Avengers: Infinity War special: Exclusive interviews with Benedict Cumberbatch and the rest of Marvel’s superheroes
The year 2008 was one that changed the game for superhero movies in Hollywood. While Marvel released the first installment of the Iron Man series and the first of their Cinematic Universe movies, DC Comics gave us what’s considered to be the greatest superhero film to date, Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight. 10 years later, that title may be at stake for the critically acclaimed Batman movie, as Avengers: Infinity War looks set to break all existing records when it releases today. Marvel’s vision is commendable, so is the fact that they have managed to deliver a consistent style of filmmaking, despite appointing different directors for different superhero movies under their belt.
The latest one, the 19th overall in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, promises to be no different, even though it is not being helmed by Joss Whedon, director of the first two Avengers movies. Infinity War is directed by the Russo brothers, Anthony and Joe, who were promoted after their incredible success with the Captain America movies — The Winter Soldier and Civil War. The plot is simple, but the scale, certainly not. This is as big as it can get, and fans cannot have enough of it. As the Avengers get ready to assemble on the big screen today, we catch up with the actors who immortalised our favourite characters, starting with Chris Evans’ Captain America, the first Avenger (and may be the first one to fall).
Movies Now — the Home to Super Heroes got exclusive access for Indulge to the cast of Avengers: Infinity War. Here are excerpts from exclusive interactions with Chris, Scarlett Johansson (Black Widow), Mark Ruffalo (Hulk), Chris Hemsworth (Thor), Benedict Cumberbatch (Doctor Strange) and the directors, the Russo brothers, Anthony and Joe, along with producer, Trinh Tran.
Where do we find your character, Black Widow, at the start of Infinity War?
Scarlet Johansson: It’s hard to say, because there is a two-year period between Civil War and the start of Infinity War. There’s a lot to explore, but certainly, I built a backstory for my own character that really finds her in a place where she is more determined than ever to be as strategic as possible and to keep everything under control as much as she can.
How is it to see more female faces in the group?
SJ: I’ve been advocating for some more female energy, just in the cast and crew as a whole, for the better part of a decade. So it’s great to see a diverse group and certainly great to see that the audiences are embracing and asking for really strong female superheroines. They’re hungry for those stories, and they want to see a more diverse group that better represents the population. It’s wonderful to feel like you’ve witnessed and been a part of that growth.
As Hulk, how did you feel the gravity and scope of this project?
Mark Ruffalo: There are so many different storylines working, and so many speaking characters from the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and beyond that I couldn’t see how it would work. But, I was really surprised when I read the script, and saw how cohesive it is and how the different mythologies come together and play off each other...
What makes this brand so successful?
MR: There’s such a built-in audience that taps into several generations of comic book fans. So, it has that going for it. I think we’re hard wired for mythology. We want to see Gods and monsters working out the problems of humanity in stories. It’s really able to transcend all kinds of different cultural divides. I think what’s really making it exciting now is a diversity, not just of the players, but also of the filmmakers — and that Marvel allows each of them to bring their own culture, mood, style and creative input.
Is it fun to go into the different worlds?
MR: It’s great. I get to jump around a lot between all of them in this movie, which is really cool. I get to shoot scenes with Chad, Benedict and Benny, and Iron Man, of course. To go from Wakanda to the Inner Sanctum of Doctor Strange in New York City is mindblowing. And the fact that we cover that space in this movie makes it epic.
Do you relish the fact that you get to flesh out your character of Thor over so many films?
Chris Hemsworth: I love the fact that we’ve been all given the opportunity to do something different each time, and put our ideas forward. To have the opportunity to attack a character again and hopefully advance on that, and bring something unique to it each time, is a real challenge. But if you can pull it off, it’s pretty creatively satisfying.
Has Robert Downey Jr always been a leader in these films?
CH: Robert has always led the way like a true leader and champion. There’s always been such great encouragement from him, such great constant feedback on what we’re doing. He’s always observing, always watching, doesn’t miss a beat. He’s always the first person to tell you that something works or that it was fantastic. When I first started this franchise, hearing that from Robert was like having the tick of approval and being let into the club. Even up until right now — six, seven years on — he still has that attitude. It’s a true testament to his humility and attitude, his love for this franchise, and these characters.
What does Captain America think of Thanos?
Chris Evans: Thanos (played by Josh Brolin) is the most challenging foe the Avengers have ever faced, the most powerful entity in the universe. Captain America knows that we need everybody working as a team, and it’s been all driving towards this. That’s the best thing about Marvel. Every single movie has set the chessboard up for this intense standoff. Also, it’s exciting to finally see Josh Brolin step up as Thanos and become the character that we’ve been hearing about for so long.
Did it ever surprise you, to see how dark these films got?
CE: I’m never surprised by anything Marvel does. They have a real deep bag of tricks. They know how to keep fans excited. They know how to raise stakes and keep the engine pumping. I’m just excited that I get to be there when it happens.
Avengers: Infinity War releases today.
EXCLUSIVE INTERACTIONS WITH BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH AND THE RUSSO BROTHERS
British actor Benedict Cumberbatch speaks exclusively with Indulge about his role as Doctor Stephen Strange, in Avengers: Infinity War.
hat did you think about getting the call to do Infinity War?
Benedict Cumberbatch: I was so thrilled with the way that the first film went down, and to think that I’d be part of this amazing assembly, this sort of new wave combined with the old wave of Avengers, is really exciting. My first questions were about what Dr Stephen Strange would do, and who he was going to be with. I was really thrilled when I heard that a lot of my stuff was going to be with Robert Downey Jr. It makes sense for those two egos. It made sense to set them head to head, and try and fuse a coherent collaboration out of their very strong personalities.
