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November 04 2010

Robert Downey Jr. on Radio 1. He's being interviewed on Radio 1 right now. He has been talking a little about The Avengers. Link to live broadcast and also will be available to Listen Again some time after 19:00 GMT tonight (via same link).

The link is available now, but evidently the interview is an hour into the show.... I'm still trying to get to it.
Ugh. Second time I've heard Downey express concern about the script and say that it needs to be changed via his insight. That is not reassuring. The first time we thought he might have been kidding. This time is sounds serious. It may just be part of the process that Downey always sees, but it doesn't sound good.
Would love to see a transcript of this or know when to listen in. Can't spend almost 2 hours listening to this. RDJ is almost always very unserious and sarcastic in the same way Joss is. I have to assume that his dry humor is being misunderstood.
Just a question: How much writing influence does Joss have with The Avengers?
WheelsOfJoy - apparently he is rewriting the Zak penn script, virtually from scratch.

When I first head Whedon was getting the Avengers, and after the excitement died down, I immediately thought "Good luck with Downey Jr. Good luck with Norton". One is gone, and leaves plenty of room for RDJ to throw his weight around and and point at the Iron Man box office numbers. He always chips in, and not always for the greater good. I hope Joss can play this right.
The interview starts at 1:05:25 and the Whedon relevant part at 1:13:45. Here's my transcript (not necessarily 100% accurate):

Q: So you've read the script for The Avengers yet? And is it amazing?

A: I think it has the potential to be fantastic and Joss Whedon is a really interesting guy from Buffy the Vampire Slayer and all these kind of huge genre things. I tend to not read scripts and get too excited until - like Favreau and I really basically took a good script and made it completely different, so I guess Joss and I will do a little bit of that.

Q: So you kind of go through it with Joss and say what works and what doesn't?

A: Well, I'm not the arbiter of what works. Well actually I am, I forgot.
Cheers for the transcript SharkyBoredNow.

Not listened to this yet to get his tone of voice but even in text that "sounds" like he was kidding (serious, humble comment which he then facetiously undercuts = standard RDJ humour. Joss too for that matter). Also, that's the first time i've seen him say that they took "a good script and made it completely different" and that's, frankly, much nicer to the credited writers of 'Iron Man' (even if it doesn't necessarily mesh perfectly with previous comments by either Downey Jr. himself or Jeff Bridges).

If he's thinking more along the lines of a standard actor/director collaboration over lines etc. then I don't have much issue with it, if he's thinking more "RDJ rocks up and saves the day from a terrible Joss Whedon script" then I see friction in both their futures. Wait and see basically.
Doesn't sound particularly different to the influence actors had on Joss Whedon's shows (I'm thinking Spike and Willow here), but given they only have the one film to work with, the process will have to be more direct than that...
Daylight's comment about "the one film to work with" reminds me of something I've been wondering.

Is anyone else concerned that, given that Joss's great strength is the long game (i.e. telling stories, especially complex ones, over a much greater length of screen time than is available for a "blockbuster" movie) that Joss is not particularly suited to direct and write The Avengers?

I know he has an affinity for/understanding of the genre and these characters and for creating a sense of "family" among a wide range of characters, but he's told these kinds of stories in the past with at least 10 hours (albeit episodic) to tell them.

I think Dr. Horrible was great, but it only had a 3 character dynamic (with which he did amazing and interesting and playful things). And Serenity was a 2 hour movie but was built on the character dynamics he'd created over 12 episodes of Firefly. I can't say personally but I had the sense that those who hadn't seen the TV show probably felt like they were missing some of the story and the reasons the characters were interacting the way they were.

And Dollhouse didn't really come together for me until into the second season when the characters and their backstories started to have some weight.

Put another way, my question is: Do "people" know enough about the characters in The Avengers so that Joss will be able to write character conflict and interactions in the way he does so well?

Or am I asking the wrong questions? :-)
StalwartTrue, Joss is reworking the Captain America script so I would guess he's laying down his markers for The Avengers.
Joss co-wrote large portions of Toy Story. And Speed. He can make you care in 90 minutes. And this is longer than 90 minutes.

Also, I think Marvel need to put Downey and Joss in a room together asap and get them bondin'. That's just my feeling from listening to that interview.
Yes gossi, thanks for the reminders of other, shorter form, exceptional work Joss has done.

And I hope no one misunderstood my meaning. I think Joss is amazing and is a brilliant storyteller always willing to push his own comfort zone and twist/rework tropes to create compelling, surprising character driven drama and humor. I was just asking if others here thought this project was playing to his considerable strengths.

Of course if MGM decides to release Cabin in the Woods anytime soon, we'll have a good, current example of Joss's movie length storytelling. Wouldn't that be nice?
Also, if you can find them, check out Suspension and Afterlife, Joss's two big 90s spec sales. One's straight up action, one's more thoughtful action/sci-fi, both are incredibly well-written and loaded with great character stuff as well as tons of inventive set pieces. There's a reason he sold them both for massive figures, even if they never got made.

