In 2012, Marvel’s The Avengers was a major box office smash, a superhero movie based on the long-running team of superheroes of the same name. One of the first movies produced by Marvel Studios, it was the sixth film in the Cinematic Universe the studio created. It brought together the heroes Iron Man, Thor, Captain America and the Hulk together for the first time on the big screen and also introduced Mark Ruffalo as the Hulk. In the movie, the four heroes team up with Black Widow and Hawkeye to stop an alien invasion led by Thor’s brother, Loki. Avengers was not only a moneymaker, it also scored a hit with critics for its smooth plot and clever dialogue.
While the movie has become a modern classic, it wasn’t without its problems. Behind the scenes, there are a lot of dark secrets and unrecognized problems that you won’t find written on the back of the DVD box. With the third Avengers movie (Avengers: Infinity War) coming in 2018, CBR decided it was time to shed a spotlight on the darker side of this otherwise awesome film. Read on to find out what plot holes, casting problems and production goofs went on in The Avengers.
15. ROBERT DOWNEY JR. WANTED THE LEAD
When it comes to the Avengers, Marvel’s vision had always been that the movie was supposed to be a team effort, but it seems like Robert Downey Jr. didn’t know that there’s no “I” in “team.” According to the director Joss Whedon, Downey Jr. tried to talk him into making Iron Man the lead instead of an ensemble. He said, “I need to be in the opening sequence… Tony needs to drive this thing.”
Whedon agreed to try it, but after testing it in the script, Downey Jr. agreed that Iron Man had enough focus in his previous solo films and Avengers needed to be on a different theme of the characters coming together. The other actors probably wouldn’t have appreciated being made into sidekicks to Iron Man.
14. RUFFALO WAS A REPLACEMENT
Bruce Banner has been played in the movies by three different actors: Eric Bana in 2003’s Hulk, Ed Norton in 2008’s The Incredible Hulk and Mark Ruffalo in 2012’s Avengers. Ruffalo has been a great Banner and also brought his acting game by doing the motion-capture for the Hulk, but his addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe wasn’t smooth at all.
In fact, Ruffalo had auditioned for the role in 2008, but lost out to Norton. In fact, Norton was supposed to continue playing the Hulk throughout the series but there were problems behind the scenes. According to reports, Norton wanted a more hands-on role with Incredible Hulk, rewriting the script and even pushing to be involved in the final editing. When the studio refused, Norton turned down press for the movie. Marvel went with Ruffalo instead.
13. THE HULK IS A STRIPPER
While Ruffalo did the motion capture for the Hulk in Avengers, he didn’t exactly have the body Marvel was looking for. That’s not to say that Ruffalo was fat, but he didn’t have the bulky muscular frame it needed. When it came time to create the computer-generated model for the Hulk, the studio went with someone else: a male stripper.
Well, it’s a little more complicated than that. Steve Romm was a bodybuilder, bouncer and male stripper for bachelorette parties who was originally hired by the studio to play an anonymous soldier in Avengers. At one point, they needed someone to model the green muscles of the Hulk, and turned to Romm. Every day, Romm was spray-painted green and they used the footage to create the 3D model with Ruffalo’s face.
12. SOME ASSEMBLY REQUIRED
When Joss Whedon got the job writing and directing The Avengers, one of his first proposals was to have the Avengers brought together with a fight against Loki, a nod to Loki bringing together the Avengers in the comics. He created a five-page treatment that was the basis of the final script, but one of his ideas didn’t get as warm a reception.
In the comics, the battle cry of the Avengers is “Avengers Assemble,” so Whedon proposed calling the movie Avengers: Some Assembly Required. It seems like Marvel didn’t take to that subtitle because it’s kind of silly, especially if you don’t know the battle cry (which they never said in the movie). The final title became Marvel’s The Avengers, which worked out just fine.
When Joss Whedon was announced as the director of Avengers, it caused a bit of an uproar over his lack of experience. Whedon wasn’t exactly unknown to the comic book community since he’d been earning his geek credentials starting with his hit series in 1997, Buffy the Vampire Slayer. He followed that up with a less popular but critically-acclaimed sci-fi 2002 series Firefly. The first movie he directed was Serenity in 2005, based on Firefly.
While directing a genre movie based on a failed TV show was a great achievement, Serenity was a bomb, earning less than $40 million worldwide. Having failed in his first jump to films, most directors in Hollywood wouldn’t have gotten another chance, especially directing and writing a high-profile blockbuster like Avengers. The fact that Whedon got the job was a triumph alone, but its success is even more impressive.
10. FAKE NEW YORK
One of the biggest scenes in Avengers was the battle against the Chitauri in New York City, but it took a lot of Hollywood wizardry to get it. Because of tax incentives in other states and the difficulty in shooting battle sequences in busy New York streets, most of what we saw in the climax was faked.
Four weeks of shooting was done on East 9th Street in Cleveland, Ohio as a substitute for New York’s 42nd Street. Only two days of shooting took place at New York’s Park Avenue and Central Park. The production spent three days shooting footage of the city which was scanned and turned into a computer-generated set for battle sequences. The actors shot most of their New York scenes against a green screen and the city was digitally added to the background of those shots.
9. THANOS WAS LAST MINUTE
Marvel would have you believe that the brief shot of Thanos at the end of Avengers was all part of its master plan because Thanos has been the “big bad” of the Marvel Cinematic Universe ever since. Each movie that followed laid the groundwork for the gathering of Infinity Stones, leading up to Avengers: Infinity War. Thanos has even done cameos in Guardians of the Galaxy. The truth is less glamorous.
It was Joss Whedon’s idea to add a shot of Thanos at the end of Avengers, not the studio’s. He was writing the movie and no one had asked the question of who was in charge of the Chitauri invasion. Whedon asked if he could have Thanos revealed as the force behind the Chitauri, and Marvel said “yes.” That’s all there was to it. The decision was made later to set up Thanos and the Infinity War.
