If I had to rank the top ten things I've witnessed on a film set, one of those spots would be taken by the moment that occurred as a group of reporters, all flown to London by Marvel, walked out onto the upper balcony of the main room of the Avengers Tower set.
Below us, two figures stood locked in combat. Or at least, they stood locked in the rehearsal for combat, as Joss Whedon walked around them, discussing the staging of the fight. We immediately recognized one of the figures as Thor, and one of the things that I find most impressive about Chris Hemsworth is that even when they have his stunt double on set, Hemsworth is still the biggest guy in the room. He is gigantic. I'm not 100% sure I'm the same gender as Hemsworth. He is, in a word, absurd. Of course they cast him as a god walking the Earth. He's like a forced perspective trick.
And there, standing toe to toe with him, was The Vision.
By the time we got our chance to actually talk to Hemsworth, we had seen him run through the fight a few times, and we watched him do a hammer gag that should be very cool in the finished film, but that was as low-tech as freezing in position, turning off the camera, and then turning it back on while were were there on-set. Seeing the way the physical and the digital were both part of what was being shot was interesting, and when Hemsworth sat down with us, we had our questions ready to go.
Talk a little about your reaction when you first got the script.
It was awesome. I mean, you know, coming off of “Thor: The Dark World” and “The Avengers,” I couldn't wait to read this. I just loved how it upped it in a way that wasn't just bigger and flashier. Everything had been amplified, but in an intelligent way. All the stories are relevant to what's going on in the world as far as, you know, the exponential growth of technology and artificial intelligence and then the questions of good versus bad in the AI world. [Joss has] managed to bring all of The Avengers back in and give them a relevant reason to be there and justified this sort of conflict. It's a tricky balance. I'm glad I'm not the one writing the thing and having to pull that off.
Can you talk about what you”re filming today?
This is their first meeting, and as you can see, it's conflicted. It”s a big fight scene.
To some degree, your relationship with Loki was the driving factor of the first movie. How does Thor tie into the larger “Avengers: Age of Ultron” movie?
We set it up with Thor having stayed on Earth at the end of “Thor 2,” so he's here. He's part of the team. This is his home for the moment. The initial threat and attack from Ultron is personal because it's at all of The Avengers, and Thor begins to see a bigger picture here about what this threat could be potentially. This begins to tie in all of our films. It”s hard to say too much without talking about what I can”t talk about but… as I said, it's a personal loss from the get-go because it's aimed at him.
What”s something Thor gets to do in this film that he hasn't done before?
He”s loosened up a bit. I think we lost some of the, the humor and the naïveté and, you know, the fish out of water quality of Thor in the second one. There were things I loved about what we did in the second one tonally, but that sense of fun was… I would have liked it to be there a bit more. Joss felt the same way. [Thor]'s been on Earth, he's a little more human, a little more accessible. He's off Asgard now so he doesn't have to be as regal and kingly as he is in that world, which is nice. I enjoy that more. [Asgard is] sort of a box, which he gets to step out of. That stuff just looks out of place, whereas here you can have a gag with the guys and he can throw away lines and be at a party scene with them in civilian clothes, which is nice.
Do we see him going to the movies with Natalie?
Yea, I pitched that! I did. But no.
Do the events of this film tie directly into “The Avengers”?
It is referenced in a way to tie the films up. There's a new threat in this now. There's a new conflict. There's a new set of circumstances. We don't tend to cover too much of the previous film and the next one. Hopefully they will stand alone as their own story.
How acclimated is Thor? Does he go to the movies with his girlfriend?
There's a party scene where I was in a nice coat and jeans and the guys just kept joking, “When did Thor go shopping? Did he buy this online or did Jane do it? Or did he actually go shopping? You don't see him go shopping but the question is raised because he's not dressed in his Asgardian attire. He's more human in this film, definitely.
We see that you”re in your classic armor. Does he get a costume change in this one?
It's been tweaked. It's more comfortable. Each time, you get a little more comfortable, a little more movement in it. I don't think there's any huge changes to it. I loved where it was in the second one. We sort of landed on something because it was a bit more streamlined and functional. It's pretty similar.
So Tony isn”t giving you any upgrades?
Other than Thor, who is your favorite Avenger and why?
I mean, I love the fun Tony gets to have with that character. In the lack of boundaries, I think that he's getting room to do so much, so many things, and yet always bring it back to be personal and grounded at times, no matter how sort of zany it gets. I just love watching Robert work in this setting, so it's pretty special.
Thor and Hulk have some scenes in the first movie. Do we get more of that in the sequel?
We're not as conflicted as we were before, I think. He tags off with someone else though. I think we sort of changed up there. And he has a pretty solid battle with…
(Hemsworth looks over at the various Marvel producers standing a few feet away)
… am I allowed to say?
(Hemsworth is careful to wait until they nod)
… Iron Man in this one, which is cool. It's a lengthy fight scene of destruction.
