Last year, Yahoo Movies was lucky enough to be invited to the set of ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’ at Shepperton Studios, just outside of London.
As well as a personal tour of the Avengers Tower and the new Quinjet, we were also granted unprecedented talent access, speaking to the film’s principle cast, its writer-director Joss Whedon, and its producer Jeremy Latcham.
Here’s everything we learned on our visit to the world of ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’.
1: Joss Whedon wanted to go smaller than the first film… but ending up going much bigger
Jeremy Renner (Hawkeye): [After the first film] I asked Joss, “How do we do another one? Where do we go?” to which Joss Replied: “Well, you gotta go smaller.” When I saw the script, ultimately I feel like it’s bigger. There’s a lot more action, a lot of new characters, and that makes it more complicated, but also there’s more intimacy in this one unlike the last one.
2: The Avengers are just one big family
Chris Evans (Captain America): It’s like a family thing. If ‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’ was a conspiracy film and ‘Thor: The Dark World’ is fantasy, this almost is like a family drama. Joss made this with loads of really nice intimate, human, grounded moments.
3: Tony Stark is bankrolling the Avengers, while Steve Rogers leads them
Jeremy Latchem (producer): [The Avengers are] not living inside this big S.H.I.E.L.D. superstructure any more so Tony is bankrolling everything. He’s the money behind the operation, clearly because he’s got plenty of it, but he doesn’t want to be the operational lead of it, because that’s not what he does.
Chris Evans (Captain America): I think [Steve Rogers] feels very comfortable in a sort of leadership role but I don’t think he gives orders. He does structure, organisation, he’s a military guy.
4: There’s more of the Avengers working together
Chris Evans (Captain America): In this movie it’s not about having stand-out moments, it’s about trying to have stand together moments. You want to have scenes where you’re like “man, the Avengers just kicked ass!”
If it’s every man for himself then it defeats the purpose of what this movie is. We have individual films for that. So I like the scenes where – as a unit – we’re all wrecking shop. And we get a bunch of those in this.
5: There’s going to be a lot of Marvel Easter eggs
Jeremy Renner (Hawkeye): There’s a lot of fun surprises in this, it’s exciting. It’ll be very, very exciting.
Chris Evans (Captain America): Especially for fanboys. Joss is a fanboy, so he stuffs these movies with cookies and Easter eggs, little things for the guys who are real die hard fans to be tickled by, so I think there’s going to be a lot of those in this.
6: Claudia Kim – the mystery woman in the trailers - plays a new character in the MCU
Claudia Kim (Dr Cho): I play Dr. Helen Cho, I could say that my character is the Tony Stark of the science world. So with her intelligence and technology she helps cure the Avengers and help them continue to save the world.
Her expertise will be different but she is friends with Tony and Bruce Banner.
Joss Whedon (Director): Dr. Cho slots right in with these guys so perfectly because she’s the best in her field, working in genetics, has ties to what Banner does, she’s got the confidence and the grace.
She’s a little bit bigger than life herself. She’s not an Avenger, but she’s completely at home in their world and she’s instrumental to how things progress in the movie.
7: Falcon is in the film but he isn’t technically an Avenger
Anthony Mackie (Falcon): The idea of being a fully-fledged Avenger is questionable; I think if you are there to help, it makes you a friend instead of a fully-fledged Avenger. But if you are helping an Avenger, that makes you a fully-fledged Avenger. So he is there to help.
Jeremy Latchem (Producer): Part of the fun is seeing people pop up from the other movies.
That doesn’t mean that Antony Mackie [The Falcon] is an Avenger, or that Don Cheadle [War Machine] is an Avenger, but they’re a part of the world.
8: Ultron is a more formidable foe than Loki
Anthony Mackie (Falcon): Ultron has more of an ability to take on the Avengers: one-on-one and match their powers, as opposed to Loki who had to bring in his minions to help.
Mark Ruffalo (Hulk): Ultron has the same sociopathic streak that Loki has and is equally as fun a character, but he’s much more insane. His particular brand of insanity is much grander thank Loki’s, so it’s truly diabolical.
Chris Hemsworth (Thor): He’s a far bigger threat than Loki. He has far more tools at his disposal, and his capabilities… teamed with who he’s working with, influences on the rest of us in a bad way and sends cracks throughout the team.
