characters without any hint of, ‘Well, we thought that we should put this in too.'"
Though he's not breaking a visible sweat, Joss Whedon is obviously a man under pressure... no matter what he might say. Marvel Studios' superhero movie, The Avengers, is its most ambitious theatrical release to date and, with a rumoured budget that ranges between $225-$260 million, it is also its most expensive. Bringing together Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Bruce Banner/The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Clint Barton/Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), and Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) in an attempt to save the Earth from utter annihilation, this comic book fantasy promises plenty of superhero action, drama and pyrotechnics. To call The Avengers "highly anticipated" would be the understatement of the year, and this could very well be the biggest comic movie of all time.
In Joss Whedon, however, the film could very well have the perfect director, and all of Marvel's highly prized cinematic ducks could be lined up in a row. Despite being at the helm of a mainstream blockbuster, Whedon, however, is something of an unusual fellow. When FilmInk visits the set of The Avengers, the director is a hard-to-pin-down presence. Whenever responding to the questions of the assembled press, he first gives a sarcastic answer, snickers humorously, and then gives a real reply. The next day on set, FilmInk walks past Whedon as he is hurrying outside to take a phone call, and he doesn't even bother to smile back in greeting. He seems a bit stressed, and is perhaps conserving his energy, but there seems to be an air of free-floating hostility hovering over the man.
Whedon's enthusiasm, wit, and bold lack of fear, however, are wholly edifying. When FilmInk asks if he was worried about a possible battle of egos on the set, the director laughs. "I was warned by at least one executive that I might have an entire cast mutiny on my hands," he replies. "That was before we started filming. I was, like, ‘Thanks!' But I felt that there were so many of them that the plates would spin. It would balance well, because everybody had their own end of it to keep up. Everybody plays opposite each other. Nobody owns one particular scene - that's the whole point of a team movie. Everybody is constantly giving to each other. Plus, I have very little tolerance for intolerance or people disrespecting each other. Honestly, it hasn't happened. That said, I can take no credit for it all, because with the exception of Jeremy [Renner] and Mark [Ruffalo], everybody else was already cast. They really do all embody what they are playing, and kudos to Marvel for figuring that out before I came along. I called [director] Kenneth [Branagh] when he was shooting Thor to ask him about Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston [whose Loki also appears in The Avengers] and how he worked with them, and how they were working out, and his insights were wonderful."
How much more taxing is it for Whedon as a director to have such a big and important cast to deal with? "Important? Turns out not to be taxing at all," he replies. "Actors are actors, and they're either gonna trust you or they're not. They're going to work with each other or they're not. When I get to cast a film, I err on the side of sanity at all times. I've been extremely lucky - The Avengers has been like working with one of my troupes. They're so talented and so different, yet everybody is on board. It's really been a surprising experience for me. They're in the Avengers HQ. I would say that they're in my house, but it's really Marvel's."
The Avengers is out now. This is an excerpt from a four-page Director's Feature included in our May edition of FilmInk, which is on sale now - in newsagents in Australia or a digital copy can be purchased via Zinio.