Another day in the run up to Avengers Assemble being released in cinemas, another opportunity for me to milk my interviews with the cast. This time it’s Chris Hemsworth and Mark Ruffalo, who played Thor and the Hulk respectively. Coincidentally, it turns out that they do NOT like being addressed as either ‘Thor’ or ‘Hulk’ when being asked a question. Lesson learned.
: How did you all get along on set? I assume there was no issue with egos?
No. That was probably the most common question before shooting but no - all the trailers were the same size. [to Mark Ruffalo] We went out and measured them, didn't we?
Yes, once we realised that all the trailers were the same size, everybody calmed down.
I think everyone knew what a big opportunity this was and what potential this idea, this ensemble and this film had, so we were all equally excited. I know that's a boring answer and not what you want to hear but...
: Was it easy for you to get back into the headset of Thor having played him so recently compared with everyone else and their characters?
Yeah, well I had finished shooting Thor and we started shooting The Avengers like 10 months later but I had just come off the Thor press tour so it was all fresh in my mind. And we really hit the ground running in the sense that I finished the press tour on the Friday and we started shooting on the Monday, so there wasn't the prep time and the lead up to it that I had with Ken[neth Branagh]. So I was thankful that we had already shot the film and established who the character was.
: And did it help that you had worked with Joss before on The Cabin In The Woods?
Yeah, it did. We had a rapport to begin with and it's funny how it all comes full circle because, while doing Cabin In The Woods, I was auditioning for Thor and Joss called Ken and put in a good word for me. And then we were on the set and he was directing this film. It was great. But he's very similar - Joss, even Drew Goddard who directed Cabin and JJ Abrams - they all have that same sort of witty sense of humour and intelligence, and they know this sort of genre and these types of film – and comic-books and this kind of world – so well. It's the best resource you can have on films like this.
: What are the advantages and disadvantages between being the lead of the movie and then going onto a film like this where there are lots of leads?
I just saw it all as an advantage, y'know? To share the workload. The responsibility of being the sole title character – it rests on your shoulders. But it was nice to stand in amongst these guys and everyone brought a different audience to the table so that helped. And it was just being able to work with that kind of talent - people that I watched for years and wanted to work with. It was all a huge plus.
: So you weren't unhappy to go from 'the star' to just 'one of the stars'?
(*laughs*) No, I wasn't counting my lines or anything. I saw it all as a plus. The challenge was rising up to the occasion and not dropping the ball because a lot of those scenes depended on the back and forth between the group. But it was exciting.
: And Mark, how did you feel as the newcomer to the group?
I definitely felt out of place. I felt very nervous and was questioning if I belonged there, but I quickly realised that's probably how Banner was feeling as well so it worked really well to the advantage of the performance.
: Everyone's been raving about the Hulk in this film - why do you think people are identifying with him better this time round?
Because Mark's awesome.
Er…because I'm awesome. No, I think people have had a great expectation on the Hulk for so long and he's such a beloved character to so many people, and I had the edge of the technology advancing to the point where an actor can inhabit the Hulk – so there's a seamlessness between Banner turning into the Hulk. But also, I have to say that Joss Whedon really made the Hulk funny and accessible and almost tender in the moment and scary and all those elements. And then there's the genius of ILM. All of those elements together I think brought about the Hulk that we've been waiting for.
: Do you see much of yourself in how the Hulk ended up in this film?
Yeah, I did all of that stuff. Three times I did it. We did it before we shot the movie, while we were shooting the movie and after. All motion capture and many different aspects of it - facial mo-cap and physical mo-cap and then, finally, just the sound mix. And, y'know, I really wanted the Hulk to be an extension of Bruce Banner and vice versa and I really pushed hard to make the Hulk look like me. Marvel as a rule never wanted the Hulk to look like the actor that was playing Banner, and Joss and I really fought against that and, much to our avail, it worked out really well and I was wildly thrilled with the end product.
: Were you asked to look at the previous Hulk performances as a guide?
I wasn't asked to look at them but we considered this as a continuation of them and of those great Banners. And this is just an older version of the guy who's been on the run longer and has developed a sort of irony and a wry sense of humour about his position, and I think is ready to turn and face the beast he's been running from inside of himself. And the other thing I did was I went back and watched the TV show, which Joss really wanted us to use - that Bixby template - for this particular iteration.
: What was your son's reaction to seeing you turn into the Hulk?
My son loved the movie and he loved the Hulk and very early on when I was watching the Bixby/David Banner show, he turned to me after the third episode and said 'Poppa, he's so misunderstood'! And to me that really sums up why I loved the Hulk growing up. And y'know you're this kid and you have all these emotions streaming through your body, but at the same time everyone's telling you to keep it together and behave and that was a big insight to me for the role. And so he loves it - I dedicate my performance to him, my own little Hulk.
