It's been a long road for Marvel Studios on the way to calling out "Avengers Assemble" on the big screen, but after a summer of filming, director Joss Whedon's version on the iconic superhero super group is on its way to theaters in May 2012. As part and parcel of the rollout for "The Avengers," the studio brought a bevy of cast members and creatives from the movie to the 2011 New York Comic Con, and CBR News was on hand with a report from the front row.
After the lights dimmed low in the con's biggest event theater, Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige took the stage in a packed room to talk Earth's Mightiest Heroes. After mentioning how the first trailer for the film broke records for the number of times it was downloaded, Feige showed off the official tease on the big screen to a round of applause. The the film's stars took the stage including actors Chris "Captain America" Evans, Mark "The Hulk" Ruffalo, Tom "Loki" Hiddleston, Cobie "Maria Hill" Smulders and the lynchpin of the Marvel Film Universe – Clark "Agent Coulson" Gregg. The actors seemed every bit as excited as the fans, and Ruffalo walked out filming the crowd response on his iPhone.
Feigie related how they started planning for the film years ago after Marvel took the film rights to many of its characters to form its own studio, though he noted that Whedon was key to making the movie come together. "He's writing it, directing it...he's cutting it now. This is his movie," the President and producer said.
Evans spoke first for the cast. "It's nice to have someone to share the load, to be honest," he said of his fellow stars. "This is a movie that could be a franchise, and it would be hard if the people you're working with don't get along...but we really do all get along." He added that his favorite days on set were when he didn't have to wear his Cap suit – "Though I love the suit!" – because on long days filming action scenes mean you have to plan out your bathroom breaks. He said it was less tough on "Avengers" though when he'd see the Thor cast in their complex Asgardian outfits.
Hiddleston talked about his character, saying, "Loki is not a happy man. I think anybody who saw Thor recognized that by the end, he was a little confused about his place in the world...it's thrilling for me to be the only bad guy in a group full of the greatest superheroes in the world played by some of the greatest actors in the world sitting at this table with me. I never got a day in jeans and a t-shirt. I was mostly in leather and metal because that's how we like it in Asgard. The heavier the better.
"My day started with getting strapped into Loki's metal and buckles," he added before noting of his motivation "Everybody's got daddy issues."
Smulders, in her first Comic Con experience, kept on the costume talked saying, "I feel like I'm the first woman in a superhero movie to have a really easy costume...[I was interested] in seeing how the costume developed" from looking at the comics first. "It was really crazy how they fit in every little intricate detail."
She added that joining the cast was "extremely intimidating. I was probably most excited to work with Joss. He's been a friend of mine...and I'm still kind of pinching myself walking around and being here in front of you guys."
Gregg earned big applause at the one character to thread through the films, saying "I never thought [when I was filming 'Iron Man'] that they'd put me in 'Iron Man 2' saying stuff about New Mexico. I said 'Why am I talking about New Mexico?' and they said 'Oh...you're in Thor!'" From there, with each new film, he'd learn he was planned to do more including Whedon meeting him at Comic-Con International in San Diego to reveal he'd be written into his latest team film. He joked that there was a scene in "The Avengers" where "Agent Coulson peels back his face to reveal a Romulan Princess" before singing his own metal version of an imaginary theme for the movie which he had been writing back stage.
Ruffalo, another new cast member, said, "This was an amazing journey, and I'm building this Bruce Banner on the backs of a lot of other amazing Bruce Banner's starting with Bill Bixby." He joked with his friend and former Hulk Edward Norton that "This is our generation's Hamlet...everyone's going to get a shot at the part." Of the history of the character, he said, "I had to pay homage to it, but then I had to Ruffal-ize it."
The panel then introduced footage of Ruffalo as the Hulk. When the moderator was reminding fans they were not allowed to film the footage, the actor added "Don't make me angry."
WARNING: Spoilers for the film lie ahead.
The scene features a little girl running through the gritty back alley of an Indian city. She comes to where she's heard there is a doctor and gives Banner money to come check out her father who is very sick. Once they arrive in a small shack on the outskirts of town, the little girl escapes out the window to reveal that Scarlette Johanson's Natasha Romanov who has come to recruit Banner for SHIELD. When he asks "How'd they find me?" she responded "We never lost you" before saying that she'd persuade him to come even as he threatens his other side could come out, though it's been two years since his last "incident." It's revealed that Nick Fury is looking for Banner to track down a gamma radiation-powered device that threatens the world, and after some tense negotiations, he assents to come in.
