While Mark Ruffalo's take on Bruce Banner in The Avengers will be a departure from previous big-screen depictions of the Hulk's alter ego, director Joss Whedon reveals they turned to television touchstone to help them develop the character.
"He and I did the most character work of anyone, because we really were starting fresh, but we were starting with something that had been embodied several times," Whedon tells Yahoo's Movie Talk. "And both of us agreed upfront that the template for who we wanted this guy to be in his life was Bill Bixby, the TV [show character] who was busy helping other people. That was more interesting to us than the Banner in the first two movies who was always fixated on curing himself. We spent a lot of time talking about what makes us Hulk out, the nature of anger, how it feels.
"We even fought some," the director continues. "I mean literally we actually got some pads out and did some tussling. Just to talk about the physicality, and also the physicality of somebody who has to control this thing, and the way he moves in space and the way he relates to the people and the objects around him. It was extremely fun. What we found was that he could be very bumbling and kind of awkward, but at the same time very graceful and in this almost transcendent control of himself."
With more than six months until the film's release, the interview is of course light on detail, with the questions touching upon Whedon's experience working with the ensemble cast and veteran actors like Robert Downey Jr. and Samuel L. Jackson, and the challenges of directing large action scenes.
We're not given any further clues as to the plot, but Whedon does indicate that The Avengers will shine a spotlight on Jackson's Nick Fury. Just don't expect that light to be too penetrating.
"Well, he is not going to be talking about his childhood, and you do want to keep a certain mystery," the director says. "Also -- and this is something that I was very pleased that Marvel actually mandated -- they were very interested in keeping him, not just in the sort of a mystery of how the organization operates, but a real moral gray area where you really have to decide, 'Is Nick Fury the most manipulative guy in the world? Is he a good guy? Is he completely Machiavellian or is it a bit of both?' And that was really fun to tweak. I felt that in the other movies, they had been cameos and he had been called upon to come in and be Sam Jackson and bluster a little bit. And I told Sam upfront that my big agenda was to see the weight on someone who is supposed to be in control of the most powerful beings on the planet. The weight on somebody who has to run the organization and the gravity of it. Not that we don't have any fun with Nick, but he definitely -- it's, I feel like a much more textured performance and at times really moving."
Opening May 4, The Avengers stars Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man, Chris Hemsworth as Thor, Chris Evans as Captain America, Mark Ruffalo as the Incredible Hulk, Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye, Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow, Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, Tom Hiddleston as Loki, Clark Gregg as Agent Phil Coulson, Cobie Smulders as Agent Maria Hill and Stellan Skarsgård as Dr. Selvig.