9: The Avengers create Ultron by accident
Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man): Tony Stark has some ideas about how to make the world safer and moving forward. That becomes corrupted - partially due to this inventor’s enthusiasm - and he pulls Banner into the fray to help him with this big idea. Because Joss is so smart it winds up - in a really interesting way - being hijacked into Ultron becoming this super elusive and unmanageable issue for all of us.
Jeremy Latchem (Producer): [Tony Stark’s] not going to try and go out and be this solo guy and take care of the world’s problems, he’s going to be part of this big team, and fund the big team.
His mentality is for him to not have to put on this suit and do this by hand. He would like to automate things. He would like world peace to be automated and in his mind there’s a way to do it that doesn’t require getting his hands dirty.
10: Ultron’s origin has been changed from the comics
Joss Whedon (Director): It started with the fact that Hank Pym was already in Ant-Man and I couldn’t really touch him. But mainly I think I probably would’ve ended up without him in the mix anyway because Ultron has to come from the Avengers.
Jeremy Latchem (Producer): That’s one of the biggest departures we’ve made in one these films. But we’ve made departures over the years and they’ve always gone over well and the reason I think they have so far – and knock on wood, they continue – is that we don’t do it glibly.
11: Ultron’s design was inspired by James Spader
Jeremy Latchem (Producer): Starting with the earliest design that we had of Ultron, there was always Spader right underneath it, so you would walk into Ryan’s office and he’s designing Ultron, this 8.5 foot tall metal robot, and when you walk in there, you don’t see robots or technology, you see pictures of James Spader all over the walls.
It was really important to Ryan that he capture some sort of essence of Spader.
12: Agent Hill is working for the Avengers now
Cobie Smulders (Maria Hill): My character is working with Tony and she’s aiding the Avengers. I like to think her job is really like a lot of intel work. The Avengers go out on missions while she keeps a watchful eye on them.
Maria is sort of filling that gap of figuring out exactly who people are when they bring people in and interrogate them. Making sure civilians are safe when they’re on these missions, making sure that things are generally taken care of.
13: They learned from Man of Steel’s mistakes
Jeremy Latchem (Producer): There have been a lot of movies in recent cinema where there’s been mad wide scale terrible destruction, and you look at it and think, “oh, a million people died”. And now there’s a hero or heroes standing in the middle of it going “we did it!”
We’re a team of heroes, so I think one of the things we’ve really gone after in this film is making sure that our heroes are acting heroically and they’re acting altruistically, and evacuating people, and saving people and getting people to safety is as much of a goal as stopping the threat.
14: The film is partly inspired by the comics
Jeremy Latchem (Producer): ‘Ultron Unlimited’ is one that I kept going back to because it has this big epic hoard of Ultron action happening and I think it’s a great run. So we’ve been digging through all of the old stuff and we have a team of research guys who are constantly digging up the best stuff for us. That’s his job, he is the guy sitting with the long box, reading all the comics and going through all of it.
15: Tony Stark is somehow involved in Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch’s origin
Jeremy Latchem (Producer): [Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch’s] backstory is really connected to the bigger story and The Avengers. We forget often that Tony Stark has a past. He’s been a hero, he’s been on top of the world for so long, but right before that happened, he was off selling bombs to the highest bidder regardless of where they came from.
It’s a past that he’s gotten away from, that I think he’s kind of forgotten about. But if you were someone who grew up in a war-torn region, in Eastern Europe somewhere and your life was affected by something that Tony Stark did, you probably didn’t forget, despite the fact that he’s Iron Man now.
In fact, that probably made you harbour resentment for years towards him, because of what he did.
16: This is Marvel’s James Bond moment
Jeremy Latchem (Producer): When we sit around talking about it, we say: How is that the Bond films can go to all these different places? And we wanted to tap into a little bit of that.
We shot in South Africa, we shot in South Korea, we shot in Italy, we’re building a massive exterior set here in London that’s also going to be playing as part of Eastern Europe. You can see it wasn’t on a backlot, that wasn’t on a soundstage, the extras are better and it all feels more real.
17: Making ‘Age of Ultron’ a success is more important than setting up the next film
Jeremy Latchem (Producer): We have to assume there’s no sequel. And if there is, then it’s up to us to come up with new big ideas.
That’s our philosophy here. You can’t save anything. We’re always trying to make the best stories. To tell the best movie possible now, but because this thing is ongoing we’re looking at our options and making sure we’re not closing doors unnecessarily.
That’s our philosophy. Let’s just keep it open, let’s keep it going and let’s leave enough room so that it can happen without closing doors.
