THE AVENGERS Set Visit Report: Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner & Mark Ruffalo Interviews

The upcoming ensemble superhero film scheduled to hit theaters in May 2012 will feature Robert Downey, Jr. (Iron Man, Iron Man 2) returning as Tony Stark/Iron Man along with Chris Hemsworth as Thor, Chris Evans as Captain America and the rest of Marvel's famous team.

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Based on the ever-popular Marvel comic book series, first published in 1963, Marvel’s The Avengers brings together the mightiest super hero characters as they all assemble together on screen for the first time. Continuing the epic big-screen adventures started in Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Thor, and Captain America: The First Avenger, Marvel’s The Avengers is the super hero team up of a lifetime. When an unexpected enemy emerges that threatens global safety and security, Nick Fury, director of the international peacekeeping agency known as S.H.I.E.L.D., finds himself in need of a team to pull the world back from the brink of disaster.

Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner and Mark Ruffalo play very different characters in The Avengers, but they all share one thing in common: This film will serve as their proper introduction to general audiences. While Johansson appeared in Iron Man 2, it was only for a few minutes that we knew her as S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Black Widow while the rest showed her undercover as Tony Stark's new assistant. Jeremy Renner had a one minute cameo as S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Hawkeye in Thor as a cloaked archer who was ordered to assist in Thor's takedown. Mark Ruffalo has never appeared in a Marvel Studios film, but his character Bruce Banner as well as his alter ego Hulk have had two cinematic outings in the past decade.

But here, in The Avengers, they will have their time to shine and moviegoers around the world will learn they there are integral to the storyline the studio has put together.

"There are so many characters in this movie, as you know, that it can’t really go too much backstories of characters," explained Renner about his relationship with Johansson in the film. "We’re telling a massive story here with a lot of characters in it, so the time is spent on all of us, I guess [they are] saving things…"

"We’ve obviously known each other for a long time. We have a very rich history, the two characters, with one another," continued Johansson. "But as far as the timeline, I think it’s pretty much the time that has passed since “Iron Man 2” came out, I think a couple years, but since we’ve seen each other, we’ve been working together the whole time." When asked flat out if there is a romantic sub-plot somewhere in the course of the film itself, Johansson negated the possibility, "There’s no time for romance [laughs]. We have shit to avenge."

She went on to details why Black Widow and Hawkeye are a good team, even though they won't be paired together for the majority of the film, "Our fighting styles are not similar but they definitely compliment one another. Both of us fight hand-to-hand and we’re just humans with no abilities. But we’re fighting in a different way than everybody else. We do a lot of fighting on the ground."

Of all the in film introductions, it's the presence of the other worldly characters ( particularly Loki and Thor) that would cause most people to pause if for nothing else because of the tremendous and inexplicable power they inherently wield.

Renner shared his thoughts on how Hawkeye was able to deal with acknowledging their existence:

"I ask myself that every day. I don’t know. How do I know Thor? I guess I was in the movie. I was going to put an arrow in his head, but I don’t know this guy, do I? So I always ask those questions and Joss is a very creative… it’s a complicated universe, as you guys know, and there’s a couple different versions of this universe, so it’s interesting. We find reasons to make it work, but I think the general overall assumption is that we all at least have an understanding of each other… or a misunderstanding of each other is probably better."

Renner also explained how showcased a character like Hawkeye who, even though is a master assassin and uncanny archer/sniper, is severely underpowered compared to Thor, Iron Man and even Captain America, "Initially I thought that it was going to be weird, but then I found out a lot more about… for me, for Hawkeye, I’m like, “What’s a bow and arrow going to do against the Hulk?” Actually, I have specialized things that I can’t tell you anything really about, but I can put him down so it’s pretty cool. All we are are humans with high skill sets, and I think what makes all characters interesting is that they all have weaknesses. That’s what makes them human in that regard. What’s Tony Stark without his suit?" Hawkeye, in the comics mythology, is known for being a loner and rebel. This is an aspect the filmmakers decided to keep for film use and Renner agrees that it just seems to fit his persona, "It kind of plays into being a sniper in general. That’s sort of the philosophy of snipers. I hang out on rooftops and trees and things like that by themselves, and don’t really kind of work with anybody else. So that just kind of… even in military, it’s the same sort of thing, so I think it just plays into his character and being a rogue agent."

Maria Hill, played by Cobie Smulders, will also be introduced in this film as a high ranking S.H.I.E.L.D. agent who acts an adviser to Director Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson). Both Renner and Johansson share plenty of scenes with Smulders as they are all a part of the same organization, and they feel her story arc won't be too different from now comic book fans know of her. "It stays pretty true to that universe. They’re tied I think with Coulson, Maria and Fury, I think that’s a pretty tight unit there, and then when it comes to jokers like us, they bring us in for special things, just like in the Marvel Universe. [But] all of our orders come directly from Fury."

