Around this time last year, there was a rather well-publicized online petition requesting that Sony allow director Marc Webb to release a director’s cut of The Amazing Spider-Man 2. The petitioners had seen all the trailers and TV spots and knew just how much of the footage from the publicity didn’t make it into the final film. The same exact thing had happened with the first Amazing Spider-Man, giving the impression that Marc Webb had again fallen victim to excessive studio meddling. This time around, ASM 2 was so jam-packed some simply couldn’t accept its flaw, reasoning that there was surely a longer, superior version out there somewhere. That hypothetical director’s cut never came.
Avengers: Age of Ultron fans are in a similar, yet crucially different position. We’ve been flat out told, repeatedly, that Age of Ultron left nearly an hour of footage on the cutting room floor, and Joss Whedon has repeatedly promised that we’ll get to see a lot of that extra footage on the Blu-Ray/DVD whenever it comes out. Whedon is out there providing plenty of descriptions of the excised scenes as well as explaining his controversial storylines (Black Widow and Bruce Banner’s romance) and inexplicable subplots (Thor’s trip to a cave) while perhaps inadvertently offering a window into the give-and-take of directing a movie for Marvel Studios. If you’ve seen the movie you probably have some questions, and if you haven’t — then stop reading this and come back when you have. Here are some of the answers Joss Whedon gave to Empire Film Magazine (as well as a couple of other sources):
Warning: Major Spoilers for Avengers: Age of Ultron below.
1. Why put Black Widow and Bruce Banner together?
“I felt like they both have this outsider thing – they are really the two who cannot refer to themselves as heroes, even if they are. They’re the most human. Neither of them has powers. When the Hulk shows up Bruce is gone, and Natasha is extraordinarily well-trained but she doesn’t actually have superpowers. So, they’re both ordinary Joes, in a way, yet they’ve both lived completely outside normal society for most of their adult lives, in her case her whole life. They made a lot of sense to me. I know a lot of other people are quite angry about it, mostly Clint, I guess, and sometimes Steve.”
2. What about Black Widow and Captain America from Winter Soldier?
“The Steve thing I’m sort of like, ‘Yeah, well, I don’t think that was ever going to happen.’ That was never their intent. Certainly, Marvel never said boo about me putting [Natasha and Bruce] together. They thought it made perfect sense.”
3. What about Black Widow and Hawkeye from the first Avengers?“The Clint thing I actually have a strong opinion about. I think the [critics are] wrong. I think it’s wrong to assume a romance [between Hawkeye and Widow in Avengers]. I think it’s much more interesting and useful and actually romantic that there are these two people who would absolutely die for each other and are not sleeping together. Men and women can be best friends.”
4. Were there any cut scenes between Black Widow and Bruce Banner?
“…when we first shot [the bedroom scene] the question was answered and he rejected her. It’s some of the most beautiful stuff and I hated to cut it. But when [Marvel] suggested it, the reasoning was that you shouldn’t answer the question until the end of the movie. I thought that was interesting. But it’s difficult because Scarlett [Johansson] had been playing that this happened, so we had to reshoot some stuff and re-purpose some stuff […] That’s when I came up with the scene where she pushes him down the well. For me, that was a better resolve. I didn’t really have a resolve between the two of them until the Hulk goes away at the end. For me, that’s a better result because it is his decision to go, but it’s her decision to throw him down a fucking well. What I love about that is she has laid herself bare and said, ‘I want to be with you, and have a life and have a romance.’ But when push comes to shove she has to be a hero, and the way that she’s a hero is by being duplicitous, by being a spy. That’s a pure character moment.”
5. Were you just messing with us, making us think Hawkeye would be the one to die? (from MerlotMommy)
It was just my job to spend the entire movie trying to convince everyone that Hawkeye was definitely going to die, and that turned into a really fun game. Like, because I played every trope. Every, oh, look, you know, we’re not all going to make it through this and we cut to him looking at his family, and I’m just like, “How many ways can I be, ‘Oh, he’s safe. He’s on the, oh, he has to get off the boat. Oh, he’s—’ and I just wanted to like, you know, pull the switch out.” So yeah, that was the plan.