18: Hulk and Hawkeye have bigger roles to play this time around
Jeremy Latchem (Producer): Certain characters don’t have their own franchises so you won’t have seen Hawkeye since ‘Avengers 1’, you won’t have seen Bruce Banner since ‘Avengers 1’, so as we’re developing the script we want to tell that story to give audiences time to catch up with them. This is our opportunity to show Hawkeye and Hulk again, so they definitely have big parts in the film because we don’t know as much about them.
19: The ‘Science Bros’ meme influenced the story
Jeremy Latchem (Producer): One of the things that really inspired us was a little internet meme that came out after the first film. It’s Tony Stark and Bruce Banner hopping into the back of that car which they drove off, and it said “We’re off to do science”. We love that meme, it was hanging up in the office for the longest time.
Mark Ruffalo (Hulk): Banner has his own space in the Stark empire. He’s working on some bio-tech stuff. He’s definitely got a lot on his mind and some big stuff brewing.
20: Tony Stark has been designing stuff for his fellow Avengers
Jeremy Latchem (Producer): If you walk through the lab [in Avengers Tower], there’s a workbench, and it’s got stuff from all the different characters laid out on it, because Tony’s been working on new quivers, new stuff for Widow, new stuff for Hulk, he’s been helping everybody out, because he’s a genius – and he’s the first one to point it out by the way!
21: It’s a much more relaxed shoot this time
Joss Whedon (Director): I’m having such a good time. I think people are a little more relaxed. I had a great crew in the first one but on this one, we all know what movie we’re making, in a way that nobody really knew when we started the first one, except for me, my editor, Kevin Feige and Jeremy Latchem.
Mark Ruffalo (Hulk): I think the last time was a little bit more intense and there was so much going on that movie, and so many eyes on it, that that was just an added pressure for everybody.
We all know we have to do even better this time around, but I think we’re really well positioned to do it, and I think [Joss is] at the height of his powers.
22: Managing talent schedules is hard
Joss Whedon (Director): [In response to a question about the biggest challenge he’s faced] Their f***ing schedules! Oh my god. Directing this thing is hard, but assistant directing this thing is insane. Jim Christopher should be awarded a medal. It’s just madness and they’re as dedicated as anything. They want every day off they can have.
Juggling that has been utter madness, but some of that madness works to your advantage.
Jeremy Latchem (Producer): The hardest part of making these movies – yeah, getting the script right is really hard, getting the right sets is really hard, keeping the budget down is really hard – but the hardest part is getting the schedules right with the cast.
We have one person for five days, another for ten days, and they have three scenes together in three different locations, so how do you balance all that? It really comes down to having a talented production team.
23: The climax is “unhinged”
Joss Whedon (Director): The movie got larger. I didn’t mean for it to get larger, but the climax that I pitched was completely unhinged and nobody said no, so that’s that.
Jeremy Latchem (Producer): I think the final battle is going to be really, really awesome and unexpected. I think things are going to happen in it that no-one’s going to see it coming and people are going to be like: “Whaaaaa? Oh my god!”
24: The ending will change the MCU forever
Cobie Smulders (Maria Hill): There’s major things that happen in this film and obviously it affects the world and it affects the world’s perception of the Avengers.
Jeremy Latchem (Producer): There will be some things that happen at the end of the film that definitely impact Phase 3 in a big way, just about revelations that the characters learn about the world or the universe and how big it is and how scary it is potentially.
Joss Whedon (Director): With the ending it was important for me that we felt a progression. We didn’t just feel, ‘well, no problem, we cleaned that up!’ because that’s an episode of television. That’s not a film.
This film, there’s more at stake and we take that seriously. Obviously, it’s a franchise, so I’m not going to end it like ‘Beneath The Planet Of The Apes’.
Mark Ruffalo (Hulk): At the end of the film there’s going to be a lot of shocked people and a lot of loose threads that won’t be easily tied together again.
Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man): When I read the last page of Age of UItron I had chills, and strangely, I wasn’t on that page.
25: They’re already planning Avengers 3
Jeremy Latchem (Producer): Part of our philosophy of introducing all the new characters is to help populate this world, and to keep this world going, to keep continuing to differentiate. So all the new characters that we’re introducing are with a purpose and they’re all building towards the big idea we have for what eventually could be the next film.
‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’ is coming to cinemas Thursday, 23 April. Watch a trailer below.
Image credits: Disney