The two biggest additions to the “Avengers” ensemble in next month's “Avengers: Age Of Ultron” are Elizabeth Olsen and Aaron Taylor-Johnson. They play a key role in the mega-sequel, and they manage to create some interesting tensions for both the heroes and the villains in the film.
Olsen was the first to sit down with us on the set, and we jumped right in, having already heard a number of things about her character from the rest of the cast.
Can you talk about your Eastern European accent?
(looking at the Marvel producers) Can I talk about it? We know that we're from Eastern Europe, so, okay, so, yeah, it”s something that we got to create. It's a make believe place, so it's something that Aaron and I, with the dialect coach, kind of created together.
What's the name of the fake country?
That I can't talk about, but it's, but I get to make it up, so, yeah.
How are we introduced to your character?
I think you've already been introduced. At the beginning you will see what's in the end of [“Captain America: The Winter Soldier”], and it's most likely…
Is that continued?
A little bit, yeah. There is definitely a connection that is very evident. Yeah.
Can you talk about your costuming in the film?
That wardrobe is very specific, so it's almost like hospital-ish, you know? The way that we've designed characters is based off of these two kids being on their own and using whatever they can to their best ability, like if they see a street vendor and they just grab something off a street vendor. It hints at Eastern Europe, but there's also this kind of kitschy vagabond feel as well.
In some of the original drafts of “Godzilla,” your character and Aaron's character were brother and sister. When that was switched, had you guys already talked about doing this together? Or was that very late in the game?
I think we were in a part of the brother-sister conversation for Godzilla, and [Gareth Edwards] told us that they weren't sure if they wanted them to brother and sister, but they're pretty sure they want them to be married and they're pretty sure they're gonna give them a kid. That was the impression we got. We didn't know about this until after we finished filming “Godzilla,” so it was kind of funny.
Working on this film, you had just come off the other film together. Was that easier?
Totally. If you look at the comics, the two of them are always so close to each other. Their comfort around each other is so specific, and to the rest of the group. So it's nice to know Aaron, and it's also nice to have a friend when you're joining such a big project like this with potentially intimidating people. It's been really nice to have Aaron. And it is nice to feel like they have their movies… well, we had a movie too, it's not just that one. But, you know… it was that kind of teammate feel.
What were some of your first meetings with the cast members like, and did they give you any insight? Who was the first person you and Aaron got to work with?
The first person that Aaron and I got to work with is Jeremy Renner, because we were shooting in Italy as everyone has seen. He was… he was so… he's sort of straight about how this is gonna go, and that was one of the first days of shooting the cast, I think. It's seriously been the most waiting I've done on a film, so that keeping an energy up is really difficult. But you get on set and you just have to have one thing that you hook into to remind yourself, to give you that energy and the drive of your character. I don't know, just talking with him was interesting and fun, and I so enjoy working. Everyone that we've met, everyone is so nice. I was waiting for any sort of diva anything. There's none of that at all on this set. All of the actors are unbelievably fun and giving and kind and it's, it's amazing.
Do you have a favorite Avenger?
Personally? I'm kind of digging what I get to do, and I'm really excited. My favorite, just as a fan, is Iron Man. Those are my favorite films and that's how I got into the Marvel world, becoming a fan myself. I wouldn't mind continuing to do this for quite some time because I'm having so much fun working on the Scarlet Witch. Wanda. She's so awesome. I think Joss is excited by her also and so the two of us kind of dork out a bit and… it”s pretty fun.
Going off of what we saw in “Captain America 2,” what is the relationship like between Wanda and Baron von Strucker? Is that something that continues throughout the film?
It's something people will be wondering later. [looking over at the Marvel producers] Um, I guess it kind of… what it is, what is there, I mean, looks like, you know, we're almost, I mean, it is what it is.
Do they share ideas?
I don't know. I think there's a bit of… you know. I don't know what I can tell, but like it's, ah, it's…
In that scene at the end of [“The Winter Soldier”], we see the character manipulating objects and today we learned that your character can get in the minds of people. Can you talk about the power abilities of Wanda?
