Avengers: Age of Ultron is a 2015 American superhero film based on the Marvel Comics superhero team the Avengers. Produced by Marvel Studios and distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, it is the sequel to The Avengers (2012) and the 11th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Written and directed by Joss Whedon, the film features an ensemble cast including Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Don Cheadle, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Bettany, Cobie Smulders, Anthony Mackie, Hayley Atwell, Idris Elba, Linda Cardellini, Stellan Skarsgård, James Spader, and Samuel L. Jackson. In the film, the Avengers fight Ultron (Spader)—an artificial intelligence created by Tony Stark (Downey) and Bruce Banner (Ruffalo) who plans to bring about world peace by causing human extinction.
The sequel was announced in May 2012 after the successful release of The Avengers, with Whedon set to return as writer and director in August. Whedon updated Ultron’s origin for the film to involve the MCU’s Avengers team, and introduced the characters Pietro (Taylor-Johnson) and Wanda Maximoff (Olsen) to whom Marvel shared the rights with 20th Century Fox. Casting began in June 2013 with the re-signing of Downey. Second unit filming began in February 2014 in South Africa with principal photography taking place between March and August, primarily at Shepperton Studios in Surrey, England. Additional footage was filmed in Italy, South Korea, Bangladesh, the state of New York, and around England. With an estimated net production budget of $365 million, the film is one of the most expensive films ever made.
Avengers: Age of Ultron premiered in Los Angeles on April 13, 2015, and was released in the United States on May 1, 2015, as part of Phase Two of the MCU. The film received generally positive reviews from critics and grossed over $1.4 billion worldwide, becoming the fourth-highest-grossing film of 2015 and the fifth-highest-grossing film of all time during its run. Two sequels have been released: Avengers: Infinity War (2018) and Avengers: Endgame (2019).
In October 2011, Kevin Feige, president of Marvel Studios said the studio was beginning to look at their Phase Two films, which would start with Iron Man 3 and would culminate in a second Avengers film. In March 2012, Joss Whedon, director of the first film, stated that he would want a sequel to be more small, personal, and painful; that is “not just a rehash of what seemed to work the first time”, and with a theme full of originality to itself. Despite the production of the film becoming increasingly wider in scope, Feige maintained that this was not their intention, always looking to see where the team wanted to take the characters, over how to make it bigger than The Avengers.
At the premiere of The Avengers, Feige said the studio had an option for Whedon to return as director. In May 2012, after the successful release of the first film, Disney CEO Bob Iger announced a sequel was in development. Most of the film’s cast members were under contract to potentially appear in the sequel; however, Robert Downey Jr. was not, as his four-picture deal with Marvel expired after Iron Man 3.
At the 2012 San Diego Comic-Con International, Whedon said he was undecided about directing. However, in August 2012, Iger announced that Whedon would return to write and direct the sequel and develop the Marvel television series, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., for ABC. Later in the month, Disney set a May 1, 2015, release date. Whedon said his return for a sequel “wasn’t a tough decision”; he thought it was “not going to happen”, but realized he “desperately wanted to say more about these characters” when he started considering it. Whedon said that they intended for the film’s production to not be as rushed as the first one.
In December 2012, Whedon stated that he had completed an outline for the film. In March 2013, Whedon said that he looked to The Empire Strikes Back (1980) and The Godfather Part II (1974) as inspirations.
Feige revealed that Captain Marvel, who starred in her own MCU film in 2019, appeared in an early draft of the screenplay, but was removed since the character had not yet been cast, saying, “It didn’t feel like the time. We didn’t want to introduce her fully formed flying in a costume before you knew who she was or how she came to be.” Whedon went so far as to shoot visual effects plates for Captain Marvel to fly into Avengers Headquarters at the end of the film; those shots were reused; however, for Scarlet Witch instead. Feige also revealed that an early draft of the script had Hulk’s Quinjet detected near Saturn at the end of the film, but it was finally decided to keep it Earth-based and leave his fate ambiguous in order to dispel rumors that a film based on the “Planet Hulk” comic storyline was in development, which Marvel Studios had no plans to adapt at the time. Marvel would later decide to adapt “Planet Hulk” for the film Thor: Ragnarok (2017), in which the Hulk is retroactively revealed to have left Earth after the events of Age of Ultron.
- Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark / Iron Man:
The benefactor of the Avengers who is a self-described genius, billionaire, playboy, and philanthropist with electromechanical suits of armor of his own invention. On how his character evolves after the events of Iron Man 3 (2013), Downey said, “I think he realizes that tweaking and making all the suits in the world—which is what he has been doing—still didn’t work for that thing of his tour of duty that left him a little PTSD. So his focus is more on how can we make it so that there’s no problem to begin with. That, you know, there’s a bouncer at our planet’s rope. That’s the big idea.”
- Chris Hemsworth as Thor:
An Avenger and the crown prince of Asgard, based on the Norse mythological deity of the same name. Regarding Thor’s place in the film, Hemsworth stated that as Thor has remained on Earth since Thor: The Dark World (2013), and has begun to feel at home here, he considers Ultron’s threat a personal attack. Hemsworth stated that he had to work harder to bring new elements to the character to avoid repeating himself saying, “It gave us room to kind of make him a little more grounded and human and have him in some civilian clothes and mixing it up at a party.” Hemsworth noted that Thor’s motivations in this film were completely different, as it was the first MCU film where he did not play against Tom Hiddleston’s character of Loki.
- Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner / Hulk:
An Avenger and genius scientist who, because of exposure to gamma radiation, transforms into a monster when enraged or agitated. To prepare for the role, Ruffalo worked with motion capture performer Andy Serkis’ The Imaginarium. He stated that his character had grown since the previous film and was “a bit more complex”. Ruffalo explained that a confrontation is brewing between Banner and the Hulk saying, “There’s a very cool thing happening: Hulk is as afraid of Banner as Banner is afraid of Hulk.. and they have got to come to peace somehow with each other.” While filming in London, Ruffalo said that Whedon still had not given him any of the Hulk’s lines. Whedon later explained that he writes the Hulk’s dialogue spontaneously, saying, “What makes the Hulk so hard to write is that you’re pretending he’s a werewolf when he’s a superhero. You want it vice versa So the question is, how has he progressed? How can we bring changes on what the Hulk does? And that’s not just in the screenplay, that’s moment to moment.”
- Chris Evans as Steve Rogers / Captain America:
The leader of the Avengers and a World War II veteran who was enhanced to the peak of human physicality by an experimental serum and frozen in suspended animation before waking up in the modern world. Evans stated that since the fall of S.H.I.E.L.D. in Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014), Rogers has been left to depend on his Avenger teammates without the structure of military life and is now “looking to understand where he belongs, not just as a soldier, as Captain America, but as Steve Rogers, as a person.” Evans said that he was able to maintain the strength he built up for Captain America: The Winter Soldier by working out up to an hour a day. Regarding Captain America’s fighting style, Evans felt he did not want to take a step back from the skills shown in The Winter Soldier, making sure Rogers’ fight style advanced, showing “a consistent display of strength”, and having Rogers utilizing his environment.
- Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff / Black Widow:
An Avenger who formerly worked for S.H.I.E.L.D. as a highly trained spy. Producer Kevin Feige stated that more of the character’s backstory is explored in the film. Johansson elaborated, “In Avengers 2 we go back we definitely learn more about Widow’s backstory, and we get to find out how she became the person you see. All of these characters have deep, dark pasts, and I think that the past catches up to some of us a little bit.” Regarding where the film picks up Widow’s story, Johansson felt it was a continuation of what was seen for her character in The Winter Soldier, with the fact that “‘[Widow] never made an active choice. [She’s] a product of other people’s imposition.’ That’s going to catch up with her. That’s bound to have a huge effect. There’s got to be a result of that realization You’ll see her actively making some choices in her life, for better or worse.” A mixture of close-ups, concealing costumes, stunt doubles, and visual effects were used to help hide Johansson’s pregnancy during filming.
