“We’re in the endgame now.” The ominous words of Doctor Strange rang in everyone’s ears almost one year ago today. After months of crazy anticipation, and intense speculation by fans, we’re finally going to get closure and see what those words truly mean.
As such, this weekend in Los Angeles the Avengers fully assembled before members of the press to discuss Avengers: Endgame, the epic finale to the 11-year, 22-movie saga that encompasses Phases 1-3 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. As a curtain with an Avengers logo towered over the stage, moderator Jon Favreau was called out to introduce the surprise guests for the event. Upon saying the word, the curtain dropped, and sitting before us on a rather hilariously desolate stage were a few of the remaining survivors of Infinity War: Danai Gurira, Don Cheadle, Scarlett Johansson, Mark Ruffalo, Robert Downey Jr, and Chris Hemsworth, along with directors, Joe and Anthony Russo, and producer Kevin Feige.
“Clearly things look different in a post-Infinity War Marvel Cinematic Universe,” Favreau joked. Ruffalo and Cheadle, sitting in a back row of empty chairs were asked to join up with the other members of the team to “fill out” the rest of the stage. After which, Favreau called out the rest of the team: Karen Gillan, Chris Evans, Brie Larson, Paul Rudd, Jeremy Renner.
As the heroes settled in their seats, Favreau kicked off the proceedings with the man who started it all, Robert Downey Jr, asking “When you first suited up as Iron Man, could you envision Tony Stark’s arc, and where did you want it to go? And how did you approach building such a memorable character?”
“There’s always 2 tracks, at least in my mind. One is the sky is falling, and the other is the sky is the limit. And as we had those many discussions in the high desert, in shooting [Iron Man], I’m reminded now that I was talking a lot of smack, saying ‘wait til you see where this goes,’ but in the moment I was just hoping day today we were making good scenes and putting good stuff in the can…I just didn’t want to drop the ball.”
When Favreau asked Feige about his thoughts on the first Iron Man when that came out, Feige said this:
“The bar for success was pretty low. It felt high at the time, but it was not that high. It was comparative to other Marvel films that had been out in that general area, which is what we wanted to compete with. But as we were making the movie… we realized it was really going to be special, and even perhaps more special than we thought, and then that opening weekend. And the response to the trailer, frankly, with you (Favreau) comivng out at Hall H at Comic Con for the first time, showing that trailer, there seemed to be a much bigger wind behind our back. Combined with Sam Jackson’s cameo that we secretly did on that Saturday at Playa (and it leaked the next day), and the response to that. People picked up that that meant this interconnected universe, which people knew from the books, but had never been done in the movies.”
During the conference, Evans was asked how the leadership of his role as Captain America has been maintained or changed after his character continues to meet other leaders like Black Panther and Carol Danvers.
“I think he tends to lean on those people who are like-minded in nature, who kind of are intrinsically selfless. All the heroes up here have their ‘baked in the cake’ flaws, and I think that a lot of that makes for really good conflict in storytelling, which is why my favorite stuff in this arc has been my stuff with Downey, because there’s such a dichotomy between how we approach things, but at the end of the day our hearts are in the right place, though it provides a lot of great friction. But introducing characters like Captain Marvel, like Black Panther — people also align similarly with Cap’s nature—it reinforces Cap’s sense of purpose and home. It’s an environment that feels more natural for him, so I think it’s nice to see there are certain pockets where he feels peace, and certain pockets where he feels his buttons are getting pushed.”
Turning his attention to Gurira, Favreau thanked her for the “breath of energy” Black Panther brought to the MCU, and asked her what makes Okoye such a respected and well-liked character.
“What I can say about Okoye… what I love about her is that she’s very unapologetic, and she’s a traditionalist in the sense that she believes in the sovereignty of her nation, and that really resonated with me because I was born here but I was raised on the continent. And so seeing a country like Wakanda, which has had no history of colonization and became so powerful, and that she’s like the guardian of that nation in a sense was something that really resonated with me. I really got to work collaboratively in a gorgeous way with the awesome Mr. Ryan Coogler, who really allowed me to imbue her with the idea that she has a good time. She doesn’t have rage issues. She loves her life, she loves her country, she loves her people. And she’ll do whatever it takes to take care of what must be done. And at the same time, there’s a fierceness that I think she has, that she also unapologetically embraces her femininity.”
Favreau asked Chris Hemsworth: “What has made Thor such an entertaining and beloved character in this franchise and his own franchise, and what do you like best about playing him?”