8. SHAWARMA WAS ADDED LATER
If there’s one food that’s become associated with the Avengers, it’s shawarma. When Iron Man was revived after his fall from the Chitauri portal and the after-credits scene with the Avengers all eating shawarma was one of the most memorable gags in the movie. This wasn’t a clever plan on Marvel’s part to boost sales of shawarma but a series of happy accidents.
In the original script, Iron Man was supposed to say “What’s next” but Downey Jr. thought they needed a better line and improvised asking if they could go get shawarma. Later on, Whedon thought of adding a scene with the Avengers actually eating shawarma, but the actors had all moved on to other projects. Whedon had to get them all together at the premiere, put them into their costumes and shoot the scene. Chris Evans had to wear a prosthetic jaw to hide his beard.
7. THEY COULDN’T USE “AVENGERS”
In the United States, the name “Avengers” is pretty much locked into the Marvel superhero team, but that wasn’t the case around the world. When the movie was released in the US, it was called Marvel’s Avengers, but there was a problem in the United Kingdom. That’s because the UK had a popular TV show in the ’60s called The Avengers about a pair of super-spies who fought crime for the Crown.
While the audience might not have found it confusing, Marvel’s legal department decided to play it safe. To avoid confusion, Marvel released the movie in the UK as Marvel’s Avengers Assemble. This was called the worst film title ever by David Cox of The Guardian, but it satisfied the legal requirements and let the studio market the movie there.
6. STARK’S ACURA
At the end of Avengers, Tony Stark and Bruce Banner climbed into the back of a red open-top sports car and rode off. That car caused a bit of a stir because it was an Acura which didn’t actually exist. Acura had partnered with Marvel to produce cars for S.H.I.E.L.D. and in return, the car company got a product placement to provide Downey Jr. with a one-of-a-kind fictional car for the movie.
They also made some modified SUVs for S.H.I.E.L.D. to drive in the movie, but never actually produced a version of Stark’s car for the general public, much to the dismay of deep-pocketed fans. Later in 2011, Acura released a version of their Acura NSX based on Stark’s car for sale, but Stark’s car remains unique.
5. IT ALMOST GOT AN R-RATING
Agent Phil Coulson became a beloved character since his first appearance in 2008’s Iron Man movie as a no-nonsense but charming member of S.H.I.E.L.D. That’s why Coulson being impaled and killed by Loki in Avengers was shocking to most of the audience, but it turned out the people most shocked by the death were the censors, who were not happy, to say the least.
When Avengers was submitted to the Motion Picture Association’s ratings board, Coulson’s death earned the movie an R. The studio had to cut a bloody shot of Loki’s scepter sticking out of Coulson’s chest to get a PG-13 rating in the United States. Other countries like the United Kingdom didn’t have a problem with the shot, so their viewers got to see the original death.
4. HOT COSTUMES
If there are two words you can use to describe the costumes of the Avengers, they are “cool” and “hot.” Cool because they’re really great looking costumes and match the comics just enough, but also hot because they were often uncomfortable for the actors to wear.
Scarlett Johansson said her costume was so hot that she would have to wring out her socks at the end of the day, and at one point she started hallucinating. Tom Hiddleston said his metal Loki costume didn’t let any air in, and the heavy helmet trapped even more heat until he felt like his brains were cooking, but thought it helped get him into character. Chris Hemsworth said he wore a shirt under his Thor costume that he could plug a hose into, working like air conditioning.
3. THE WAITRESS
If you’re one of those who saw Avengers and asked yourself, “What’s with the waitress,” you’re not alone. In the battle scene, Captain America rescued a blonde waitress and later on in the final scenes, the news interviewed her where she thanked Cap for helping her. The way it was shot made a lot of people think she might have been important, and she would have been if it hadn’t been for editing.
Waitress Beth was played by Ashley Suzanne Johnson who also appeared as Chrissy Seaver in the TV show Growing Pains. In deleted scenes, Beth served Steve Rogers at her diner and later on was caught by the Chitauri during the invasion. Her appearance at the end was supposed to be the end of her storyline but seemed out of place on its own.
2. THE UNHAPPY ENDING
The ending of Avengers is triumphant as the heroes destroy the portal and blow up the Chitauri invasion force. In all the celebration, the movie really doesn’t get into the aftermath of the battle, which is how Marvel would like it: a nice, happy ending. Unfortunately, the reality is much different.
In fact, the effects of the battle on New York City has been explored in Netflix’s TV universe of Marvel properties. In Daredevil, we first saw how the people talked about the Chitauri invasion like a disaster, and we saw a newspaper that said hundreds of people were killed. The city has been struggling to rebuild, and criminal gangs were moving in to fill the void. In Iron Man 3, Tony Stark suffered from PTSD from the battle. Not the tidy ending Avengers implied.
1. THE PAYDAY
We’re going to talk about money, which definitely isn’t something Marvel likes to talk about. There was a huge gap between the salaries of the actors in Avengers, even though they were all supposed to be getting equal screen time. In Iron Man, Robert Downey Jr. earned just $500,000 but by the time he got to Avengers, he earned a whopping $50 million for the movie. The others, most of whom were relative unknowns when they signed on, weren’t so lucky.
Sources have said Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans, Jeremy Renner and Mark Ruffalo each made about $2 million to $3 million in Avengers while Samuel L. Jackson and Scarlett Johansson made $5 to $6 million if you include bonuses. It’s not a bad payday, but it’s a drop in the bucket compared to Downey Jr.’s check, which is more than all the other cast members combined.
What’s the most shocking secret you learned from Avengers? Let us know in the comments!
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