What a difference a year makes.
After being rather critical during last May’s press tour for Disney/Marvel’s Avengers:Age of Ultron, Joss Whedon told his Hulk star Mark Ruffalo tonight that the remarks he made against his own movie were quite harsh. The two took the stage at the SVA Theatre in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood as part of the Tribeca Film Festival’s Talk series.
Last May, Whedon was upfront with the press about his clashes with Marvel over those scenes he wanted to keep, i.e. Hawkeye visiting his family at the farmhouse and the Avengers’ dream sequences. In addition, Marvel was adamant about keeping a Thor/Erik cave scene in the pic.
Briefly speaking to Deadline after the sesh, Whedon mentioned that he isn’t close minded about taking on other Marvel projects down the road, and he hopes they haven’t quit him either. “It was just five years of my life,” said Whedon about working on back-to-back Avengers movies.
Coming away from Ultron, Whedon told Ruffalo, “I took a two-week vacation for the first time in 25 years, except for the four month vacation where I wrote the Buffy musical. I set out to accomplish nothing.”
“I begged him to do Avengers 3 and 4, Hulk 3, Thor 3 and Quasimodo, and he said, I’ll never do it again,” Ruffalo told the audience, then turning to Whedon, “I was getting worried about you, but you’re back.”
“Yeah, I’m back,” exclaimed Whedon who remained rather mum about the next project he is penning except for the fact that it’s “super good” and “a definite departure” — something he credits to taking an exploratory process with his writing.
But further expounding on his Ultron mea culpa, Whedon told the packed house at the SVA, “Ultron, I’m very proud of. There were things that did not meet my expectations of myself and then I was so beaten down by the process. Some of that was conflicting with Marvel, which is inevitable and a lot of that was about my own work and I was also exhausted, and we right away went and did publicity. I created the narrative — wherein I’m not quite accomplished at– and people just ran with (about Ultron) ‘Well it’s OK, it could be better, but it’s not Joss’ fault’ and I think that did a disservice to the movie, and to the studio and to myself. Ultimately, it wasn’t the right way to be because I’m very proud about it.”
“The things about it that are wrong frustrate me enormously,” continued Whedon, “but I got to make an absurdly personal movie about humanity and what it means in a very esoteric and bizarre ways for hundreds of millions of dollars. The fact that Marvel gave me that opportunity twice is so bonkers and beautiful and the fact that I come off as a miserable failure is also bonkers, but not in a cute way.”
A bulk of Ruffalo and Whedon’s conversation stemmed around the filmmaker growing up in the upper west side of Manhattan. Whedon is a third generation TV writer on his father’s side. He described his Harvard and Radcliffe-educated parents as “theater geeks.” While his father was a TV writer, his mother was a teacher and an aspiring novelist. In regards to Whedon’s predilection for writing well-rounded female characters, he really had no answer for the audience other than “it was his mother’s typewriter.” Structure has always been a headache for Whedon, but he marches through it, employing color diagrams if needed in his screenwriting process.
“What kind of actors do you like to work with other than me?” asked Ruffalo.
Whedon made a distinction between “divas” and “toxic people.”
“I have enormous respect for divas. They’re people who do something extraordinary and show up and do it. You have to deal with a lot of other stuff, but they usually come in and tell you, you’re going to deal with a lot of other stuff. Then you get this beautiful work, and you’re OK,” said the filmmaker.
“Really toxic people I avoid. I cast for sanity, but toxic people are different from divas. Divas are complicated. Truly toxic people are about trying to tear something down whether it’s somebody else, the story; they’re about power. Those people have no business in my life or the industry,” said Whedon.
He added, “It use to be if you were brilliant, you were suppose to be difficult and I think we’ve come to a different place, partially because there are so many films and TV projects where there’s more collaboration.”