Yeah, so I am able to go into someone's head and I can feel and see what they feel and see, so it's not just me manipulating them. What I love about her is that in so many superhero films, emotions are kind of negated a bit, but for her everything that someone else could feel, like their weakest moments, she physically goes through that same experience with them, which is pretty cool. So if they have the biggest, darkest fear, I get to see that.
Can you also shoot things or control things?
Yeah, I can control energy. I can manipulate energy away, so that's what the red stuff is that we're playing with.
This power set is something we haven”t seen in a Marvel movie yet. Coming up with the physicality of it, how will you play those things?
It's been so fun, because you can't be like, “Well, how does this magic witch hero move?” There's nothing physically that you can just reference from dance or martial arts or anything like that. So we started off with Joss having these ideas based off images in the comics of what the hand gestures would look like or the arms look like, and then I work with a dancer, Jenny Wade. She's a choreographer and dancer. The two of us get locked up in a room together and we move and we try and figure out what looks strong and where the energy comes from. But also in the film, I'm having a journey of discovering how powerful she can be. So, you know, we've got to start somewhere. We've got to figure out what all those different levels are. Sure, it's funny, because everyone's doing like stunt practices and choreography, and she and I are just like doing weird moves and pretending like we're making things shoot out of our hands. And it's… [LAUGHING] like, I can't get injured that way and I feel not as tough as everyone, but it's super fun.
It is. It's so playful. It's nice to be able to have some sort of creativity and movement, um, and it's pretty awesome.
Do you have a tremendous amount of power? How crazy is she? Is she trying to maintain a level of sanity?
I think that's what's so awesome about that trajectory of where she could go potentially. In this film, it's just the beginnings of everything. It's all just starting.
In the comics she does get really powerful. In this movie, are you just learning to use your power?
No, we made the decision that she's already been able… we played with the idea of how much can she do yet at the beginning of the film, and at first it was like not much, but we've decided to have her hone in, to understand some sort of strength to her abilities. But then they do grow. There's definitely a sense of confidence that she knows what she's doing from the start.
You can get into the Avengers heads. Have you filmed scenes with everyone? Can you get into all the Avengers heads?
I can get into anyone. I do that to everyone.
To a robot?
I don't think so. I don't think that includes robots.
Did you film scenes with the entire cast already?
We just filmed an awesome scene where we're basically all in one room in the last few days. It's been so cool. Aaron and I were kinda like, “This is amazing.” I can”t believe they can get all these people in one room. It was more of like a talking scene, and it was a lot of fun.
Do we get to see any interaction or a relationship building between Wanda and Vision?
They're both being introduced in this film, so I think if you're a big fan and you know what happens, maybe you'll start putting in your own interpretation on things, but other than that, everyone's kind of being, you know, created and born. All these new people are being added in a way.
Is there humor with your character? Because she seems pretty dark.
Um, I think there's humor with her brother. I think there's a lot of humor. Jeremy Renner's character is hilarious for some reason to me. [LAUGHING] He”s like a big grump, and he's really funny. He's always complaining, but the humor that I have would seem more like being the… I think with Pietro and his energy, we're like yin and yang almost. That interaction to me is funny, but it's not sunny. I'm not saying like funny smart lines, but…
What”s it like being a Joss Whedon female hero?
Well, you feel like you're in good hands, and the cool thing is that he hasn't been able to create these characters. He's been given them from other directors or writers, from their other franchises, and he's been adapting, taking what has already been created, then serving them in “The Avengers.” In this, he's able to create Wanda, and he's such a huge fan of her, and it's really awesome to get to have that. I think he is enjoying getting to have the experience where he gets to create it, because he is such a fan of creating these strong, amazing women. It's nice to have that kind of… there's obviously Black Widow, but it's nice to have another strong presence, and usually I haven't really been around when Scarlet was working, so I kind of feel like the only female most of the time. It's nice to have a stronger presence.
Does she tangle with Widow a little bit?
A little bit. A little bit. We've got to work a little bit together.
What was your reaction when you saw what your costume would be like? Obviously we know what the character looks like in the comics, which is interesting…
Well, the first thing Joss ever said to me, before I even got the job, when we were at that first meeting, he said, “When you look at the images, look at the comics, know that we are not making you look like that. You will not have to wear a bathing suit or look like a porn star.” [LAUGHING] So that made me feel great. Um, and then Alex [Alexandra Byrne], who is our costume designer, is really clever in being able to take the images and the iconic ideas of these characters and these comics and these cartoons and adapt them to some sort of modern day world, like how it would actually exist, but still make it feel like it's not of this world in a way. So I have been totally loving it, and I love all of my costumes and I love all the details. I work so much, and there are so many little pieces and they're all so unique, and I think it all just adds to your journey as these twins together.
