Joss Whedon spoke at length with Mark Ruffalo as part of a Tribeca Film Festival sponsored event at the SVA Theater in Manhattan, which they covered a wide range of subjects including Whedon’s growing up in NYC, his coming from a long line of screenwriters, his being influenced by comic books as much as he was by Shakespeare, his work on Rosanne and creating Buffy the Vampire Slayer, his skill at writing strong female characters, and his next project. Yet the only comments making headlines from yesterday’s talk is his comments about Avengers: Age of Ultron.
The narrative about Whedon coming out of Avengers: Age of Ultron was that the film was sort of his Vietnam: he entered it with boundless enthusiasm and energy, he left a broken, empty shell of a man. Most of this was perpetuated by Whedon himself, whose rounds on the press circuit promoting the film featured him complaining about fights with Marvel and about how the stress of making the film pretty much forced him to take a break. Well, the break is over and he seems at least a little bit conciliatory about the film and his behavior one year on:
Ultron, I’m very proud of. There are things that did not meet my expectations of myself, and I was so beaten down by the process. Some of that was conflict with Marvel, which is inevitable, but a lot of that was about my own work. And I was also exhausted, and we went right away and did publicity, and I sort of created the narrative, wherein I’m not quite accomplished at it, and people just ran with that: ‘Well, it’s okay, it could be better, but it’s not Joss’s fault.’ And I think that did a disservice to the movie and to the studio and to myself, ultimately. It was not the right way to be, because I am very proud of it.
However, this being Joss Whedon, not everything is sunshine and roses:
The things that are wrong frustrate me enormously, and I probably had more of those than I had on other movies I made. But I also got to make, for the second time, an absurdly personal movie where I got to talk about how I felt about humanity and what it means in very esoteric and bizarre ways for hundreds of millions of dollars. The fact that Marvel gave me that opportunity twice is so bonkers and so beautiful, and the fact that I come off of it feeling like a miserable failure is also bonkers, but not in a cute way. It becomes problematic.
Ruffalo also stated that he “begged him to do Avengers 3 and 4, Hulk 3, Thor 3 and Quasimodo” but was told by Whedon that he would “never do it again,” which, from context means either work for Marvel or work on a blockbuster, quite possibly both. Whedon has backed away from this point of view as well, telling Deadline after the event that he’s open for more Marvel projects in the future, and hopes Marvel is open to having him as well.
(As an aside, if by Quasimodo, Ruffalo meant the obscure Silver Surfer/Fantastic Four villain, then Ruffalo must be as big a comic book geek as anybody on Earth. Quaimodo is a deep-cut character, not many casual fans would even know who he is. And, also, don’t think we got a scoop on Marvel’s Phase Four. Of the 8,000 Marvel characters waiting for their feature film debut, Quasimodo sits at 8,001 in line, even if his rights weren’t owned by Fox as part of the Fantastic Four package.)
As for Whedon’s next project, well, the writer director was a bit cagey. All he said was that it was incredibly easy to write and is an emotional departure from what you’d expect from him.
I wrote all the way through to the end of the movie and was crying, in public. The restaurant closed. The valet guy came to me and then just turned around and went the other way. And I don’t like to make a spectacle of myself, but I had to take off my shirt and blow my nose into it because they had taken away all the napkins. I couldn’t stand up. I couldn’t stop crying, and then I got in a car – luckily somebody else was driving – and kept crying for about 20 more minutes.
How very emo. I can’t wait to see what this film will end up being.