Chris Evans (Captain America)
What did it mean to you when you landed the part of Captain America?
I was terrified, so I didn’t say yes right away. It’s a giant commitment but in the immediate moment, it’s exciting and thrilling. You can’t believe it’s happening.
In “The Avengers,” Captain America finds himself in a whole new world. How does he relate to it?
He’s adjusting, but thankfully a big part of Steve Rogers is his good nature, high morals and strong values. Those morals and values were created in a time when people treated each other really differently. The level of interaction was a bit deeper. Everything feels one step apart with all of the technology we have now. Even if you ask a girl out on a date, you can virtually do it without ever saying a word to her. That’s not the way it used to be in Steve’s world, so I think there’s a lot to get used to for him. A lot of the things that he believed in, stood for and loved have changed. They’re not gone; they’re just different. He’s trying to find his footing in a modern world.
Do you relate to old-fashioned values?
Well, I didn’t grow up in the ’40s; I grew up in the ’80s, but I remember a time before cell phones. I remember a time before the Internet. I’m not going to sit here and wave my finger at young kids with their cell phones and say, “I remember when …” But things are different now, so I’m kind of like Steve Rogers. I’ve kind of been through this.
How are all of your different acting styles meshing on “The Avengers”?
Everyone’s acting styles mesh very well. We all seem to have a similar approach to our roles, which has been really helpful. I’ve worked with some actors who are extremely precious and stay in character all day and no one is doing that on this movie. Not to say that anyone isn’t prepared. On the contrary, I think some of these people are so prepared they’re able to drop in and out of their role whenever they want to.
Have you learned anything about yourself playing Captain America?
If you’re playing a guy who’s a wise-ass all day, you’re going to go home and be a wise-ass. Steve Rogers is a good man. He does the right thing. If you live in that headspace enough of the day, you can’t help but go home and say, “I should try and be a better person. I should just be nicer and a little more patient.”
Chris Hemsworth (Thor)
How does it feel to be playing Thor again?
It feels good. “The Avengers” is a big ensemble piece, so it’s a different experience than shooting “Thor.” It’s been great to have all of these actors and characters on set. It’s been a trip.
The villain in “The Avengers” is Thor’s brother, Loki. Do you feel more responsibility for saving the world in this movie because of that?
I think Thor has more of a personal investment in what’s happening than the other superheroes because Loki is his brother. Loki isn’t just some bad guy he needs to take care of. For Thor, the problem The Avengers are facing is a member of his family and I think his attitude in the beginning is, “I’ll take care of this and teach him a lesson.” Of course, the bigger conflict for him is that he’s trying to protect the greater good but he has some deep questions about what is going on with his brother. Why is Loki doing what he’s doing?
Is there any romance in “The Avengers”?
There’s a little bit in there somewhere, but not for me. Something that Joss Whedon said early on was that all of The Avengers are lonely. As powerful and unique as they are, they’re all very different. When the superheroes were each in their own movie, there was some sort of comfort in being the odd one out. It helped them define who they were. Now they’ve been thrown together with a group of other odd people, so it’s interesting.
Do you all get together with the other cast members when you’re not on the set?
We do get together and it’s great. It would be different if we were back in LA, where most of us live. At the end of the day there, you just go back to your normal life. When you’re on location, it always ends up feeling like summer camp. You don’t know anyone else, so you hang out with each other. It is rather odd to see people out of costume, just rolling around the streets. We’re still The Avengers, but not nearly as impressive looking as we are on set with our weapons and costumes.
Scarlet Johansson (Black Widow)
After you appeared in “Iron Man 2” as Black Widow, did you think your character would go on to appear in other Marvel films?
I didn’t really know what the future would be for Black Widow. I didn’t know if she would reappear in future “Iron Man” films or even how the fans would react to her, so to be part of “The Avengers” is pretty exciting. I’m such a huge fan of the Widow. I enjoy bringing my ideas of how she would look and act, sculpting her. I love the character and I love playing her. I’ve never been able to return to a character before. So, in a way, putting on the suit is like, “Ah, the old familiar friend.” You know where you’re going with the character and you have all of this history to fall back on.
What was your reaction to the fact that audiences embraced you as Black Widow?
I was relieved. Obviously the character is beloved by many people. People have their ideas in their minds since childhood —their fantasy of what this character looks like, what she sounds like, how she moves. So to have such a great fan response felt awesome, especially since I put so much work into it physically that for them to accept me as that character was pretty cool.
Why do you love her character?
The thing I love about the Widow is that she is all business. She’s been fighting the good fight, despite her dark background. She’s committed because she has to be and her moral ground is more dutiful. She’s militaristic in that way; that’s how she knows right from wrong. That kind of attitude is what I love about her. She’s just a machine; you can’t get her down. But you can almost get her down. What I love about this film is that there are several points where you go, “She’s not going to get up.”
Can you talk about the tone of the film?
Ever since my first meeting with Joss (Whedon, writer/director) about the film, he was very adamant about his commitment to the grit and reality involved in the high stakes of this job that The Avengers had to do. He recognized that there was danger in all of these characters coming together in one world.
It’s like, “What are we all doing there?” You have a Russian spy, an archer, a Nordic god from another planet, a man in an iron suit, another guy who’s been cryogenically frozen, and a monster. Basically you take all of these characters and put them into an unbelievable situation that you try to make reality. I think that Joss did a brilliant job by giving a nod to the fan-boy world and also giving fans of big action movies something to escape to for a couple of hours.
What makes this film stand out?
The cast is just insane. When do you ever get to see this group of actors come together in this kind of fantasy world? Also, the grounded nature that Joss [Whedon, writer/director] has infused this film makes it standout too.
