Interview: Joss Whedon Assembles ‘The Avengers’
Photo: Michael Buckner, Getty Images
Matt McDaniel: You have done a lot of work with big ensembles before, but this is the first time coming into a group of pre-established characters and actors. How is that different than working with a group that you created from the ground-up?
Joss Whedon: Well, in some ways it's the same, because if you are ever working with a group you have created from ground-up, they feel they have been created already and they exist and the actors have already researched the roles. So it has a great similarity to working on anything, like a show you run.
But the difference, obviously, is not just that they played the parts before, but they are all super famous. And so you have the question of whether or not you are going to earn their trust. Whether or not they are going to bother to give you that. But ultimately, once you establish that fairly early on, that you have a real collaboration going, it really isn't that different.
MM: So what was that process like of earning the trust of these really well-established actors?
JW: Well, first of all, because they've played parts and because in some way we were creating a new vision of the part, I sat down with every one of them to talk about my ideas and their desires before I wrote the script, and that's very useful too.
So they knew from the ground-up that they were collaborating on it. And the things that didn't make sense to them or didn't work to them, they were like, "Well, I don't want to stress that part of my character. We have done that before." All of that stuff I could honor.
And then it's a question of making them heard, and then ultimately making them understand that there are things you are not going to budge on that are your vision. And once they know they are part of it, but you actually have a vision, and you are not just trying to tell them what they want to hear -- that it's all working towards one purpose, one story, one idea -- then I feel, yeah, you are doing fine.
MM: I have heard from people who have worked with him before that Robert Downey Jr. likes to keep things sort of fresh and fast. How did your two methods of working fit into each others'?
JW: Well, we have very different methods. But working as a showrunner, working as a script doctor, working in sitcoms -- a lot of my work has been coming up with stuff on the fly. Like fixing as we go, improvising, being open to a new idea. So Robert and I would spend -- we worked specifically towards both of our processes, so that we would beat out a scene so that he was very comfortable with where it was going or what was being said and very aware of where it would fit in the whole. And I would give him stuff to say, and by and large, he would say it.