Last month, I sat down for a fascinating Q&A with Paul Bettany and James Spader to discuss their roles in Avengers: Age of Ultron. It was a great discussion which gave a lot of insight into the process of creating movie magic! Plus it was a lot of fun to sit an listen to their voices. They have great voices in addition to being very funny. I laughed a LOT. Here are a few things they had to say about the movie making process of Avengers: Age of Ultron.
On doing the voice for Ultron:
James Spader: The very first day that I walked onto the studio lot, before I ever hit a set or anything, within a half hour, I walked into a big empty room and there were cameras set up around and there was a bunch of guys with a whole bunch of laptops and so on all sitting around.
And they put me in a fractal suit, which is just a sort of two piece or, you know, looks like you’re gonna go for a run, but has shapes and colors and things and all over it. And then they dotted up my face and they put a big rig on my back, and a big headgear rig that had two sort of antenna that come down that are cameras that are right here with headlights, so I’m lit right here.
And they had me go through a range of motions – fingers, everything, head turns and all the rest of it. And then, they put it into some program on the computer or something and, I stood around for about ten, fifteen minutes and fifteen minutes later I could walk in my outfit into the center of the room and turn my head, move my fingers, go like this, and I could look at a monitor and see a sort of formative stage of Ultron doing everything I was doing.
So right from the very first moment I arrived there, I could start getting a sense of what sort of physicality would be appropriate for that eight foot robot. And there was a guy there, quite small, who would’ve been proportionate to my height. I’m five-ten. He was very small. Sort of proportionate height to what, you know, not Chris Hemsworth but maybe an average height Avenger might be in proportion to me if I was eight feet tall.
He was a stunt guy, he was wearing a fractal suit and all the gear as well, and they made him do the range of motion and everything else and within 15 minutes he and I would go move around the room and he was as [a] different character, and I was able to see right away me as an eight foot Ultron with another actor who’s a proportionate height to what an average size person would be. It was really amazing. So right from the very first moment I was already getting a sense of how to perform for this character.
On whether his personal humor was reflected in Ultron:
James Spader: Yes. I’m a great believer in chaos. But I think that’s true in any film or television show or play or, I mean, anything you do. I think that, you know, if the casting works, you’ve been cast because that person intuitively knows, that director intuitively knows that what they need, you’re going to be able to provide. And he was specifically looking for that. He was looking for that sense of humor. And he was looking for that irreverence in marriage with the other aspects. And, so he took advantage of it and, you know, we would play with things and I’d make a suggestion. But I really was very faithful to what he was writing because he was really writing it so specifically to me.
Paul Bettany: And if you’re looking for a James Spader type there’s not many places to go, you know. There’s a one-stop shop.
James Spader: And I think he probably, you know, the reason why he probably walked in to Kevin Feige and said, “James Spader’s who I’m thinking about for this and I don’t really have anyone else on the list,” is ’cause I think he probably, he’d already written to that.
On the difference between playing Jarvis and The Vision:
Paul Bettany: Well, it was sort of vindication really because I had just come out of a meeting with a producer who told me my career was over. And, this is a true story. I sat on the curb in Hollywood with my feet in the gutter and my phone went and I looked at it and went, “Hello?” I didn’t recognize the number and it was Joss Whedon. He said, “Do you want to play The Vision?” And I went, “Um,” it’s so quick these days, “yeah, I kinda do.” True story. So it was lovely.
What was the difference? The difference was I had to go to the gym. Uh, had to stop eating carbs. I finally got to be on set with a bunch of really lovely, creative, talented people. However, it also means that I have to show up at junkets now, you know? The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away.
James Spader: I did not have to cut back on carbs. Somehow amazingly enough, those animators were able to slim me right down.
Avengers: Age of Ultron is in theaters now – catch it this weekend if you haven’t already gotten the chance!