One more day to go before Avengers Assemble hits cinemas, and as the clock counts down, we’re keeping our coverage coming. Today it’s our interview with SHEILD’s black-ops duo, Scarlett Johansson and Jeremy Renner – The Black Widow and Hawkeye.
Despite being the only two Avengers who don’t have a film of their own, they play a pivotal role in the movie, and it seems, in Marvel’s plans for the future. Here they talk about the dynamic on set (including some vegan-baiting by Renner), the experience of watching Mark Ruffalo try to act imposing while wearing pyjamas, and what it’s like to be turned into Lego.
BEING IN AVENGERS
How does it feel to come into this giant, mega version of the franchise?
Scarlett Johansson: It was hard to have perspective on the size of the movie when we were shooting it, because we were all almost making our own little movies within the film, because there are so many different storylines going on. The only time we ever really got a sense of the scope of it was when we were all together in costume, shooting those few scenes where you see us all as one unit. Then it was like, ‘wow!’ you look around, and you feel this sort of energy, this very excited electricity in the air. That’s when it felt like a big deal.
Is there a big difference between Joss’ approach, and the approach of the previous directors you have worked with?
SJ: A lot of the work that I did on this, I reminded myself of what it was that Jon Favreau liked about that first performance, because it’s been a couple of years or whatever, and you kind of forget. You have to remember what it’s like to go back there, it’s kind of a weird thing. I did have it in mind, I had that performance in mind for sure. I don’t know if it was very different though.
Jeremy Renner: I happily was an extra for Kenneth Branagh, but I was an extra. I was there for two hours. So there was nothing really to discuss – this is what I wear. This is what I hold. Shoot my bow – or almost shoot my bow and arrow. It wouldn’t change the story lines, what I did for Thor.
This one, I was still trying to flush out what this character is and was. This Avengers movie is still limiting, because of the number of characters in the movie. It’s still a very interesting character to me, I’m still trying to figure it out myself.
How did you find the balance between the script and the technological special effects?
JR: This is a strange movie. I had to fight her, I fought a lot of air – that’s weird. I fought a lot of guys in pyjamas – that was strange. I prefer something a little bit more authentic, something I could hit, or be hit by. There’s a shot in the movie where there’s all the Avengers in a circle, while looking at something evil or whatever. We’re all there, cheesy, corny, badass, whatever you want to be, but at least we’re not Mark Ruffalo. We’ve got guns, and bows out – Mark’s there in his pyjamas. We couldn’t look at him, we just started laughing.
SJ: He’s so brave. I could never. You really have to allow yourself to be completely…
Just picking up on the fights, how did you prepare for having to fight Jeremy?
SJ: I had to fight him, that’s how you prepare for it, just fight each other for months and months. We spent a lot of time fighting each other’s doubles, so we could learn the fights, then they brought in the big guns, which was Jeremy.
The thing is, when you’re fighting a stunt person, they’re movements are very – they’re different. Each person fights in a different way, and I would be more relieved, or less. I would be relieved depending on which stunt person I was fighting. Some of them fight hard, some of them are faster, some of them make more contact, that kind of thing. I remember when I had to fight Jeremy it was like, ‘he fights like a person, like a regular guy, not a stunt guy.’ It was a little bit tricky afterwards.
You mentioned that it was quite fun on set, can you explain the dynamic between the cast members?
JR: I never saw anybody but you. I’m crazy about you
SJ: I’m crazy about you.
JR: Only because of the agave cakes. The healthy, what was it? Vegan…
SJ: Those oatmeal cookies were vegan.
JR: You put all that gooey stuff on it. What was that icing on it?
SJ: It was so good.
JR: There’s nothing goo – Vegan to me just sounds like health food. There’s nothing healthy about fun.
SJ: That’s not what vegan means.
JR: I know that’s not what it means, it’s just how I take it? Doesn’t anyone else think that? Like ‘oh, I’m vegan. I’m sorry’
SJ: I’m sorry I what? That I eat a bunch of salad?
JR: I eat bird seed and kale. That was her diet, she had a dehydration machine, and she just stuck whatever in it to dehydrate it, and everything came out tasting like toenails.
SJ: You just don’t like flax crackers.
JR: I don’t like flax crackers, no. That is literally terrible. Like eating asphalt.
SJ: I don’t know how to explain our dynamic any other way than the conversation you just heard.
Are you fully prepared to be married to this franchise now, and everything it entails? More films? Fans? Action figures?
SJ: Action figures – I love the action figure aspect, it’s hysterical. We just became Lego, which was like the best thing that ever happened to us.
JR: That’s pretty cool by the way.
SJ: Have you seen your Lego?
JR: Yeah. I’m tiny.
