By ANGELA DAWSON
Front Row Features
HOLLYWOOD—One of the most anticipated films of the year opens Friday. “Marvel’s The Avengers,” starring Robert Downey Jr. reprising his role as Tony Stark/Iron Man, Chris Hemsworth returning as the thunder god Thor, Chris Evans returning as Steve Rogers/Captain America and Mark Ruffalo, making his debut as Bruce Banner/the Hulk, come together for the first time in a single film to defend the planet from an alien attack orchestrated by Thor’s vengeful brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston, who also appeared in last year’s fantasy action-adventure “Thor.”)
The superheroes are joined by additional Marvel characters including Samuel L. Jackson reprising his recurring character of S.H.I.E.L.D leader Nick Fury and special agent Clint Barton/Hawkeye, played by Jeremy Renner (“The Hurt Locker”).
The effects-laden comic-book movie is directed by Emmy and Oscar nominee Joss Whedon, from a script by Whedon and Zak Penn.
Most of the cast assembled for a press conference in which they discussed their big-screen collaboration.
Front Row Features: What was your most memorable moment during filming?
Robert Downey Jr.: There’s this first time that we’re all assembled on the bridge, and it was the time that we all saw each other and realized that we were probably likely to continue shooting the movie.
Chris Hemsworth: It was great. I believe that was our first day on set too with the whole ensemble, which was a pretty exciting and nerve-wracking experience.
Chris Evans: Mine was the scene where Thor and Iron Man are fighting, and I had just seen Thor the day prior. And I’d yet to see Hemsworth or Downey in their full suit. I showed up that night, and it was the first time I saw them both kind of geared up and I just got really excited. I felt like a little kid. I was just honored to be a part of it.
Mark Ruffalo: Mine was being naked in front of Harry Dean Stanton (in one scene). (He laughs.)
Tom Hiddleston: For me, there are so many things that are memorable about it because it was such a long shoot. It was the whole summer for all of us and we had so many different experiences together. It was an amazing time for me to work with some of the greatest actors in the world.
Jeremy Renner: I’ll have to say getting to play with Thor’s hammer while he stroked my bow. (Realizing how that could be misconstrued, he laughs.) That’s going to get me in trouble. I think it’s just getting all the actors in one room, all in costume. It was like Halloween. I was a fan of theirs as humans, and now they’re dressed up like silly people. That always will stick in my mind.
Front Row Features: Mark, how did you form your unique version of Bruce Banner and did you do any research?
Ruffalo: I met with Joss Whedon, and he said he really liked “The Incredible Hulk” TV show and what Bill Bixby did with him. So I rented (the DVD) and watched it with my 10-year-old son. After the third episode, he turned to me and said, “Papa, he’s so misunderstood.” So I basically based my character entirely on my 10-year-old boy’s impression. Front Row Features: You are the only one at the table to be here for the first time as a superhero.
Front Row Features: As the new superhero on the set, can you talk about the challenges of coming into this world?
Ruffalo: It was terrifying. I knew what my responsibility was or I felt it just by making the mistake of going online and reading some of the fan boy responses to the announcement that I was playing the next version of Bruce Banner. That was a mistake. I will never do that again. I’ve never had a role be more scrutinized and criticized even before I shot a single frame. Coming onto the set with all of these guys was pretty daunting. Many of my heroes are in this cast. I knew that I had big shoes to fill, so to speak. It was tough, and I wish that I had a cool costume to wear the entire time instead of a leotard that was painted like a Chinese checkerboard.
Front Row Features: Robert, the others actors have said you were basically the leader, the force uniting them on the set. Did you instigate that and how did it work?
Downey: We needed it. I offered rides back and forth from Albuquerque on my private jet. Going back to 2007 when I was cast in “Iron Man” and (producer) Kevin Feige said this is all going to lead to where we’re going to have all of these franchises come together, we’re going do something unprecedented in entertainment and we’re going to make this “Avengers” movie, I just remember I would get nervous and excited about it and doubtful of it. I already had a history with Sam, and I really wanted to capitalize on that. By the time, Chris (Evans) and Chris (Hemsworth) had launched their individual franchises with success and charisma, and by the time we had Mark, I was like, wow, this is really going to happen. Just being a worker amongst workers is kind of where I started out. It was nice to not really have to carry a movie. Everyone really is equal in this venture.
Front Row Features: Chris (Evans), in your Details magazine interview, you joked that Captain America had to take the stairs when all the rest of them were fighting.
Evans: I just figured if Hulk does this impossible thing over here and Thor bottlenecks a portal and Iron Man flies, then my thing will be I’ll take the stairs.
Front Row Features: And you Chris (Hemsworth), what was it like reprising Thor in this?
Hemsworth: We all kind of fell into the fish-out-of-water category. Joss (Whedon) said it early on—we’re a dysfunctional family—and yet we somehow belong together because we don’t belong anywhere else. Thor is from another planet and I guess his motivation throughout the conflict was far more personal than the rest of them because the villain is his brother. It was nice to have already shot that earlier film and have that relationship with Tom (Hiddleston). (Our characters) are all from some other planet or some other world, so it was fun to play that dynamic.
Front Row Features: What do you like best about your character?
Evans: In my case, it’s (Captain America’s) heart, his selflessness. He wasn’t born a superhero. This didn’t happen to him by accident. He was chosen, and it was for those reasons, values, and morals. He puts other people, other causes, ahead of himself. It’s something to aspire to.
Downey: Tony Stark didn’t really set out to do anything noble, so he’s kind of in transition. There’s something kind of a little more Han Solo than Luke about him. He also can pull off wearing a Black Sabbath T-shirt through most of the movie.
Hemsworth: I like the sort of visceral sort of gut instinct that Thor has. I always thought he has this childlike quality in the sense that if he believes in something. When he wants to do something, he does it and says it. Thor has bravado and strength and all that, but, at the end of the day, he’s pretty true to who he is and what he wants to do. That was fun to play with.
Samuel L. Jackson: I just like the fact that Nick Fury believes that these unique individuals deserve the love and admiration of the world.
Front Row Features: Were there any accidents during filming?
Hemsworth: I had one. The scene where Thor takes Loki off the ship, I was on a wire, and I had to come down and land on a cliff and then have this conversation with him. In the first couple of takes, I just face-planted into the dirt. It was incredibly ungraceful and un-super hero-like.
Front Row Features: If all of you had to swap any character for the next film, who would it be and why?
Evans: I want to say Iron Man because I just love those movies, but who can do it better (than Robert)? The shoes would be too big to fill.
Jackson: I want to be Scarlett (Johansson). I just want to be that cute for, like, 15 minutes.