Avengers Director Joss Whedon On Doing Right By The Hulk
Kyle 2012/05/23 21:33:28
The Avengers isn’t out in the United States until midnight
tonight, but all this week people have been going nuts for The Hulk. In
fact, on Monday there were even whispers about a new Hulk solo movie by 2015 and earlier today our own Katey Rich and Sean O’Connell debated about
whether or not Mark Ruffalo gave the best performance in the movie. The
reason why the sudden love is so surprising is because both Ang Lee’s Hulk and Louis Letterier’s The Incredible Hulk failed to really connect with audiences or critics in a real way. So what is it about this version that people love so much?
Having loved Ruffalo’s take on the Hulk as much as everyone, when I had
the chance to sit down one-on-one with writer/director Joss Whedon a few
weeks ago it was the first thing I had to ask him about. Check out my
interview with Whedon below, in which he talks about not only what he
did right with the Hulk, but the origins of the script as a Captain
America Story, deleted scenes, and crafting the proper tone.
This movie works as an ensemble piece and is really well balanced, but who is the hardest character to write for?
Hulk. And not in terms of the voice, necessarily, so much as the
structure. What’s going to make this guy Hulk out? When is that good?
When is that bad? How do you toe the line with villain, being a monster
and hero? And make it all play in the same movie. It’s a thing that has
plagued the Hulk movies, and even getting the animators to
understand what I was going for…well I had to go and talk to them
[laughs]. Which was fascinating to me, because afterwards they were
like, “This is great! Nobody ever comes and tells us about stuff!” And
I’m like, “What? Are you kidding? You guys are creating one of the most
important characters!” And they so got it after we talked a while and I
thought they did such a beautiful job and Mark did such a beautiful job.
So I feel very proprietary about how that went and I’m really proud of
it because it really was tough.
I personally thought the Hulk was the best part of the movie and
the real standout. And you kind of touched on this, but in contrast,
what do you think it was about the previous Hulk movies that got it
Well, for me, again, you’re dealing with this monster and they treat
them like superhero movies, but the problem is, when they do that
they’re doing that with a hero who thinks he’s in a monster movie. So
what you get is a man whose only obsession is to stop you from paying to
see the thing you paid to see. And that’s a real problem! And then you
put him in a possibly convenient situations with the worst people in the
world every time he turns into the Hulk, and one of the things that was
exciting for me was to have him transforming in a dark room next to the
Black Widow, because that’s not okay! He’s actually mad at her!
[laughs] And you want to say, yeah, there’s a reason why he doesn’t want
to let this out and you want to feel it because you don’t want her to
To talk about the film on a bigger scale, I read, and you can
correct me if I’m wrong, that the original version of the movie was
going to be a more Captain America story. Is that correct?
I started with him and Iron Man and their differences, and Cap was kind
of my “in” because Iron Man is a guy who knows what’s going on and he’s
above us and he’s too cool and his girlfriend is Gwyneth Paltrow
[laughs]. And Cap is a guy, he’s looking at the world for the first
time, so he’s Luke and Tony is Han. That’s kind of the vibe. Ultimately
there was too much and I found that I had sort of fallen into writing Iron Man 3,
is basically the thing. So yes these guys will have these points of
view, but I need to back off from making that the center of the film and
really deal with all of the team as a whole. We did shoot a lot of
stuff with Cap, feeling like he’s not in the world, and honestly, the
moment I saw him at that punching bag it was, “Oh, yeah. That says it
all.” He’s in the gym alone at night beating the shit out of a punching
And I really don’t need to say a lot else!
On that kind of note, were there any scenes that you shot that
you ended up having to cut due to story and pacing, but really wanted to
Yeah, the first cut was quite long. And you’ll see in the DVD extras
there was times when I really wanted to spend time with some of the
ancillary characters, who are more human to sort of give context to
everything that’s happening. But, ultimately, fans were like, “Yeah,
what we’d like to see is THE AVENGERS, SO WHY DON’T YOU JUST
SHOW THAT INSTEAD?” [laughs] And so there’s a lot of good work on the
floor, but there isn’t anything on the floor that I feel we gutted the
So this is the director’s cut.
Yes. You know what, and someday this may bite me and I may not be able
to accomplish it, but it is always my intent to put the director’s cut
in theaters. I don’t like to have different versions of a story, it kind
of tweaks me. I like to know this is the story, this is it.
This is also a project that operates on a massive scale, not
just because of its content but because it also happens to be a sequel
to five different movies. How did that affect your approach in terms of
continuity? Like, for example, I know you did some work on the Captain America: The First Avenger script to make sure that it flowed into The Avengers better.
Mostly I did work on Captain America just to do a pass at some
of the dialogue and character stuff, which was a joy, because I loved
the structure of that movie and being able to write those characters was
super exciting. And also, yeah, I did write the tags so that it could
tee us off. There was a version of it that ended on the helicarrier.
Eventually I was like, “Can you please not do that?” And they were like,
“Really? Joe Johnston didn’t want to do that either!” Then don’t put it
Can you also talk a bit about crafting the tone for this movie? With the exception of The Incredible Hulk,
which takes itself a bit more seriously than the others, the Marvel
movies have tended to be a bit more lighthearted and fun, but this movie
actually has a lot of comedy in it. And that also runs contrast to the
trend in Hollywood started by The Dark Knight to make everything darker. How do you play with that line and prevent yourself from jumping into spoof territory?
You have to make sure that the humor comes from character and even when
you’re making fun of the characters, it’s themselves who are sort of
hoisting themselves by their own petard. It’s not you pointing at them
and saying, “Stupid!” And Chris Evans would get nervous about some of
the Cap things and I was like, “Dude, this is going to make them love
you because it makes you so out of time.”
What stuff specifically?
The “I understood that reference.” “Does that make me sound like an
idiot?” “No! It’s going to make people remember how hard this is for you
and how sweet you are.” He’s so funny, but he wants to maintain the
integrity, which I think is very important. Tonally, for me everything
comes from the drama, the pain, the narrative thrust, the connection.
Those things, the journey from isolation to unity to community. That’s
where I start and then everything else falls into place – humor action,
all that stuff that comes is based on what is the most dramatic version
of this. So as long as you have that as a base you don’t have to be
relentlessly dramatic. And I do think that, ultimately, The Dark Knight is The Dark Knight. It’s the story of this one tortured guy. The Avengers
is never going to be that. These people have their own various
tortures, but it’s an odd conglomeration at best and you want to
celebrate that. And you also want to celebrate the idea that when
somebody can jump up 20 stories and smash an alien into the wall, he
might just be having the most fun ever!
I know I have to wrap up, but I did want to ask: you had Cabin in the Woods come out earlier this year, The Avengers now, Much Ado About Nothing in the works. Is television still on your radar?
It will be. I’m not developing anything right now because I’m super tired,
but I love TV. It’s an extremely thrilling way to work. It’s not
thrilling on a guy’s schedule, but I absolutely want to go back.
Do you miss the pressure of doing a weekly television show?
I like some pressure, but right now I think I’ve had enough. I’m full. Please, may I be excused.
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