SJ: Have you seen Chris’ Lego? Chris’ Lego is hilarious. He has like a crazy hair do.
JR: Thor? It’s just the same as yours by the way. They just changed the colour.
SJ: The thing is, Marvel, they’re very enthusiastic about these characters, and they put a lot behind them of course. But the other thing that they understand is the value of fan participation in some way. If the fans respond to certain characters, then you’ll see more of them, or they’ll invest more in that character. For us, we don’t know what the future holds for these characters, but there’s many possibilities. I think we’re all signed on with the hope that we’ll be able to explore these characters more.
JOHANSSON – SEX SYMBOLS AND BLACK WIDOWS
Scarlett, throughout your career you’ve been regarded as a sex symbol. Do you see that changing now?
SJ: I never wanted to be a sex symbol, I wanted to be a character actor. Those are the actors that I most often admire. I guess you get pigeon holed sometimes – especially women that are curvy can be pigeon holed in that ‘bombshell’ thing, but I never think of my characters in that way.
As I get older – I’m 27, but I’ve been doing it for so long I think a lot of people think I’m like, 45 – but more than that, I’m seeing more multi-faceted roles, less like an ingénue. I’m past the ingénue phase.
Why did you originally want to play Black Widow?
SJ: I wanted to work with Jon Favreau, and I wanted to work with Robert, and I really loved the first Iron Man. I thought it sort of reinvented that genre, which is not one that I particularly ever – I was never a big comic fan or anything like that. It was really that film that I found to be very exciting, and the prospect of working with them was very exciting for me. Also the idea of playing a character that’s not – often times in action films and comic book movies the female is either a damsel in distress or a love interest. It excited me to play a character where she was just a really strong woman, very intimidating, where it wasn’t really – where she wasn’t fighting, posing with the wind blowing in her hair. She gets down and dirty, I like that about her. I think that Iron Man 2 was the first time I’ve ever been in a big blockbuster that did well. That was also a nice thing.
Super heroine movies haven’t really been popular with the public since Supergirl. Do you think fans will accept Black Widow as a super heroine if she gets her own movie?
SJ: I hope so. I have a different idea. I think the thing is, most of those super heroine movies, they’re not good, which is why they don’t work. They’re simply no good. There’s a couple that work, but it’s rare. Also, I think that there needs – in my mind, I would have a different way of doing it. In order for the film to work, you almost have to ignore the fact that it’s a female in some way, or have it be not a part of the story, know what I mean, as opposed to make it overly sexy and ‘posey’, and all of that stuff. That’s just always corny, it just doesn’t work. I don’t even know who goes to see those movies. Nobody I guess.
RENNER – NEW KING OF ACTION FILMS
Jeremy, you’ve been in Mission Impossible 4, you’ve done a Bourne film, and now this. Three massive franchises. Are you getting used to it now?
JR: Every movie’s different, no matter the size. Just because the budget’s big – maybe you get a little bit better food at craft services. Trailer might be bigger or something. The work is the same.
Used to it, I don’t know if I’ll ever be used to it. I’m happy to be working, that’s for sure.
What was it like going on to Bourne after this?
JR: Actually, coming off really big spectacle movies, Mission and Avengers, it felt like a really tiny, independent movie. Even though it’s a massive, billion dollar franchise, I like the intimacy of the story. It really felt like a little, independent movie, until we got to Manila. Then it opened up, thousands and thousands of people in the street, staring at us, but most of the time it was in a room like this, or a hotel room, running around, doing this. A lot of fight training again, a bit more intense The same guys from the Avengers, so that was a seamless transition into the physical part of that world, which was an important to that franchise. Like Avengers, there’s no CGI – at least our characters in the movie – same as in Bourne, it’s got to be authentic. If it looks terrible, it’s my fault.
Have you had any encounters with overly enthusiastic fans? If not, are you prepared for that when the film comes out?
SJ: You had a funny fan encounter.
JR: Which one?
SJ: That guy who came up to you outside the hotel, and he was dressed in a bad Hawkeye outfit.
JR: Oh, that one. We have very enthusiastic fans.
SJ: Very enthusiastic, that’s for sure. It’s pretty exciting when we go to Comic-Con. Fans are totally crazy for the movie, and they’re so excited for the characters that they’re all dressed up. It’s crazy to see people dressed as your version of Black Widow.
JR: And grown-ass people as well. I think it’s interesting to see six year olds dressed up in the costume. That’s new to me. I never thought I’d have a six year-old fan. That’s awesome.
SJ: It’s so sweet. Somebody had a niece that was Black Widow for Halloween, she had the red hair and everything, and she was in the ‘Widow Pose’. I was like, ‘yes! My signature move’. I love that stuff, it’s so fun.