You”re known for smaller films. Is there really any difference with your process in working on something so big this time?
There's a huge difference, and it's really interesting, because you get to learn a different way of working. In this, you get to work, but I like having a lot of structure. I've always enjoyed having tons of structure because then you can be as free as you want within it. And in this, it's like you have that structure and you have more structure and everything is in Joss' head or Kevin's head, and everyone has figured out how this is gonna go. It's almost like a cartoon before you get there, so you have to bring this humanity and life and your own personal interpretation of everything. But it's not like you can decide, “Oh, I'm gonna go walk over and touch that thing across the room.” You can't do that. There are like 6 cameras set up. It's totally a different way of working, and you have to be so specific and you just have to do it right when they give you the opportunity to, because you don't have a lot of opportunities. They have to keep moving with all the other set ups. Then when you do something smaller, it's like you're getting to exist in a room with the one camera guy and do that kind of dance.
Joss is known for altering, tweaking dialogue on the day. Has he done anything drastic with any of your dialogue or any of your stuff?
No. No, and if there are, and we have script changes where we'll come on the set shooting a scene and he'll be like, “Oh, by the way, I added a scene right before this.” And you're like, “What?!” And then that scene changes your full opinion of what you're about to shoot, but that's okay. You know, you can change your mind really quickly. So that's the only thing, but maybe intentions have changed so that while we've been shooting, the script has been changing, but, um, nothing that you ever feel unprepared for.
Do you have any direct relations with Ultron?
I think our relationship to Ultron will not be shared. [LAUGHING] Yeah.
Does your character also have the ability to see into their nature on whether they are good or bad?
Well, I think that what I'd like to answer is that I think we can know so many things about someone but not know what they're capable of in terms of being bad or good, and I think everyone has maybe good intentions, but they do bad things. So I don't think anyone differentiates that.
When you were first meeting with Joss and talking about costume ideas, and he was pitching the character to you, did he pitch you an overall plan saying here are some things on the course of this character's life in these films?
No, it was more like, “Here's what we're going to do with this film,” and then while we've been on set, I just like making jokes like, “Wouldn't that be awesome if that happened to you later at a different time?” That's about it. It's been really… the story that we wanted to achieve, that she almost creates on her own in the comics is just so awesome and I'm sure it'd be fun to play with him. I would love to do more.
Sitting down with her on-screen brother, I was struck by how much he's changed since I first met him on the set of the initial “Kick-Ass.” Taylor-Johnson not only filled out, but he grew up in a hurry, jumping into what would be a challenging living situation for people twice his age, and he seems to be handling it all like it's casual and completely expected.
Here's our chat once he sat down:
Can you talk about your eastern European accent?
I can. We're doing one. Whether they decide to re-ADR that in the end, I don't know, you know.
If you wouldn't mind, can you demo it?
I can't. I don't think I can do that but it has been fun. Me and Lizzy have been doing dialect coaching together and trying to get the sound, you know, similar, since we're playing twins, brother and sister, with her being American and me British. It's fun. When I spoke to Joss about it a long time ago and he approached me for the role, it was one of the things I wanted to keep, you know. One of them was I wanted to have white, silver hair to look like the character. The other one was if i could embrace the roots, where he's from, being eastern European. It would be great to do some kind of accent to impart that kind of feeling, so I'm glad that we're doing it. But like I said, you know, they might screen it and go “What are they saying?” So you never really know. I'd like to think that they'll keep it there. The Marvel guys, they totally understand. It comes from their characters. They're a studio that really care about their characters and have real creative input and are totally for that. But at the end of it, you know, you always want what's best, so we'll see. We'll see, so hopefully it will continue on that route.
