Movies don’t get much bigger than this summer’s super-sized sequel Avengers: Age of Ultron. The Joss Whedon-directed film, which saw all of your favorite Avengers facing off against an evil robot in the form of Ultron (played, to sinister perfection, by James Spader), was the culmination of almost everything that had occurred in the Marvel Cinematic Universe up until that time. This wasn’t simply a follow-up to the first Avengers film, it felt like the follow-up to every single Marvel film.
So it’s sort of amazing to go through the special features on Blu-ray and Disney Movies Anywhere, and see that there was even more of the movie at one point, with a whole host of deleted scenes (including more of that sequence with Thor in the cave) and behind-the-scenes materials. As big as Avengers: Age of Ultron is, at one point, it was bigger.
Jeremy Latcham, an executive producer on Avengers: Age of Ultron (he’ll be back for the two-part, entirely-shot-in-IMAX extravaganza Avengers: Infinity War), is largely responsible for keeping track of everything, both in and out of, the final film. We got to talk to him about what it was like cataloguing the Marvel Cinematic Universe, if there was anything that got cut that he was upset about, what it will be like forging ahead in the Marvel Cinematic Universe without Whedon, and just how complicated Avengers: Infinity War will be.
Maybe you can just start by describing your relationship with Marvel, since you’ve been there from the first Iron Man.
I’ve been here since the dawn of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It’s crazy to think about it, but I’ve been here since January 2004, helping to lay the groundwork and build this cinematic universe from day one, which has been quite a journey and pretty exciting.
How hard is it to keep track of all of this stuff?
It’s funny, as the Marvel Universe expands it gets harder to keep track of it all. Because part of the fun of making movies here is always the fact that everything is connected and we’re always cross-pollinating and they’re all a part of the same Universe. But the other thing that’s super important to us is that every filmmaker we work with has a chance to make the movie that they absolutely want to make. So keeping track of how everyone’s movie is exactly the movie they want it to be but also keeping track of how it connects to the other movies, is harder to keep track of once there are more films. But I think it’s a really fun challenge because what you’re getting to do is inherit great character work that’s being done across the board by all of the other filmmakers.
What was the most complicated aspect of putting together Avengers: Age of Ultron?
It was really fun actually. We relished the notion that in Captain America: Winter Soldier, SHIELD was destroyed. When Joss and I started talking about that, it was only a good thing because SHIELD has been destroyed so the Avengers have to get together and figure stuff out on their own. It’s not Nick Fury bringing them together. And that means changing the dynamic between Tony and Cap in particular. There’s a line early in the film when Tony says, “Oh I’m not the boss, he’s the boss. I just design everything and pay for everything.” It’s such a great capturing of the tone of everything. That’s what Joss does so well—in a line, you get a laugh and you understand the dynamic completely. Joss is so good at that, as a writer, and it’s so fun to watch him pull that off.
Right after the first Avengers came out, Joss said he wanted the second movie to be “smaller, more personal, more painful.” That obviously didn’t happen. How did it go from that initial mission to statement to the biggest Marvel movie ever?
The only thing I would say is that after that city smashes to piece, the scene that comes directly after that is Vision and Ultron standing on the bank of that crater, talking about their souls and talking about humanity. That’s the thing that Joss does so well—it’s a big movie, people want to have a good time and they want crazy things to happen. But what we get excited about is when the characters actually just talk to each other. I remember reading it and being like, “Wow, that’s a cool scene. How’s that going to play?” But the first test screening, the audience said that it was their favorite scene. It was really exciting to connect with people. And that’s pretty cool.
What’s great about the Blu-ray and DMA versions is that you see these deleted scenes, which was proof that there was even more stuff in the movie at one point. Was there anything that you were sad about losing or wanted to put back in?
