Our esteemed Gill Pringle was on the ground in LA mere hours ago, sharing a room with Earth’s Mightiest Heroes in advance of this week’s release of Avengers: Infinity War.
Over ten years of unparalleled movie-making success, Marvel Studios has released 18 films, collectively grossing more than US$13 billion.
Marking a decade of prosperity which began with the 2008 release of Iron Man, Marvel can therefore afford to be frivolous on the eve of the release of its 19th film, the much-anticipated Avengers: Infinity War; the third instalment of the Avengers franchise, following 2012’s Avengers and 2015’s Avengers: Age of Ultron. Instead of complex explanations of comic book lore, which is often the case in superhero publicity, Marvel has assembled its shiniest stars and set them up before the media in a game-show contest setting with Jeff Goldblum as MC.
STACK gamely took part in the experiment, featuring Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Don Cheadle, Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Holland, Chadwick Boseman, Zoe Saldana, Tom Hiddleston, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan, Danai Gurira, Winston Duke, Pom Klementieff, David Bautista, Sebastian Stan and Josh Brolin – all of whom looked about as perplexed as the gathered media.
There was really no option but to go along for the ride, as Goldblum’s lottery device popped out category prompts such as, “If you are green…” – hello Zoe Saldana and Mark Ruffalo – or “If you wear a cape…” or “If you are from Wakanda…”; you get the drift.
“being surrounded by Guardians felt like the first day at school”
On this occasion, the Wakanda question is neatly handballed to Letita Wright, Black Panther’s Shuri, who tell us, “I wish I had a Shuri on TV or in the movies that I could see when I was growing up, and then maybe I would have stayed in my maths classes a bit longer. But hopefully Shuri has allowed young kids to feel that learning is cool and how young women can contribute to the world with science, math, technology and engineering – that its not just a thing for the guys that its also for women to contribute positively.”
The ever-charismatic Robert Downey Jr. – whose career was sublimely resuscitated by Iron Man – is usually an informative mouth-piece at such events, however here sat centre-stage looking vaguely bemused.
Even Kevin Feige, Marvel’s maestro who knows more about this world than anyone else on earth (excepting Stan Lee) was effectively silenced as Goldblum pronounced his fondest desire for all to be “deeply satiated”.
Australia’s beloved caped god Chris Hemsworth (Thor) put down his hammer to talk about his first day on this super-charged set: “Being surrounded by Guardians felt like the first day at school for me because they all knew each other, and I didn’t, so I felt like the new kid. But it was good to have a whole new dynamic with new people to interact with so I was pretty damn excited.”
In describing Marvel’s inspiration behind the many-tentacled story that is Infinity War, Feige tells us: “It all just comes down to the comics, ripping out the pages and putting them on walls and being inspired. In every single movie that we‘ve made, up to and especially with Infinity War, there are direct images and storylines. Rarely, but sometimes, there are actual lines of dialogue that comes off the pages. The comic books are always a North Star for us, as we lead these giant productions.”
For Zoe Saldana and Karen Gillan, the embittered sisters who come together to fight the threat of their war-mongering father Thanos (played by Josh Brolin), this story has particular resonance. “We wouldn’t be what we are in the Marvel universe if it wasn’t for the emotional beats of these stories,” offers Saldana. “Karen and I have so much fun with the relationship these daughters have with their father because they finally get an opportunity to address what it was like to have a dad who is so complicated.”
Addressing Marvel’s brilliant gamble with Black Panther, Zoe says: “I’m super happy to be an American right now and to be given the opportunity by our studio heads when they take on the task of broadening the narrative for our stories. It’s plain and simple, as actors, regardless of our race and gender, we just want to be given an equal opportunity to continue growing and connect with our audiences. It makes me so happy because I know what that means for our future generations, because I have three sons, and to know that they will have an influx of story-telling through media that represents them and makes them feel seen and heard, and that their lives and heritage matter.”
Directed by Anthony and Joe Russo, Avengers: Infinity War boasts enough star-wattage to form a small galaxy, an estimated 125 household names, bringing together all of Marvel’s iconic characters in one film, starring Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man, Chris Hemsworth as Thor, Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner/The Hulk, Chris Evans as Steve Rogers/Captain America, Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow, Don Cheadle as Colonel James Rhodes/War Machine, Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Strange, Tom Holland as Peter Parker/Spider-Man, Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa/Black Panther, Zoe Saldana as Gamora, Karen Gillan as Nebula, Tom Hiddleston as Loki, Paul Bettany as Vision, Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch, Anthony Mackie as Sam Wilson/Falcon, Sebastian Stan as Bucky Barnes/Winter Soldier, Idris Elba as Heimdall, Danai Gurira as Okoye, Benedict Wong as Wong, Pom Klementieff as Mantis, Dave Bautista as Drax, Vin Diesel as Groot, Bradley Cooper as Rocket, Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts, Benicio Del Toro as The Collector, and Chris Pratt as Peter Quill/Star-Lord – united against one common enemy, Josh Brolin’s Thanos.
“I joined the wonderful Mark Ruffalo in a man-cancelling costume and stood amongst these gods wearing pajamas”
Asked about his new “Iron Spider” suit, Tom Holland – known for previous plot spoiling bombs – looks bashful, “I’m actually under strict instructions to keep my mouth shut. . . I don’t actually get to wear the Iron Spider suit because its too amazing to exist in real life, so I joined the wonderful Mark Ruffalo in a man-cancelling costume and stood amongst these gods wearing pajamas – which wasn’t quite as heroic as I would like.”
Given Avatar director James Cameron’s recent commentary on Avengers fatigue and a desire to break away from what he perceives as overblown macho comic book stories, Ruffalo is left holding the mic for the day’s hot potato, “Umm, I’ve thought about that quite a bit and, you know, sour grapes,” he says amid hoots of laughter and applause.
Asked to spill any insider secrets, Paul Bettany cautions, “Snitches end up in ditches… We’ve been making these movies for a long time and it’s a really unique experience for actors to keep working with the same people again and again. We’ve all gone through real-life stuff together: people have had children; people have got married, people have got divorced . . . And during that time we’ve all become real friends. I’ve never been on a set where people chose not to go back to their trailers but hang out on set and make fun of each other. It’s been a real privilege.”
Tom Hiddleston, always the outsider as Loki, wryly comments, “I’m astonished that I’m still here, as you may be too. Loki has fallen through a wormhole and faked his own death and I honestly never expected to be playing this part for so long. The writers have been so great, creating these characters with such precision and what happens in the space between those characters is always unique and you’re guaranteed to see that in this film.”
STACK isn’t responsible for any plot spoilers, but we suspect Infinity War will see a few adieus among our favourite heroes and villains…
Avengers: Infinity War hits cinemas April 25