6. Why kill Quicksilver?
“I thought of Seven Samurai where the olds guys are like, ‘Oh, we made it through.’ It’s the young guys who trend to miss the mark. I also wasn’t going to kill the only other woman in the series […] It felt very disingenuous to me, especially the second time around, to make what I refer to as ‘a war movie’ and say there is no price, everybody walks away. In this movie, we’re saying, ‘Prove to me that you guys are heroes,’ and [Quicksilver’s] the one who does that. If you watch the DVD extras, you’ll see Quicksilver…incredible pussy hound. And to not only have the idea that Hawkeye was to be the one to kick it but also that he genuinely hates this guy and that’s the guy who saves him. I knew that it would be resonant, and it would make everything work better and matter more. At the end of the day, once you get everyone off the city it’s a big explosion and who cares, but Wanda’s grief is extraordinary. The fact that the Vision comes and saves her – that’s the part that matters to me.
7. Did you shoot any alternate endings in which Quicksilver survived?
“I told Aaron the first day that we met, because I never wanted anyone to play him, that the only thing will keep you alive is if the executives say, ‘Hey, idiot, it’s a franchise, and we need all these people. You’re not allowed to kill them.’ We did shoot him in the last scene in an outfit and with his sister, and we shot him waking up, ‘Ah, I didn’t really die from these 47 bullet wounds.’ And, actually, we shot something else for that as well, but maybe I’ll tell you about that later. The intent was always to earn this and then stand by it.”
8. Was the original cut of the film really 3 hours and 30 minutes long?
“Not three and a half, three-fifteen.”
9. What’s the deal with Thor in that cave?
“The original scene was that Thor went to speak to the Norn and how it would work was that he’d go in the pool and the Norn possess him, basically, and Erik Selvig asks all the questions, and the Norn, speaking through Thor, give the answers. So Chris [Hemsworth] got to do something very different, and he really threw himself into it, and he did a beautiful job. It wasn’t well regarded by the test audiences. I feel it’s probably largely because it was A) it was rough cut with no effects, but also because it’s something that in a Thor movie would work brilliantly, but in this movie is just a little too left of center. Thor is always the hardest guy to integrate. I loved it because it’s Thor seeking-originally it was Thor looking through library books. I really didn’t have anything visceral, and then I came up with this. I feel like this is a huge win because it’s about Thor getting answers, but he doesn’t have to ask the questions. He’s the one actually giving the answers, and he gets to do something exciting as an actor and he has his fucking shirt off. Everybody wins!”
10. Why Heimdell and not Loki in Thor’s dream?
“I do feel like [Marvel] threw out the baby with the pond water, because I tried to set it up so people would accept it when it happens. Instead, we split the dream up, and then we had Loki in the second part of the dream, but then they were like, ‘That doesn’t work, do we want to introduce Loki now, this late.'”
11. What did you and the studio most fight over?
“The dreams were not an executive favorite. The dreams, the farmhouse, these were things I fought to keep. With the cave, they pointed a gun at the farm’s head and ‘Give us the cave or we’ll take out the farm’ but in a civilized way – I respect these guys, they’re artists, but that’s when it got really unpleasant. There was a point when there was going to be no cave, and Thor was going to leave and come back and say, ‘I figured some stuff out.’ And I was so beaten down at that point, I was like, ‘Sure, okay… what movie is this?’ The editors were like, ‘No no, it won’t make sense, you have to show the thing, you just can’t say it.’ I was like, ‘Okay, thank you, we’ll figure this out!’ You can tell it was beaten down, but it was also hard won.”
12. So, you did shoot a scene with Loki. How would that work since Thor thinks Loki died in Thor: The Dark World?
“It would be in Thor’s dream so that wouldn’t matter […] I always make these movies as if you haven’t seen anything else. So, nobody should know that Loki’s dead. That’s why I don’t mention that anywhere. But in Thor’s dream I thought, ‘Who’s going to walk him through his dream?’ It’s gotta be Tom [Hiddleston]. It’s Loki. He’s so important to the mythos, and they’re like, ‘We can’t get Tom. We can’t make a deal. You can have Idiris [Elba].’ Awesome, I love Idris. This is great. Then I talked to Tom, “Just so you know, I would never pressure you, but I really feel like it would be great for you to do this,’ and he said sure. They were like, ‘We already have Idris,’ and I was like, ‘Again, I have no problem here. Everybody’s in.’ We even have a tiny reference to the fact that Loki’s taken the throne, which was Tom doing his Anthony Hopkins impression. Thor would say, ‘Ah, what would father say?’ and Loki does his Odin impression and Thor’s like, ‘That is uncanny,’ and it’s sort of like his subconsciousness is telling him, ‘That wasn’t your father [at the end of The Dark World].’”