How much reading did you do of the comics to see what the character is like? Did you have to see what the studios would like or…
Yeah, yeah, some of the original stuff, sort of a mixture of things. Obviously the character sort of jumps in and out of different universes, like in their mutant world and all that, which obviously we don't embrace cause of being with Fox. That's no sort of secret, you know. I take bits of pieces that have been done in history and all sort of comic books to kind of get the essence and the sense of Pietro as a character, rather than just Quicksilver in the sense of superhero powers, like he runs faster than the speed of sound. What's he really like, and kind of get to the depths of him and Wanda as Travelers. They have to look out for themselves and it's a really close, intimate relationship, and it can be seen in many ways, you know. Also that sort of mother and father, that kind of figure. He's very protective of her in a kind of physical way and her more in a psychological way. We try and embrace that and there's a lot of stuff that you could pick up from it, and one of the ones I like that's now offered is “The Ultimates,” because I think that kind of ties in more with what they've been doing recently with “The Avengers.” It's more keeping in tone with it.
So your power set is something we haven”t seen in these movies before, but we”ve seen super speed in other films. It really feels still like there”s ground to be broken. Physically how do you prep for that and work with the team to figure that out?
I run a lot. Right now, I think they're gonna play around with maybe getting into Quicksilver time, which would be my point of view and kind of playing around with that. It's experimental really. That's the great thing with these things, with new powers, that you can really play with that sort of stuff. We did a lot of testing. The first time we did a running test, I was on what's essentially like a running machine, but it was a huge lorry-sized rig the width of this room, but it was something that they sped up, a great big running machine, and they had me on a harness on a greenscreen. They put it on a sort of an incline and I ran on that. What it did, it didn't really give a sense like anything was really traveling. When you played it back, it looked too clean and neat. It didn't really look real, and then when we did some stuff on the road when we shot at 120 frames per second, and they're on a truck and they're driving while I sprint for a hundred meters, more kind of crazy and kind of ducking and diving, and when they sped that up, it had a lot more of an interesting plot to it. So we experimented with it, a lot of fun “What am I doing today? Do I run in and I run out?” [LAUGHS] It gets to be quite…
Elizabeth was talking a bit about the humor of the character. Super speed is something to lends itself to humor, plus Joss Whedon has an incredible ear for humor. What”s it been like working with the humor of the character?
Yeah, I mean, the thing with the Marvel Universe in general is everything's not taken too seriously. Even when there are points of real drama, I love that there's a lot of sarcasm and humor to it and people have their moment of humor. It's fun. What we didn”t want, from me and Lizzie's standpoint, is that our accents be the humorous thing. We didn't want to be laughing at the fact that we've got these silly accents, you know? It's good. It's all kind of fed through Joss and bouncing off the other actors and stuff.
Is it mostly repartee with Scarlet Witch or the rest of the team?
With the rest of the team. You know, it's always that great thing where they have characters going head to head and bickering with one another. I don't want to say who, but it's nice to have like…
Say who. [LAUGHTER]
There's a lot of humor in it, and uh, we get on.
With Scarlet Witch, she”s getting into their heads. What sort of relationship do you have with the Avengers? Do you hate them or do you resent them?
Well for him, it's hard to kind of get into that because it's not an easy answer. It's not an easy answer. Cause I go at such super speed, it's literally an elbow or a shoulder can send someone flying. It's the force of impact of my powers. And depending on when I'm slowed down, it makes the character very vulnerable at times but at super speed, no one really can kind of keep a track on him.
When the first Quicksilver movie [last summer's Fox release, 'Days Of Future Past,' where Evan Peters played the role in a highly-discussed standout sequence] came out, you guys were in production. Did some of the things you planned on doing get beaten to the punch?
I don't know. I haven't seen it yet, so I don't really know. When the job came around, it was already out there. I think it was already shooting, you know, so it wasn't like we were surprised. “Oh, should I really be taking on a character that's already out there?” We looked at the two different universes, and I don”t feel threatened, nor do we go, like, “We're saying theirs is the wrong thing.” It's just that's one thing and we're doing something different. I haven't watched it to see if they're doing the Slow Mo Super Speed kind of Action shots.