Where do we find Doctor Strange?
BC: There’s a bit of a leap between who we know Doctor Strange to be, by the end of the first film and this. He comes pretty well-equipped in some extraordinary situations in this film. Whereas in the last one, the origin story, he’s constantly chasing near-calamity. He’s basically defending himself backwards until he gets to a point of the real heroic act. In this one, he seems very composed. Even in the worst moments of adversity, he’s the one who’s a step ahead.
And, how was your time travelling in India?
BC: Amazing, it was quite an experience. It has its highs and lows, but it was fantastic.
Have you watched any Bollywood movies, and do you see yourself acting in any of them?
BC: Yes, I have seen a couple of Bollywood movies. (But) No, not at the moment.
If you have to choose five of the Avengers, not from the original list, who would they be?
BC: The point of this film is about coming together. It’s about how united we stand, divided we fall. Dr Strange is above that, and not to be too pompous about it, but he is kind of guided by the reality as opposed to fractioning elements of a bigger or smaller group in the middle of reality. I am not interested in sides or favourites.
You are one of the few people who read the entire script initially, so is there a lot of pressure on you?
BC: Not really! I read it because of what my character does. It’s just having an old-fashioned approach to work, and I like to know the context to what I am doing, rather than just an isolated bit. That was reason enough, and I kind of badgered them a lot about it and I can guarantee, even though I have a vague idea of what maybe coming, when I end up watching the premiere for the first time, it will be as thrilling and novel and exciting... more so, because I don’t think scripts are never the films anyway. There are so many changes that go on, it has been a year in the making — every day, every minute, every scene changes.
How was the experience of working with so many actors on the sets?
BC: Great! It was really exciting. It was kind of daunting to begin with, but then, it got really good fun, and joyous times ensued with RDJ (Robert Downey Jr) at the helm… he’s a God and great fun to be around.
Walk us through the time when you found out that you were going to create Doctor Strange. What was your reaction like?
BC: It was a slow burn really. I didn’t have one of those cold, in the middle of the night moments thinking, you know what? It has been a sort of a roller coaster journey. I am very glad with the way it all worked out!
What would your favourite pairing be, if they make another Avengers?
BC: I think the ones I got — Robert Downey Jr and Mark Ruffalo are great. It can’t get better than them and Spidey.
Can you describe the movie for us in just three words?
BC: Epic, epic, epic!
Your message for Marvel fans in India?
BC: For all of you in India who love superhero movies and in particular, the Marvel cinematic universe and particularly, any characters in this universe… the 10-year history is all leading to this and it’s on your doorstep. I can’t wait for you to see it! Open the door and step in, it’s going to be amazing.
Joe Russo, one half of the directorial duo of the Russo brothers (along with Anthony) joins producer Trinh Tran to speak with Indulge about their most epic movie yet.
If you were to form your own Avengers team, who would you choose?
Trinh Tran: I would take Vision because he’s powerful, Dr Marvel, Scarlet Witch, Spidey, Black Widow and Black Panther.
Joe Russo: I’m going to stick with Trinh’s picks. (Laughs.)
This is your third movie of the MCU that both of you have directed. Tell us about your experience working together, and how you’ve seen the characters grow over time.
JR: It’s an amazing experience, because it’s an unprecedented experimental kind of filmmaking that’s been going on for a decade, and to be a part of it is wonderful, especially for a guy who collected comic books. These are stories that are very important to me and my brother, and they are very personal to us. We have a very amazing working relationship with the Marvels — that’s why we have done four films with them. And we all are friends, we go to dinner together, we have a lot of fun on the sets. It’s a special experience that could potentially never happen again.
Considering there are so many characters, and so many people to work with on this project, how were things on and off the sets?
TT: This has been a very unique experience as we have never done this in Marvel history! So, to make Infinity War and Avengers 4 and shoot it back to back has been quite challenging, but such a rewarding experience because there was so much that we learned and we got closer. Also, because we were shooting for such a long time, we eventually became like a family.
Logistically, it must have been the most challenging thing to get the actors into the same shot, let alone the same movie. But when they come together, it’s surely magic...
JR: A part of the reason that my brother and I made the film was because of the level of ambition behind it, and certainly, it was going to be complicated. I would put it up as one of the most complicated movies in the history of cinema…. I don’t know whether we’ve had this scale of cast before in a film. Logistically, it was a nightmare, but having everyone on the set, making the film and seeing the finished product, and seeing
these incredible and charismatic actors and characters together, and scenes that are really special because people have ten years of their time and energy and emotion invested in these characters. The payoff, when they finally get to see themselves together, is fantastic.
TT: Just as people were excited to see Tony and Star-Lord talking to each other, we felt the same way when we first saw them on the set — they were finally coming together from the different franchises, and they were actually in the same scene.
Is there always a focus on the human element? How do you balance the tones?
JR: It’s a complex, unique tone, as it’s made of different franchises that have very different tones. It’s sort of an unprecedented experiment, as never before has someone taken successful franchises and merged them together. But, we like cross-pollinating genres, and we like experimentation in narrative. So it was exciting for us.
Is this really a Thanos movie?
JR: Without question. We thought it was fascinating to tell a story from the point of view of a villain. So when you watch the film, you’ll see that the film is told from Thanos’ perspective. That offers a unique insight into our heroes, and also, the villains.