With The Avengers prepping to hit theaters this month, rumblings have already started in regards to how characters like Hawkeye and Black Widow will play into other films and even the possibility of solo projects. Recent reports stated that Johansson will reprise her role for Iron Man 3, but she would not give a straight answer regarding her involvement. "I haven’t gotten my schedule yet [laughs]. I think the whole idea is that you want the audience to be as enthusiastic as you are about the characters and in that, you hope that you’ll be able to take the character farther. It’s certainly a process to zip up the suit every time and it gets harder with each passing year, but I mean, if it was badass and it incorporated the darker side of the character and got down to the nitty-gritty of who she is, I would like to see that movie."

"I worry about [one] movie and that movie only. Because a franchise is only a movie that does well and has the possibility of making another one, which separates itself from a movie that’s just a one- off," explained Renner. "So there’s no guarantee by any means that there will be any other movies at Marvel, let alone from any of those “Missions” or “Bournes” or whatever it might be, to “Hansel and Gretel.” So we’ll see."

Fans will be introduced to Mark Ruffalo's Hulk when he literally bursts out of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s flying fortress the Helicarrier in what will hopefully be a shocking scene considering the actor focuses on keeping the monster at bay for the first half. Being the third actor in a decade to play Marvel's Jekyll and Hyde character Bruce Banner may seem like a daunting task, but Ruffalo finds it easy to maintain his excitement:

"I’ve been having a lot of fun with the Hulk motion capture stuff, actually. The only distinction that I hold is that I am the only actor to ever play Banner and the Hulk. So I’ve been working a lot with ILM. No one will be able to blame ILM fully if this Hulk doesn’t work [laughs]. The first day I was a miserable bastard. A trained actor reduced to the state of a Chinese checkerboard. And then once I got over everyone laughing at me."

Although the actor may be different, Banner and Hulk's storyline is a continuation of what we've seen in the last two films. When audiences meet him in The Avengers, he is in India hiding from the U.S. government and helping locals who need medical attention. "I think Banner’s aging and living with this thing since – now it’s been two years since his last “one.” We’re kind of going for this world weariness of accepting – trying to get to the point where he can live with it, and maybe master it. Come to peace with it. And so there’s this kind of nice ironic ryness Banner. He’s not sulking and miserable, you know. I think that’s sort of a throwback – we had talked about it being a throwback to Bill Bixby, which was the Banner that I grew up on basically. He had kind of a charm about it him, and this world weariness. He was on the run, but he was still able to flirt sometimes and smile sometimes, and occasionally he’d crack a joke. When you have a movie where there’s so many characters you end up getting about 10 minutes screen time with your particular character. So in the screen time that we have we’re trying to bring out this charm in him, and maybe this idea that he wants to be a superhero. I mean, he looks at Stark and he’s like, that’s the dude who did what I was intending to do. He’s the model. He made it work. So Banner and Stark have a very cool relationship in the movie.

Ruffalo confirmed that he will be providing the voice of Hulk along with the majority of motion capture work, but he wouldn't go into detail about how much the character will speak outside of the now standard 'Hulk Smash' phrase -- an important aspect to comics fans who have not been happy with a mostly mute Goliath from the past incarnations. "As of this moment, I am [providing the voice]. But you never know what they’re going to do. They might watch it and go, “Oh my god!” [laughs]. Is ['Hulk Smash'] a sentence? I don’t think it qualifies as a sentence. It doesn’t have all the components. [But] yeah, he’s a smart Hulk. He hasn’t graduated to [conversation] yet, but hopefully he might be on the way to that. I don’t know where it’s gonna go after this, but there’s definitely – I feel like we’re trying to open the door to integration of the two. I like it as the guy who tried to break a bucking Bronco. He has some tiny little semblance of control of it, but then again it’s completely out of control. That’s what the last one left off, I felt like."

Lastly, Ruffalo teased his character's interaction with Chris Evans' Captain America; a character who Bruce Banner from Marvel's Ultimates comic line based all of his research off of, "We don’t really get to see that moment [where they meet for the first time]. We kind of hop over that, but there is a history there.

Robert Downey, Jr. (Iron Man, Iron Man 2) returns as the iconic Tony Stark/Iron Man along with Chris Hemsworth (Thor) as Thor, Chris Evans (Captain America: The First Avenger) as Captain America, Jeremy Renner (The Hurt Locker) as Hawkeye, Mark Ruffalo (The Kids Are Alright) as Hulk, Scarlett Johansson (Iron Man 2) as Black Widow, Clark Gregg (Iron Man, Thor) as Agent Phil Coulson, and Samuel L. Jackson (Iron Man, Iron Man 2) as Nick Fury. The star studded cast of super heroes will be joined by Cobie Smulders (How I Met Your Mother) as Agent Maria Hill of S.H.I.E.L.D., as well as Tom Hiddleston (Wallander) and Stellan Skarsgård (Angels & Demons, Mamma Mia!) who will both reprise their respective roles as Loki and Professor Erik Selvig from the upcoming Marvel Studios’ feature Thor. The Avengers is scheduled for theatrical release in the US on May 4th, 2012.

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