“I was sitting there, straight out of high school, watching Iron Man 1, thinking the same thing. Thinking, I wish I could be a part of that world. And then a few years on, getting cast in it as Thor, and having the opportunity to embark on this thing, I thought ‘is this film going to even make it past DVD, or even make it to the cinemas? Or was I going to be recast’ — Those sorts of questions…To answer the question, what made it so special for me was just the different people I was able to work with. You know, from Kenneth Branagh in the first film… and then through the films with each director and each different cast I’ve learned something different from… and by the time I got to Ragnarok I felt like I finally had enough confidence to go ‘ok what is it that I can sort of possibly bring to this,’ and then have this great collaboration with Taika, and decide to do something different and see how we could make it unexpected and unique. And then maybe calling Joe and Anthony and saying, look I’ve got this new version of Thor, that we’ve just shot, and I want to continue that version. I don’t want to do the old version. And they said ‘well we’ve got an even newer version for you’, and it was. As with this film here. It’s just about the people who’ve made it so special and unique each time with any of our characters. And the fact that we’re all willing to be open to what new possibilities lie ahead of these franchises and characters. It’s been a pretty remarkable journey.”
Scarlett Johansson was then asked by Favreau what it was like playing Black Widow and how has she morphed in the franchise.
“The character’s changed you know [since] you and I first met and worked together… the character really started as a sassy secretary with a skill set on the side, and I didn’t know how the audience would react to my interpretation of the character, obviously a very beloved character for a long time. And the next time we saw her in Avengers she was one of the boys for better or worse, and that made sense then. And as I think the fans, and audiences have really pushed Marvel and all studios and filmmakers to really throw up on the screen what’s going on in the zeitgeist, and see diverse films and casts that represent their own aspirations and how they feel, I think the character’s grown in reaction to that. And the movies have really grown in reaction to that sort of fan encouragement. And honestly, I have to say that I remember when Lizzie signed on, and Colbie was there, and we were all clinging to each other… it was so nice to see other female cast members. With Brie coming on, and Karen, and Danai… I feel like I’m amongst so many wonderful actors. So many strong actors. It’s just grown beyond my wildest dreams… It’s been quite a journey.”
The Ant-Man himself, Paul Rudd was asked “what can we expect from this time around, and how does he fit in with the remaining Avengers?”
“Well I did see the trailer so I know I’m in it,” Rudd joked. “How any of this works remains to be seen. And it’s going to be fun to have audiences discover it, along with us… The relationships that are forged — it’s a weird thing for anyone to be hired in any job, and then get to step into it as it’s already picked up speed, it’s like having The Beatles say ‘c’mon, here, jam with us for a while.’ It’s an unreal sensation… It’s hard to put into words… Getting to work with all these actors in this series of films is wild. It’ll never happen again… I keep taking steps back and trying to recognize this for what it is. It is so surreal and profound and incredible to be a part of it… and to play a small part in that (pun intended) is something I will treasure.”
Brie Larson was asked by Favreau how the experience has been to join the series as a “designated hitter during the World Series.”
“Stressful now that you put it like that. I felt kind of chill but now I’m scared. So I hope you guys did a good job,” Larson stated jokingly. “I came at just the most magical time… my first introduction to everyone was the 10 year photo… so the whole thing has felt like a dream. And this film will always be personally dear to me because it was my first time playing Captain Marvel. We shot this first. So I had to stumble and figure out who this character was, with no script and no script for Captain Marvel either. And perform for the first time in front of legends. But it was incredible… There’s still this sense of wonder, and play, and encouragement…You’re bouncing in between things that are very serious, and then you’re going off and playing Boggle, which I’m very good at, just to be clear.”
Favreau then asked Mark Ruffalo if the cast felt like a family to him.
“It doesn’t feel like family to me, because we all really get along well,” Ruffalo quipped. “No. It does feel like family. A family you wished you had in a way. I don’t know if you could tell. It’s a little bit different from the press conference last time. There’s a sadness to it… There’s something very bittersweet about this moment, because as actors we’re like vagabonds. We bounce around. We have these intense relationships and then we don’t see each other until you’re nominated for something… This is the closest thing you have to continuity, and friendships, and watching people grow up and have children” continued Ruffalo.
The rest of the conversation was fun, light, and engaging. And as a general sentiment, the one thing that can be said about the Avengers, and the MCU cast in general, is that they very much are more than a team. The general theme of the conference was the emphasis on the greater idea and value of a family, and the respect each of the actors have for one another, along with how much they enjoy spending time with one another really embodies that spirit. And so, as we move towards the endgame, I think it’s an absolute certainty that regardless of what Thanos has in store for our heroes when Avengers: Endgame comes out, our favorite superheroes of all time will forever remain Assembled.
You can watch the full press conference here:
Avengers: Endgame hits theaters April 26!