Adding these new faces both against you and on your side, how has that been? What's it like with Spader on-set?
It's awesome, you know? It shakes things up because, and I find this in my individual films, you get comfortable. You get into a rhythm or a routine and you think you know it until that's challenged. You go 'Oh, yeah, that's right, there is another option here.” We keep changing it and mixing it up. This new cast breaks the familiar rhythm that we may have and makes it a bit more unpredictable. We're lucky to come back and actually want to come back and work with these guys and hang out again and pick up where we left off. It's a pretty special thing, and it's been great. I do. I love working on this set.
Has the script changed much from when you first read it?
Yeah, I mean, it was just giving him a solid reason to be there. It seems like a pretty simple demand. It would be easy to fall into, “Oh, they're all just there because they're all contracted and look cool if we”re standing in the same room.” I kept saying to Joss, “Okay, what do I bring to the table besides Thor being one of the foot soldiers and the muscle in a bunch of fight scenes? What is his knowledge that he can bring to it?” And trying to incorporate, “Okay, he's from another world,” because if you get that… all of a sudden you're standing there in these conversations and you go, “Well, hang on, he”s from another planet, you know? What's his thousands of years of existence worth? What information can I bring?” He calls upon some of his Asgardian knowledge in this, and he's able to go into another realm to pull out something that's hugely useful. Some information that certainly benefits where they”re at at that point.
Do you know all the steps that come after this from Marvel? Do you know what ideas they have for “Avengers 3” so far?
I have asked the question but the truth is no one has the answer yet. We don't know how it's going to end and the biggest concern is this one here. I know that I'm sure they are coming up with ideas and attempting to kind of have some kind of arrangement that five or six years down the track they go, “Okay, this is where we're heading,” but they don”t tell us until the day before usually, like this fight scene we learned this morning.
“Thor: The Dark World” ended with Loki on the throne of Asgard, and obviously Thor doesn”t know about it. How much connection does he still have with Asgard, or is he divorced from it completely?
Until the third act, Thor sort of… halfway through, he begins to have suspicions about what's going on here, or is there a bigger picture here? Who's involved? He actually doesn't know by the end of it, but he starts to think something”s not right here. This is all a little too convenient, why this has happened, and that certainly points his focus back there.
This is new grounds for you because this is your first Marvel film without Tom Hiddleston as Loki. Is his absence felt either on set or with the character of Thor?
I love working with Tom and it's great in the first one, having such a personal kind of attachment to the villain, but I wouldn't have wanted to repeat that either, you know? It's nice to just do something different, and not out of any lack of interest with the character or with Tom. It was just, “Alright, what's the next step?”
Do The Avengers feel like more a team, like they're ready for any threat now? Is Thor afraid of Ultron?
No, I think he openly admits, “I don't think we can win this one.” The threat is so great that I think all of them are scratching their heads going, “Is this it?” We have to kill so many things. It's just an onslaught and it doesn't stop. It's sort of an open floodgate and what is… what it could also set in motion is an even bigger threat. I think that's what Thor”s kind of stuck on or where he is attention certainly is, being from Asgard. He's trying to say, “Hang on, there's a whole universe here which is signaling something else.”
Someone mentioned Scarlet Witch bringing out the inner demon for each character. Can you talk about what that is for Thor, and does that eventually turn them against each other?
It certainly creates a conflict. It's more in their individual selves, rather than the team so much. Their fears are held up in front of them and, and for Thor, I think it's a corruption of power. With all of them having so much power and the understanding that we're in this endless battle here and when this is going to end and how does it end? That scene is actually being rewritten at the moment if you want to talk to Joss about it, so it's hard to kind of even say what it will be in Thor”s dream sequence. It kicks in motion his movement. That's where he really starts to move through the story. Once that dream occurs, he goes, “I can see what's coming and my fear could be true, so, yeah, it”s a ticking [time bomb].
Each time we see Thor his power and abilities keep getting amped up. Are we going to see that in a new display? Is he more powerful or more trained? Does he have to hold back at all?
In this instance, there's more hand-to-hand combat with someone of his equal strength or more. So he can't afford to do that, whereas with the people who were far less capable than him and not as strong, I said, “Let's make sure he's picking up cars and throwing them and ripping things in half and spending a bit more time up in the air and using the elements as opposed to being stuck in a hand-to-hand fight with the bad guys. I think it keeps getting amped up and the sounds become more elaborate. And, yeah, we see him fly a bit more.
You guys are in a lot of international locations for this one. Was there a particular location the blew your mind?
I haven't, actually, I started here. My wife and I were having a baby, or two babies at the beginning of the shoot, so we were in LA. A lot of that stuff was with the stunt crew or second unit. I know Chris [Evans] went to both locations, but I've just been here.
“Avengers: Age of Ultron” will conquer the world staring May 1, 2015.