In the comics, Quicksilver has quite a very distinctive costume that he wears. Do you eventually transition to something like that that towards the end of the movie? Do you have something he wears that can hold up to that kind of speed? Moving fast, more fabric could get in the way…
Cause it”s so early on, I'm just more of a civilian. They're more eastern European Travelers that are picking up clothes as they go along. I can't really say too much about it but, yeah, I think the way that we've designed picking out the costumes is with that kind of thought in mind. I think some of the things I wear are more sporty, um, long sleeves. Like a Cycle Top and compression T-shirts and things that give that kind of physique, so you can sense an idea of it.
Do you have a favorite Avenger other than yourself?
I wasn't gonna say myself. It's a real hard one. Yesterday, we did a scene and we had the whole cast in. It's a hard one cause when you really look at it… most people are… so, like, the Hulk is one of the most awesome, an awesome Avenger. Essentially when he's not the Hulk, he's just like a scientist. He's Banner, you know? Then obviously Iron man, Tony Stark not in Iron Man”s thing is not a super hero, but then he kinda is, and then you look around the room… and the only one that is essentially an other-worldly superhero physique is Thor. You see his arms, it's like the size of my thigh. [LAUGHS] You kind of think that, just the idea of being an actor, to try to form your physique. To get your body to that kind of level and, essentially, he's God so he's 6 foot 4. But he's such a great guy. Everyone is charming and brilliant and a lot of fun but, uh, that guy is definitely, you know, a superhero.
I don”t want to say hatred, but Pietro and Wanda have issues with Captain America, the Avengers and Tony Stark in general. How much of their backstory are we going to learn? We met them at the end of “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.” Are we going to learn how that came about, or is that something we don”t have time to really get into?
Yeah, I think so. That was a real take on the origin story and that was like a small little taste and I think, um, absolutely, that's definitely just to get you to start to think like that.
So this movie will cover some of their origins?
Yeah, I think we'll embrace it heavily, and you'll get a sense of it.
Do you think you'd be able to win a foot race with the cast?
A foot race, what's a foot race? Just running? I mean, it would be pretty embarrassing if I couldn't. [LAUGHS] It depends. If they're in their costumes, I would. [LAUGHS] I think I would be super fast. Hemsworth would be fast, but he's got a lot of weight there. I'll keep up with that one. Let's keep the illusion going.
“Kick-Ass” was a break out role for you and to a large extent it demolishes the notion of super heroes. Was there ever a moment where you were hesitant to actually make the jump to do actual super hero films?
I'm flattered and honored to be called in to be part of “The Avengers.” I don't think you hesitate. I had to slow down and think, “Before I get in over my head and go yeah, absolutely, where do I sign?”, you know? I have to focus in, you know? Is there a character there? Is there something that I can actually bring to the table, whereas I don't want to be just another superhero added on. “What, there's no storyline? What's the plot, you know?” Do I hesitate and I say, “No, not really”? I hope that when you watch it, people don't go assuming or looking for Kick Ass. That doesn”t really work. Some people can get very channeled into one thing. It's great that “Kick Ass” put me on the map in many ways, but I've been working before that a long time, doing independent roles and trying to play characters in other movies. “Savages” was very different to that. Hopefully what we've done in this by looking different and changing it out with accents and things, we hope we can give another tone to it. I hope so anyway.
Are you championing your own solo movie with Scarlet Witch? Do you think there is enough material for that to happen?
I wasn't thinking on that line. If anything, they'd probably tag us into someone else's. They've got their own comic book, so there's got to be something. It's up to the Marvel guys if they wanted to go that route.
Would you be game?
Absolutely. With these guys, it's a lot of fun. It's a great studio to be part of, and I'm not just saying that cause it's that's the easiest thing to say. It's like, you know, you work with other big studio movies and you're just one film in the mix of many others, and you're just a character and there are many others in their films. Marvel guys only care about the Marvel Universe and the characters they came from, so therefore, that's all they think about creatively. They care about the storyline, so it becomes a really creative family and a place that, yeah, I enjoy working. The experience for me is always overall whatever the outcome is, cause this is how I work, and it's part of my life and important to have fun and work with good people, you know.
I do, indeed. Thanks to Olsen and Taylor-Johnson for their time. It seems crazy that I'm seeing the film in a week. It feels like just yesterday we were on the set of this at Shepperton, and now it's here, ready to once again dominate the entire summer.
“Avengers: Age Of Ultron” is just around the corner now. Thank god.