The footage then shifted to a montage featuring the cast in action in brief glimpses as well as a shot of Stark Tower and finally Tony Stark's monologue about how the team is made of "a couple master assassins, a demi-god, a living legend who kinds of lives up to the legend" and then in a turn that reveals he's arguing with Loki, the unarmored Iron Man replies to the god's "I have an army" with "We have a Hulk."
End Spoiler Warning, though there are more teases to the story below.
A young boy took the question mic to ask the cast to call out "Avengers Assemble!" and then asked which costume was the hardest to make and wear, to which the whole cast agreed was Hiddleston's. They then spoke to Ruffalo's being the first Hulk to be performed by the actor himself in motion capture.
Asked who he liked better, Captain America or the Human Torch, Evans begrudgingly said Cap before saying, "It's like 'Which kid do you love more?' There's no good way to answer that question."
Asked who their favorite superheroes both male and female were, the panel had a varied response. Feige went with Hulk and Maria Hill while Ruffalo chose Hulk and Black Widow. Gregg said toss up between "Agent Phil Coulson – the superhero you don't see coming" and the Warlock as drawn by Jim Starlin. For ladies, he went with both Black Widow and Maria Hill. Smulders loved Iron Man and Maria Hill because "Sure...why not?" Meanwhile, Hiddleston noted "Loki's a supervillain, though he's a hero in his own mind. Since my brother's been left out of here, I'd say Thor. My favorite female superhero is the body that Loki choses to come back in...Sif." Evans said Iron Man as a hero who made his own powers and Maria Hill.
Speaking to the comics that influenced his performance, Hiddleston said Jack Kirby's art was his favorite, noting "There's an amazing bit in a very early run...which is where Loki turns a whole street of cars in New York into ice cream. I kind of love that about him. And then there's some stuff in the J. Michael Straczynski comics and the Robert Rodi stuff. The Straczynski run has Lady Loki, that I don't think I'll get to do, but someday someone will."
More questions came for the villain of the piece, noting that as the movie progresses he had to adapt his fighting to match each hero. Specifically, he said the battles with Captain America were pretty rough.
Asked what their favorite moments were in filming, Ruffalo said, "The first day on the set when I walked out and saw Thor, Captain America, Iron Man [and the rest of the cast] all assembled in our secret craft" to which Feige said, "You can say it's the Hellicarrier!" Smulders said, "I feel like we started the movie, and we were doing a lot of the Hellicarrier stuff, but when all the people came in, it was so intimidating...but as time went on, we all became friends, and we all got to hang out on set a lot." Coulson noted that while the full cast did not get together as a group often, the one night they were there he got his favorite text message ever from Evans. It simply read "Assemble."
Hiddleston then said that night was a big party where everyone was dancing except Evans and "Thor" star Chris Hemsworth. At that point Cap was holding up his bicep going, "But how do you get this little part right here so big?"
Feige then revealed to a fan that the tradition of secret, after-credit scenes for Marvel Studios films continues in "Avengers."
Asked whether "Captain America 2" could feature Wolverine as a guest star, Feige said not in #2, but who knows what could happen in the future. "I didn't ever think this movie would happen," he added.
Hiddleston – very popular with the ladies in the audience to the point where it became a bit of a running gag – answered a fan wondering if he knew any of the Norse mythology behind the character. The actor said he liked one story with Loki where "basically he disguises himself as a horse...and manages to save Asgard. Or maybe he doesn't. There's always him trying to save it and destroy it and save it again. I think there were some apples involved?" The monologue turned to comedy as the actor tried to remember the odd details of the story.
The final question came from a fan who wanted to know more about Marvel's upcoming movies, particularly how the rollout would go for cosmic characters like "Guardians of the Galaxy" or "The Inhumans." To that, the producer replied, "We're in pre-production on a movie called 'Iron Man 3' now directed by Shane Black...and that is the first step in what we call 'Phase 2' of the Avengers project which will, God willing, lead to an 'Avengers 2'" but for characters like "Guardians of the Galaxy" there wouldn't be a Rocket Raccoon or Groot movie first but all those characters would be introduced in one fell swoop.
Stay tuned to CBR for all the news out of New York Comic Con!