- Jeremy Renner as Clint Barton / Hawkeye:
An Avenger and master archer who previously worked as an agent for S.H.I.E.L.D. Whedon said that Hawkeye interacts more with the other characters in the film, as opposed to the first film where the character had been “possessed pretty early by a bad guy and had to walk around all scowly.” As the character did not appear in any other of Marvel’s Phase Two films, Whedon stated Age of Ultron sheds light on to what the character was doing since the end of The Avengers. Renner described the character as “kind of a loner” and “a team player only ’cause he sort of has to be. He’s not really a company man. Captain America can be that guy. In [Age of Ultron] you’ll understand why [Hawkeye] thinks the way he thinks.”
- Don Cheadle as James “Rhodey” Rhodes / War Machine: An officer in the U.S. Air Force, later Avenger and Tony Stark’s close personal friend who operates the War Machine armor.
- Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Pietro Maximoff:
The twin brother of Wanda and Avenger who can move at superhuman speed. Taylor-Johnson felt Pietro was defined by the fact that he and his sister were abandoned by their family, and they both had to grow up “in Eastern Europe defending and looking out for themselves and each other,” that they both look to the other for guidance. Taylor-Johnson also said that Quicksilver was “very overprotective” of Scarlet Witch and has “real anger frustration”, which results in him being easily bored because of a short attention span. Feige stated exploring Quicksilver’s relationship with his sister and his backstory growing up in Eastern Europe would help differentiate the character from Evan Peters’ version in X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014). Taylor-Johnson stated that the running style for Quicksilver went through multiple iterations. Much of Taylor-Johnson’s scenes were filmed outdoors to give “life” to his running, as opposed to running indoors in front of a green screen.
- Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff:
The twin sister of Pietro and Avenger who can engage in hypnosis and telekinesis. Olsen felt Wanda was “overly stimulated” rather than “mentally insane” because “she has such a vast amount of knowledge that she’s unable to learn how to control it. No one taught her how to control it properly she can connect to this world and parallel worlds at the same time, and parallel times.” Describing her character’s mind control powers, Olsen said that the character is able to do more than manipulating someone’s mind, with Wanda Maximoff able to “feel and see what they feel and see” by projecting visions that they have never seen. Olsen drew on her relationship with her older brother and her sisters to prepare for the role, as well as looking to the comics for inspiration. Olsen revealed that Whedon was inspired by dancers as a way to visually represent how the character moves. As such, Olsen mostly trained with a dancer in lieu of traditional stunt training. Olsen was signed for this film and another.
- Paul Bettany as J.A.R.V.I.S. and Vision:
Bettany, who voiced J.A.R.V.I.S., Stark’s A.I. companion in previous films, was cast again as the Vision, an android and later Avenger created by Ultron. Bettany stated that he was surprised when Whedon asked him if he wanted to be the Vision because once an actor has been cast as a particular character in the MCU, they usually are not cast as another. On what intrigued him about the Vision, Bettany said, “The thing that appealed to me is that this sort of nascent creature being born, being both omnipotent and totally naive, the sort of danger of that and complex nature of a thing being born that is that powerful and that created in a second and the choices he makes morally are really complex and interesting. They’ve really managed to maintain all of that”. Bettany also stated that the Vision feels paternal and protective to a number of people in the film, particularly Scarlet Witch, and has the ability to change his density. Bettany did wire work for the part. Whedon stated he wanted to include the Vision in a second Avengers film before he signed onto the first film. Bettany’s make-up, which consisted of a mix of face paint and prosthetics, took two hours to apply with make-up artists Jeremy Woodhead and Nik Williams citing the correct hue of the Vision’s skin as the hardest thing to figure out. The prosthetics were ultimately replaced in post-production with CGI elements.