: Has working with motion capture made you more sympathetic to actors not receiving more recognition for their mo-cap performances?
That's an interesting question. I never even thought about that honestly. Y'know, it's a pretty big collaboration: there's the performance, but there's also the aspect of the animators who rarely get talked about. And they're adding a lot to it as well. But yeah, I think it'd be cool if the whole team was considered, but I honestly never thought of that and I do have sympathy for them.
: What about performers like Andy Serkis – should his motion capture work be held in the same regard as other actors when it comes to the Oscars?
Er...Hell yeah! Absolutely! Y'know, awards are a funny thing and I tend not to place too much importance on them, but sure - Andy does amazing work and he should at least be recognised or have the capability of being recognised in some way, maybe with a special award or something, for that. Everyone else gets an award, why not?
: Chris, you went straight from this to Snow White And The Huntsman - how physically demanding was that transition and how do you stop getting yourself overwhelmed in these massive-scale movies?
From Thor into The Avengers I maintained the weight I put on for that role and halfway through Avengers I started slowly backing off the training and just did a lot more running and cardio to get rid of some of the bulk and toned down my diet. And then, through Snow White, I was dropping weight even more for Rush, which is a 70s Formula 1 film with Ron Howard.
I was just talking to my wife about this actually, but I had more symptoms of a pregnant woman over that period than she did: I was really hungry, I was really tired, I was moody...my hair was falling out. But it was all because of this crazy restrictive diet because I was going from one extreme to another, over-eating and then all of a sudden being underfed.
But as far as the two big films are concerned, I think Avengers did feel that size just because it was talked about so much, and everyone had their own individual films and everything felt like a piece of some other success coming together and we felt that. So yeah, it was overwhelming. Snow White was another big film with a big budget but it had a different feeling. We didn't shoot in America so the studio wasn't on top of us. We shot here [in the UK] so it was just people on set for four months day to day and it felt like a small film and we had a great time. We shot a lot on real locations too, y'know? The green screen makes you think 'Oh I'm in a big 3D epic', whereas Snow White we shot in Wales and then we shot in the Lake District and it was a lot of forests and cathedrals. So it was, day to day, a lot of real, beautiful locations and it kinda felt really personal.
: Chris, obviously your brother Liam has just become part of The Hunger Games now, another huge franchise. Have you shared any advice with him?
Um...no. Y'know, I don't know what advice you could give anyway, besides just staying close to each other and to friends. I don't know. Even after I did Thor and I was asked 'What changed?' – and before it came out and everyone said 'Are you ready for the big shift?' – and then it came out and I thought 'Oh, life keeps ticking along'. I think it's an appreciation for it all that keeps you grounded.
: Are you surprised by your rapid rise over the years though?
Yeah, it's always a surprise. A lot of the time the films have been on top of each other so I didn't have a whole lot of time to think about it or even see what was happening because I was on set all the time working. And it's only when you go to premieres that you realise the fan base for these types of films and the appreciation for them. And it's great and a nice pat on the back, but y'know whatever keeps me being able to have freedom and choice in what I work on - that's the biggest goal. You spend so much of your career – or even attempting to have a career – banging on the door just trying to be seen and get a job and putting your hand up for anything. The fact that these are things I landed in, there's no real rhyme or reason for it, but yeah you just have to stay focused on these one-at-a-time projects.
: But it must have been strange for you to have The Cabin In The Woods released the same year as The Avengers?
Absolutely, I shot it three or four years ago before any of these films and this year it's been like 'and NOW it’s going to come out’. And y'know it's great that Cabin has been received so well. My biggest concern looking back on when films come out that happened years ago is that...y'know, each week or month I look back and go 'ugh, I've learned a lot more [since then]’ and I knew nothing then. I cringe at the thought of what I did last week, let alone three or four years ago. You like to think that each thing that comes out is an indication of your latest ability or what you've learned so it's funny when it's all out of order. There's a Benjamin Button thing – I’ll be getting younger as these films come out.
: Things are obviously left open at the end of this film for The Avengers 2. What would you like your characters to do in the next one?
I have no idea. Y'know, it's been a whirlwind up to here and who knew that it would work so well, so we haven't really begun to have that conversation yet.
To have the origin of these characters come together is such a highlight and the challenge is to now go 'Well, now what do we do?' I'm glad it's not my job to do that.
Avengers Assemble is released in the UK on Thursday April 26th, but you should know that already, because you should have already pre-booked your ticket or something.
Tomorrow, I'll post my last interview with the cast. It's the big one...no, not Downey Jr, he wasn’t available apparently. No, not even Chris Evans or Samuel L Jackson. Nope, it's Clark Gregg, the guy who played Agent Coulson in the film. Awesome, right?