First he was JARVIS, now he's the Vision. We sat down with Paul Bettany at Comic-Con and desperately tried to needle any details out of the newest addition to the Earth's mightiest heroes. And here's what we discovered.
We were lucky enough to take part in a group interview with Bettany at SDCC, where he told us what to expect:
When you first started doing JARVIS in Iron Man, did you always have it in your contract that, "Hey, if these movies do really well, I want a better part?"
Yes. No, I didn't. For a long while, I discovered that having playing JARVIS (in the Marvel rule book), I wasn't allowed to then play another character. Joss Whedon and I got on very well and he looked for a way to make that happen and found one, so I'm very happy.
What is the relationship between JARVIS and Vision?
Can't tell you. I can tell you there is one. I'm supposed to keep it "vague and mysterious," which I will do. Everything is a double-edged sword; I used to turn up for for 45 minutes in a darkened studio and do JARVIS. And then they would give me a huge bag of cash and go about my way like a burglar with swag and a striped thing like, "Fucking hell, can this be real?" And now they want me to work for my money.
Which is great and sweaty and hot, bearing in mind. Which you'll realize once they unveil everything. It's a very sweaty and hot decision that was made, but it's really fucking cool. It's been a ball to join this train, which is on really clear tracks, and really lovely, funny, creative people.
What do you find exciting or fascinating about the character Vision?
I've got to say that the greatest thing about this job, for me, is that however much research I could do, I would never know as much about Vision and the world as Kevin Feige and Joss Whedon. So it's nice to acquiesce all responsibility of that to those guys. The thing that appealed to me is that this sort of nascent creature is being born, being both omnipotent and totally naive. The danger of that and the sort of complex nature of a thing being born that is that powerful and that fully created *claps* in a second. And the choices he makes morally are really complex and interesting. They've really managed to maintain all of that. The bit I love, the famous image of him crying, I think is really expressed kind of beautifully in this Avengers.
This seems like it might be an amazing ensemble cast experience. Was that how it worked out? Or are you with just one or two people?
It's both those things. Initially, it's everyone on set at the same time, the sort of introduction of Vision on the first day and that was huge and everyone was incredibly welcoming, and really, um, prepared. Now that sounds really stupid, but I can't tell you the amount of times you turn on a set with huge, famous, overpaid actors and they haven't done any work. And you're going through the scene and you realize, "You don't know what the scene is." And that happens more often than is noble. But this situation, there are so many characters to cover for a filmmaker that everyone only gets 2 or 3 takes, so everyone is really on point and focused and really creative.
Is there a different voice from the Vision than JARVIS.?
I can't really, not for any other reason than it happens entirely naturally as you are on set. Those things are hard to analyze. There are absolute differences, clearly.
Was it something you worked on beforehand?
I worked on it, but then the interaction between other people, other actors, your interaction with the director changes thing. He is not JARVIS and he is not a child of Ultron; he is the Vision. That weirdly happened on its own. He's JARVIS, but yoked.
Was it great to work with Robert Downey in person after four movies working indirectly with him?
It was lovely. Oftentimes, on these types of movies, you're saying these outlandish things to each other. With him and Spader and Ruffalo and Hemsworth, it's amazing how you can sell these very outlandish notions. Far-fetched ideas.
What is Vision's relationship with Stark like?
Well that's very…[pauses for a bit]... I think that Vision feels paternal to a number of people.
How many of those guys do you get to punch?
I'm really good at punching. Vision is very good at punching.
What's his relationship like with Scarlet Witch?
We've heard your voice in four movies now. How many movies does Marvel want to see you in? How many films are you signed on for?
368. That's a lot of bags of cash. It's good for the family business.
We heard a WWII flashback scene was filmed with Chris Evans and Haley Atwell, and you? Is that true?
Not unless I was wildly drunk when it happened. That doesn't mean that it's not going to happen, but I doubt it.
We heard that there's a more traditional version of Edwin Jarvis coming to the Agent Carter series. Did they fill you in on how that relates to JARVIS at all?
JARVIS is a fairly sassy character. And I'm assuming the way that you're describing Vision, he's not that way. Did you miss that about your character at all? Or was there some other element to your character that you enjoyed playing?