13. Do you wish the film was maybe a little longer?
“At the end of the day, the movie should have been two minutes longer just to let a few things breath a bit more, but I do think it’s about where it should have been in terms of running time and events. I stuffed it full.” – Yeah, you did.
14. How did you decide to have The Vision lift Thor’s hammer?
“I’d done something similar in an episode of Angel [Season 5’s ‘A Whole in the World’] where I needed you to know someone was telling the truth. It worked very simply, Angel saying, ‘He hates it if you ask questions because he can’t lie.’ You just accept that. On the one hand, I want [The Avengers] to go into battle not trusting each other and not as a cohesive unit so that when they finally show up at the church they really do come together for the first time. On the other hand, I need them to take this guy [the Vision] with them, and I need someone to say, ‘Alright, we’re off.’ My God, [him lifting the hammer] really does answer a lot of questions, and Chris was so cute, ‘Alright, let’s go.’ And he added that part where he walks past Tony and says, ‘Nice work.'”
15. Where are those Captain Marvel and Spider-Man cameos we’d heard about?
“I said it would be great if we could add a few more [to the New Avengers at the end], if you guys could make a few deals. If we could have a Captain Marvel there that you’ve made a deal for, and they talked about it. And I was like, ‘Spider-Man, we could do that too,’ because Sony had approached us during the first movie about a little integration. I would have put both of them in, but neither of the deals were done. And then they were like, ‘We’re making a Captain Marvel movie, and we’ve got Spider-Man as a property,’ and I’m like, ‘I’ve already locked my film, you fuckers!'”
16. And now Kevin Feige admits that they did actually shoot a scene for Captain Marvel and explains how it ended up being used for Scarlet Witch’s introducing during the New Avengers sequence at the end (via BirthMoviesDeath)
“[Captain Marvel] was in a draft. But to me, it would have done that character a disservice, to meet her fully formed, in a costume and part of the Avengers already when 99% of the audience would go, ‘Who is that?’ It’s just not the way we’ve done it before.
Thanos is the good ‘Who’s that,’ because he’s clearly a bad guy, for comic fans he represents a specific storyline, you can get the buzz started from fans to non-fans with that cameo – as opposed to a title character, who deserves their own story. Even Black Widow you don’t meet in the last two seconds of Iron Man 2 wearing her costume – you evolve that going forward.
The way we reveal Scarlet Witch [in costume] at the end of the movie? Those were Captain Marvel plate shots. Joss said, ‘We’ll cast her later!’ And I said, ‘Yeah Joss, we’ll cast her later.’ [Whispers to an invisible associate who isn’t Joss] ‘We’re not putting her in there!’
Finally Joss was like ‘Let’s use those plates to let Scarlet Witch fly into frame, give her a big entrance?’ And that makes sense – she’s come to their side, and she deserves the cool intro, which will feed into another movie we start shooting in a few weeks.”
And, now back to Whedon…
17. How much time has passed between the final battle and the gathering of the New Avengers at their new headquarters?
“[Clint’s wife]’s had the baby. So, it’s got to be a few months.”
18. Whatever happened to that ending which was going to set up Planet Hulk?
“I never intended to shoot [Hulk] into space. What I wanted to do was that he might. I wanted the sky above him to be slightly thinner, a few stars, because I very specifically put in the line, ‘Where in the world am I not a threat?’ I wanted to leave you with the idea that if this is the last movie that he may have left the world behind because I think there is something enormously poetic about that. There is also something enormously misleading about that because they don’t plan to make Planet Hulk, as far as I know, so they were like, ‘No, just sky, no stars, just sky,’ which was less poetic, but still very beautiful. There’s no better way than to express the beauty of it when Scarlet came in for some ADR she shot her side so beautifully and then she saw that last shot when we see Hulk from behind and he’s sitting and the camera’s drifting away from him and she just goes, ‘Oh, it’s so sad. Fat man in a little car.’”