Or you could check out the Cabin in The Woods script, or look at the way he made Serenity work as a standalone film. Or even look at the original Buffy and Alien 4 scripts, which, while lesser works, are both considerably better than their final film products.

I don't have any concerns with Joss telling a big story in two hours.

I have some concerns with Downey. He's my favorite actor, and Joss my favorite writer, but Downey is legendary for rewriting on set -- ESPECIALLY on big franchise pictures. He did it on both Iron Man movies and on Sherlock Holmes. So no, he is not joking. However, I'm not of the opinion that an actor rewriting things is always a bad thing. I read the original Sherlock script and the bits Downey added were nearly all improvements (it should also be mentioned that the overall story was nearly identical -- where Downey made changes was in the character moments, the jokes, the banter, etc.).

I heard Iron Man was much the same way -- they had an outline for a story, but a very rough script, so Downey and the rest would just rehearse and improvise each day until they got something they were happy with.

So I have a feeling that Downey absolutely will want to change and work on The Avengers script, both before and during production, but I only think this is a bad thing if Joss either a) lets him get carried away and do things that might work within a scene but hurt the overall story, or b) if Joss puts his foot down and doesn't want him to change a single line, leading to a massive conflict between director and leading man. Big films like this, the director almost has to be an ego wrangler and coach as much as a storyteller.

ETA: Don't forget Joss's "Gifted" arc on Astonishing X-Men. The six issues of that story could easily have translated into a two-hour movie, and they even dealt with a big superhero team with a ton of back story, just as The Avengers will.

[ edited by bonzob on 2010-11-06 06:24 ]
I really enjoyed Iron Man, having not cared much for Marvel's output, and kind of enjoyed Sherlock Holmes.

What worries me is that both he and Joss seem like Control Enthusiasts, and you can only really have one of those per film.
He sounds totally serious to me. I think this could have been disaster a few years ago, or if Joss were not directing. Joss seemed to have some real issues years ago, but it seems like he has loosened up a bit. He also must have realized going into this that there would be these issues. I keep thinking about his statement about the first time he worked directly with the Buffy cast and was dreading it, but then realized that everything was turning out fine because he was working with actors rather than stars. Oh boy is he working with stars on this one, but he also is directing and therefore has more power to collaborate rather than have to stand by and watch the director and star do whatever they want. My fingers are crossed though...
On the plus side though, RDJ is an actor.

He's only incidentally a star.
Yeah, he's of that increasingly rare breed that're stars (mainly) because they're actors.

Q: So you kind of go through it with Joss and say what works and what doesn't?

A: Well, I'm not the arbiter of what works. Well actually I am, I forgot.

I really can't see that as being serious, surely no-one is that unaware of how egotistical (even delusional) they'd sound saying that ? And as I say, it has the form of a facetious comment. That said, I still haven't listened to it so I should probably stop talking about two sentences ago.
The arbiter line could be totally tongue in cheek with the rest of it serious. In Hollywood, though, with a star with as much juice as he has going into Avengers, it would not be that crazy for him to be at least partly serious there too. In many cases actors feel themselves the best judge of what works in their performance or in the production as a whole. Sometimes they are right, but when they are wrong, it is not pretty. The same is true for a director. That is one reason you hear actors gushing about how they knew they could trust the director and how important that is. If Joss and RDJ decide they can trust each other's judgment, life and the movie should be good.
The way I interpreted the tone was "I'm kidding cos I mean it".
Oh, I forgot to add that on the other hand, RDJ did also refer to himself as a hired gun, which would bode better for the likely-hood of them not butting heads in a bad way. On the third hand, RDJ seems a bit kooky and might be the type to feel and act one way one day and another the next. Don't know the man so don't know. I've just seen some really interesting interviews...cause...great actor.
Sure, individual egos are one of the slips 'twixt cup and lip that can send a great script flying arse over teakettle into a terrible film.

To me though, if you take the "arbiter of what works" bit out (i.e. assume it's neither serious nor "half jest, whole earnest" which I agree is a possibility) then there's nothing really wrong with the rest of it, just sounds like Downey Jr. expressing his own caution about the process (and as I say, he actually credits the 'Iron Man' writers with a "good script" which is a nicer spin than previously). On the basis of what he says here i'm not that worried but I don't know basically, it certainly has the potential for sparks to fly and if they do it's unfortunately very likely the case that the film can be made without Joss more easily than it can be made without RDJ.

Mainly what i'm really saying is, I kind of have worry fatigue about this stuff. It'll play out how it plays out, regardless of what we here think, say or do so i'm kind of trying not to be bothered by it.

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