I wouldn't say that I missed it because I don't think that it entirely went away. And you'll see. As he is born and becomes more realized, it's hard to be ironic... I know what you're talking about because there's a sort of irony and knowing irony with JARVIS. I mean, babies aren't particularly ironic. But he is somebody who is learning about the world at quite an exponential rate. He becomes more sassy as the movie continues.
How do the Avengers feel having Vision around?
Incredibly jealous [laughs]. It's been a really lovely working experience. I think initially in the plot, there's a lot of distrust and that has to be navigated by the Vision. And he does it in a quite extraordinary shocking way. He gains their trust in a real roof raiser of a moment. Everybody will flip.
Are you Vision when the story starts or is this later?
Um.... it is when you might have gone to get your popcorn. Yes, minutes have passed, I don't know how many.
Do you get to wear the big yellow cape?
Can't discuss that... Yes, there is a cape, and it is fabulous.
How does it feel putting on the costume? How do people respond to it?
With a great deal of pity. It is a real thing. We talked about how to keep me cool in that costume. While it is one of the most genuinely extraordinary costumes that has nothing to do with me they've manufactured, it's really cool looking. The consequence is it's fuckin' hot.
What's it like approaching and playing character that's going through such a rapid evolution?
I talked about it a lot with Joss. It's sort of about experiencing and processing things in the moment. And superhumanly quickly. I know how that feels to sort of play it, but it will be up to others to judge whether that's been realized. The whole time people are asking me questions and really genuinely working out the question in the moment rather than having a pat answer.
Vision is very powerful in the comic. Can you talk about [Vision's] abilities in the film?
No...? Yeah, a little. Well we've discussed about how he's incredibly good at punching, which is key. He also has the ability to change his density and that is… that's awesome. And exploited brilliantly by Joss in terms of really cool moments when Vision is able to do something that is otherworldly. And he's discovering it all as he goes along.
We saw in the poster that you're floating in the air. Did you have to do wire work?
Have you ever been hung in the air by your genitals? I have. It's great. There's a lot of wire work... I enjoy it. (He said on the back of talking about his genitals). They make it as comfortable as they can possibly make it, which is really uncomfortable. But you know, it's as hard as doing something really uncomfortable for a lot of money. The results are so "Wow that's so cool!" For me, it's another layer of clothing that I have to wear.
Are you surprised at the number of people getting into superhero franchises, because they are growing? Did you feel a desire to join it, join Avengers?
I'm an actor and I'm not naturally blond, so I don't tend to think things through clearly. I fell into it. I got a call on a Friday night from Joss saying, "Hey do you want to be the Vision?" I can't explain the amount of luck that went into that. So no I hasn't gone about cornering some market and saying "I gotta get my niche in the superhero market." And frankly for ages, because I understood once you were one character in a Marvel series and you were never another, I kind of let it go. It was cool I'd be JARVIS, do my thing, and get my bag of cash and go. We all had so much fun. I'm eternally grateful.
What do you love about working with Joss?
There's a lot of dancing which goes on on set, which might be the reason he's bust his leg. Never have I been more certain making a movie, except maybe with Peter Weir, that somebody else had a better idea than I did about what I should be doing. It makes you feel very safe to have the ultimate fanboy also your director. He loves it, he loves that world. It's a huge amount of safety, so when he says "I think it should be more like this" you go, "I get it." And even if I don't get it, I believe you much more than I believe me, so let's do it your way. And he's incredibly relaxed and having the time of his life making the film.
Was more shawarma eaten on set?
Simply can't talk about it.
Can you talk a little bit about what James Spader brings to Ultron?
We have a scene, and it was the first scene we shot together, towards the end of the movie, and it was just... even tough you're talking with these very far-fetched ideas, he found something that was very human about our relationship that was happening between his character and my character. It was really amazing. You look into his eyes, he's there working, it doesn't matter what he was talking about, you believe him. And he believe me. It was a great scene to work on. He was just so present, which is very difficult when you're in a fractal suit. He's got very arresting eyes and you believe everything he says.