- Cobie Smulders as Maria Hill:
A former high-ranking S.H.I.E.L.D. agent who now works for Stark. Describing Hill’s situation in the film, Smulders said that after The Winter Soldier, Hill does not “really know who’s a good guy and who’s a bad guy and she’s trying to figure out that throughout this film.” She added, “She’s not getting any sleep. She’s doing all the work. She doesn’t have the kind of manpower that she had in S.H.I.E.L.D.,” instead working for Tony Stark at the Avenger’s headquarters “trying to keep everything running as smoothly as possible it’s an entirely different vibe for her.”
- Anthony Mackie as Sam Wilson / Falcon:
A former pararescueman and later Avenger trained by the military in aerial combat using a specially designed wing pack and a friend of Steve Rogers. Discussing the relationship between Wilson and Rogers, Mackie said that the two characters have a mutual “soldier respect”, which is explored in the film and in Captain America: Civil War (2016). Feige said that it was decided to reshoot the final scene of the film to incorporate the new Falcon suit designed for Ant-Man (2015), which was released after Age of Ultron, as Falcon was originally shot in his original suit from The Winter Soldier. Mackie stated he did not realize Wilson had become an Avenger until he watched the film at the premiere, as he was only given the script for the scenes he worked on.
- Hayley Atwell as Peggy Carter: A retired officer with the Strategic Scientific Reserve and co-founder of S.H.I.E.L.D. who is a former love interest of Steve Rogers.
- Idris Elba as Heimdall: The all-seeing, all-hearing Asgardian sentry of the Bifröst Bridge, based on the mythological deity of the same name.
- Linda Cardellini as Laura Barton: Hawkeye’s wife.
- Stellan Skarsgård as Erik Selvig:
An astrophysicist and friend of Thor. Skarsgård said he was originally not supposed to appear in the film, but received a call because “they’d written a couple of scenes, and I went and did them,” not knowing if the scenes would appear in the final cut of the film.
- James Spader as Ultron:
An artificial intelligence repurposed by Tony Stark and Bruce Banner for a pilot peace program that is overwhelmed with a god complex and now desires to pacify the Earth by eradicating humanity. Director Joss Whedon stated that Spader was his “first and only choice” for the role, because of his “hypnotic voice that can be eerily calm and compelling” while also being very human and humorous. Feige clarified that Spader’s face and body were motion captured “to create a whole performance We did not hire James Spader to do a robot voice.” Extensive scans were taken of Spader’s head and body in preparation for the role. About the character Whedon said, “He’s always trying to destroy the Avengers, goddamn it, he’s got a bee in his bonnet. He’s not a happy guy, which means he’s an interesting guy. He’s got pain. And the way that manifests is not going to be standard robot stuff.” Whedon added that Ultron is “not a creature of logic—he’s a robot who’s genuinely disturbed. We’re finding out what makes him menacing and at the same time endearing and funny and strange and unexpected, and everything a robot never is.” Whedon compared Ultron to Frankenstein’s monster, saying, “It’s our new Frankenstein myth We create something in our own image and the thing turns on us. It has that pain of ‘Well, why was I made? I want to kill Daddy.'” Spader called the character “self-absorbed” and added, “I think he sees the Avengers as being part of a problem, a more comprehensive problem in the world. He sees the world from a very strange, [biblical] point of view because he’s brand new, he’s very young He’s immature, and yet has knowledge of comprehensive, broad history and precedent, and he has created in a very short period of time a rather skewed worldview.” Spader elaborates, “He truly is an artificial intelligence with absolutely no censorship at all, no parameters really he’s got too much power, too much strength and speed and size, so he’s a very dangerous child.”
- Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury:
The former director of S.H.I.E.L.D. who originally recruited the Avengers and continues to be a mentor and leader for the team. Jackson described the role as a cameo, saying the character didn’t participate in the action scenes because “There’s not a lot I could do except shoot a gun.”
May 1, 2015
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