No, our goal at Marvel is to make the version of the movie. So when stuff gets cut, sometimes you’re bummed to see it go but usually it’s being cut because it didn’t work. You can like a scene that’s on the cutting room floor, but the movie has to work as a whole. You can’t keep something in that throws off the balance of the film. So sure there were a couple of things and you’d be bummed about it but usually the movie kind of tells you what it wants to have in. You can defend a scene or moment in the editing room but when you see it on the big screen you start squirming because you like it intellectually, but the movie doesn’t feel right with it.
Do you have that same struggle when it comes to putting stuff on the Blu-ray? Because Tom Hiddleston shot a scene as Loki and Joss has talked about how Quicksilver was much more of a ladies’ man at one point, but neither of those is reflected in the home video release. Was there any talk of putting that stuff in?
The Quicksilver stuff was definitely fun and that is one of the things that stung. We had plans to give Wanda and Pietro a little more backstory early on, just to settle into life in Sokovia a little more and see what this city’s like. But once we got into the movie, we felt audiences kind of got it. It’s Eastern Europe and there are these two kids, we get it. I thought the stuff was great and Aaron was super charming in it. And in that material there’s a little boy that he saves in the movie, but in the deleted stuff there’s a woman who plays his older sister who played a role in that scene. So you understood that he had a relationship to that little boy and his older sister. But at the same time with that kind of stuff, it ties the world together but also makes the world feel smaller. Like everyone in this town knows each other? It’s always a bit tricky.
What’s fun about the supplemental material is that you not only lay out how the movies are connected but also emphasize the importance of the Infinity Stones.
What’s funny is that in that featurette, we’re laying out the importance of the Infinity Stones but we’re still working out that connective tissue as well. There was a moment recently, while working on Avengers: Infinity War, where we’re pulled out the disc and went, “What have we committed ourselves to?” Because our whole thing at Marvel is, the best idea wins. We always want the idea that works the best. Nothing is sacred. Now I’m working with a new team on Infinity War, with the Russos and Markus and McFeeley, and it’s about taking everything that’s been established and inheriting it and shaping the rest of phase three to lead up to Infinity War and make things as difficult as possible for the heroes to overcome. It’s inevitably what you’re doing.
Whedon not only directed the two Avengers movies but was a guiding creative principle in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Is it scary going off without him now?
Look, I’ve spent five years of my life with Joss and they were five amazing, fun years and I’ve learned so much from Joss about how to make movies and how to tell stories. So it was super daunting to turn around and not have him there. It’s definitely strange not having him there. But he’s a guy who has so many stories to tell and so many things he wants to do and he was looking at his life going, If I stick around I’m never going to get to write another original story. He has so many characters kicking around in his head. I’m happy for him. He had devoted five years of his life to Marvel, which we’re eternally grateful for, but he wanted to explore new challenges. It was early on that he said, “These are the two movies I want to make.” I know that if I ever had questions I could call Joss and he knows everything about this Universe intimately. He’s been so supportive of everything. He loved Ant-Man. I remember seeing him at the premiere and he said, “That was amazing!”
How complicated is Avengers: Infinity War going to be for you?
Oh it’s going to be crazy. It’ll be the hardest thing that we do. I can’t imagine a more complicated film to make because there are so many movies that lead up to it and the characters are so well known by the actors and the audiences, that you want to do right by every single character. Because you don’t know out there who is a huge fan of War Machine versus a huge fan of Scarlet Witch versus a huge fan of Vision. They all want that huge moment for their favorite character. It’s going to be really hard. But as we’re having these meetings and starting to lay out these two films, we have to make them great. There’s so much anticipation. It’s always hard because you want the movie to be whatever the movie is going to be. So you can’t really worry about that stuff, you have to tell the story you want to tell. I’ve been fortunate enough to make two Avengers movies and there was really something about making Guardians of the Galaxy in between, because nobody had any expectations. It’s such the opposite problem with an Avengers movie. Of course on Guardians of the Galaxy, Volume 2 there’s the same pressure. With Ant-Man, it was the same thing and when they like it, it’s so exciting.