It’s everything Joss loves about fantasy, which is being able to escape into this ultimate kind of otherworldly reality, but still have it be heartfelt and sincere.
Jeremy Renner (Hawkeye)
Were you a Marvel comics fan? Did you know much about Hawkeye before signing on?
I was familiar with the main characters, like Captain America, but I didn’t read comics as a kid. I think being unfamiliar with Hawkeye was a benefit for me because I had no preconceived ideas about the character. He was a pretty cool character to play.
As a new member of The Avengers team, how has this experience been for you?
I thought “Iron Man” was a really kick-ass approach to superheroes. Then they told me about this Hawkeye character and I liked that he wasn’t actually a super hero, but a normal guy with a high-level skill set and I can connect with that. Now I’m here and I’m doing it. It’s good fun.
Did you have to prepare a lot physically for the role?
Not much, no. They didn’t really want me to get that buff because they already have Captain America, Thor and The Hulk in the film. I think they wanted me to be sort of lean and agile.
Did you have bow and arrow training for the role?
I practiced with Olympic archers, who gave me a few lessons. I learned the basics and the proper positions and that really helped. I also took a lot of stunt training in how to use the bow as a weapon.
What do you think sets “The Avengers” apart from other blockbusters?
Joss Whedon [director/writer] is such a great writer. It was a massive challenge to assemble all these characters, who are normally No. 1 in their own movies, in one script. Now they are all thrown in the mix. Joss keeps it interesting by spending time on humanity and giving things a sense of humor. He spends a lot of time on the details and that’s what makes this different from any other superhero movies.
Mark Ruffalo (The Hulk)
What was your first exposure to Marvel? Have you been a fan of the comics and the superheroes?
My first exposure to Marvel was probably when I was 7 or 8 years old. I used to watch “The Hulk” TV Show and cartoon and then “Captain America.” Then I started to get into “The Avengers” comic books. I got a lot of the comic books in the late ’60s through the ’70s; then I moved into “Wolverine” and Frank Miller’s “Dark Knight.”
That was through my teen years, so Marvel’s been part of my culture for a long time.
Talk about the day you got the call to play Bruce Banner.
It was pretty wild. This isn’t the type of movie that I’ve done in the past or the type of movie I’ve been invited to do. And it was the one character other than Wolverine that I actually thought I could do well. I was a little scared as there wasn’t a script yet, but I was also excited because of what I’d seen Marvel do with “Iron Man” and with Robert Downey Jr., who is a great actor. He’s one of my hero actors. When I saw what he did with the part, which kind of felt like he recreated the genre a little bit, I felt like I could fit into that world too with my acting style. So I was pretty thrilled about it and about the director, Joss Whedon, too.
What did you bring to the process to make that vision of The Hulk happen?
I happen to have a wealth of anger that’s just buried beneath the surface. If you look at my work over the years, it has both sides in it. I’ve played both sides of a personality well, and I feel I can access both sides equally. In a weird way, that’s a culmination of years of acting and really trying to keep what I do broad—as far from one extreme to the other. And that’s essentially Bruce Banner to The Hulk.
What is Bruce Banner’s role with The Avengers? How does he fit in?
Bruce Banner is a scientist who specializes in gamma technology and he is enlisted in The Avengers team as a scientist to help them track down the energy source threatening the world. That is a compelling reason for him to join them. I don’t believe Bruce Banner would go anywhere that he didn’t have to necessarily go, especially under the auspices of military intervention. But I do think at this moment in his life that he’s ready for the call. He’s starting to realize that he has to face the beast within himself and come to some sort of terms with it in order to go on with his life.
How was it working with Samuel L. Jackson?
He’s amazing. It scared the hell out of me at first. My first day was a rough one as I had a lot of technical jargon to say. I thought I knew the lines pretty well, but standing there next to Samuel Jackson, I just fell apart. Finally I just told him I was really nervous working with him and he proceeded to make me feel completely at ease. After that it was fine. He’s a really generous, fun guy. We had a lot of fun working on the movie.
How was it working with Robert Downey Jr. again?
It’s amazing. I had a great time working with him on “Zodiac.” He’s really a fun actor to work with. He’s so alive; so spontaneous. He was the first person I called when they offered the part of Bruce Banner to me. I was like, “Robert, there’s no script. I mean, I don’t know what I’m getting into.” He was like, “Buddy, it’s fine. We’re going to do this. We’re going to kill this. Come on, let’s have some fun.” I knew in his presence I’d be in really good hands. He’s just a very generous actor. He looks out for the people that he’s working with.
From very early on Robert was giving his input in the script as it developed to help Bruce Banner find his place in the movie.
How does it make you feel as an actor to have this character be an extension of you?
It’s incredible. It’s a real creature; it’s very human. I’m thrilled by it. With makeup and prosthetics, your movements are limited, both your facial movements and your body, so it doesn’t allow you to bring the real emotional and physical manifestation of the work you’re doing on the screen. With the motion capture technology, we’re free as actors, and that’s really exciting to me.
What have been some of your favorite scenes to film?
I love my opening scene. It’s a fun scene with just two people and a lot of different dynamics going on. I also love my scenes with Robert Downey Jr. There’s also a big scene in the laboratory where we are all involved and it’s really kind of emotional and there’s a lot going on, like it’s own little symphony. I love that scene too.
What do you hope audiences get out of “The Avengers”?
First of all, I hope they have a wild ride, which I’m pretty sure they will. And then I hope they fall in love with them as a group and want to see the next one.
But I hope they also get that if we lay down some of our selfishness, we can make things work. I think that’s kind of the big nut; the meat of what the story is ultimately.