You’ve got to help me with this ankle bracelet – it shocks me if I try to go to Warner Bros.,” says Joss Whedon. The writer/director of Avengers: Age of Ultron is, of course, joking: While he did just spend three months as a virtual prisoner on Disney’s Burbank studio lot, living right on the property, working seven days a week away from his family, the ordeal was self-imposed. “Apparently you have to make the whole movie,” he says, still looking weary. “I slaved. I was writing dialogue until a week ago: ‘Oh wait, this is cleaner, this explains better, here’s an opportunity.’ At the same time, on the last day, I was like, ‘you know, we can take out this word.'”
In the dark editing bay where he finished the highly anticipated sequel to the 2012 blockbuster, and then over lunch at Disney’s on-site restaurant – where the salt shakers are shaped like Mickey Mouse – Whedon spoke at length about the film, the Hulk, and his future. (Some of the following interview appears in our new Hulk-themed cover story, which also features Mark Ruffalo and more).
How did you face what seems like the constant one-upmanship between summer blockbusters?
The first step is, we don’t chase bigger. And I told [Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige] that my secret dream is that this movie is shorter than the first one. And it is. It’s one minute shorter.
But what you don’t want to do is take what you did and pile on, to create bloat or a sort of big echo of what you did before. There are so many new ideas, so many new interactions and problems, so many new sources of humor and excitement. Find the next story, that’s all. That’s the only job, I wanted to make a completely new movie about these people, not just make another installment. So it’s really about finding where the heart is now. What happens when you have all these people who – when you have this much power – really shouldn’t be in the same room together sitting around. What’s good and what’s very bad about that?