How do you talk about a movie that nobody has seen? How can you discuss the possibilities when every little detail is considered a spoiler? That was the conundrum a few weeks ago in Los Angeles when the cast of the highly anticipated Avengers: Endgame took the stage for a press conference for the superhero epic. Everyone played it coy, fearing that the tiniest slip up might reveal a major detail. This led to a press event where there was more reflection on the past instead of looking ahead to tomorrow, a rarity in Marvel world where the next installment is always in the works. Iron Man director Jon Favreau took the stage as the host of the event, bringing much of this journey right back to the beginning.
As the curtain dropped at the sprawling cast for the superhero epic was revealed, half the chairs on the stage were empty as a little gag on the stunning conclusion of Avengers: Infinity War.
When asked what makes Avengers: Endgame so special, producer and Marvel mastermind Kevin Feige reflected on the ever-expanding Marvel Cinematic Universe. “What’s special is all the actors on this stage, all the actors who are not on this stage, the family that has come together this decade-plus. The fact that, Robert [Downey Jr.] said it so well in the trailer, part of the journey is the end,” Feige said. “How can we do something that’s never been done before? What if a superhero outs his identity at the very last shot of the movie? We can’t do that. No one does that. You can’t do that. What would we do next time? I don’t know. Let’s do it. Four or five years ago, we talked about what haven’t we seen in films based on comic characters. We haven’t seen an ending. A definitive conclusion to an overall saga. So that’s why it’s called Endgame and why I think it’s very, very, very special.”
“We both remember that moment that we sat in the theater and watched that first Iron Man for the first time,” said co-director Anthony Russo. “I remember that feeling of like, I wish we were a part of this. We had no idea that years later we actually would be. So that was an epic moment in a movie theater.”
The co-director continued, “One of our favorite story telling adages is write yourself into a corner. What we take that to mean is put yourself in a place on a narrative level where you have no idea how you could possibly move forward from here. That’s a very exciting place to be. It forces you to come up with some really creative ways forward, and we’ve tried to do that with the endings of every single Marvel movie we’ve done and never more so, of course, than Infinity War. We are very committed to the ending of that movie. We think that stories lose their meaning and relevancy and resonance unless there are real stakes. And for us, moving into this new movie into Endgame, the story is very much about how these characters, how do these heroes deal with loss, resounding loss, true loss, devastating loss. That’s what they’ve experienced in Infinity War. That was a unique experience for all of them. And how does a person move forward from that moment, how does a hero move forward from that moment? And our road into this story is how is everybody on an individual level dealing with that experience and then how do they collectively deal with it?”
Co-director Joe Russo knows the immense pressure that comes with Endgame as the MCU has become part a genuine pop culture phenomenon. “This is I think a really unique experiment in movies, this grand mosaic,” the co-director said. “I think a lot of people have invested a lot of heart and soul into the characters. When we take these movies around the world, it’s really heartwarming to see people come up to you and say, ‘Hey, I started watching this with my classmates when I was ten years old and now we’re all 21 and we’re all going to go see this together,’ or ‘My parents have taken me to every movie’ or ‘My grandfather has taken me to every film.’ It’s a real sense of community and sharing in these stories and believing in them. And I think with Endgame, we get the opportunity to think to finish off one of the grandest experiments in movie history and bring it to, as Kevin said, an epic conclusion. So what we’re hoping for is that people feel satisfied with the conclusion.”
After being absent from the events of Infinity War, Jeremy Renner returns once again as Hawkeye, though perhaps the star doesn’t exactly have a lot of thoughts to share on his characters return. “Yeah, I feel good. I feel rested,” Renner deadpanned. “Yeah, I’m good. Stretched out. Had some coffee. Ready to rock.”
One of the Avengers that has had the most interesting evolutions is Chris Hemsworth’s take on Thor, the Asgardian demigod. For Hemsworth, it wasn’t until finishing Thor: Ragnarok that he felt he finally had a firm grasp on the character and the ability to truly make the character his own.
“Through the films with each director and in each different cast member, I would learn something different from them,” Hemsworth recalled. “By the time about Ragnarok, I felt like I finally had enough sort of confidence to go okay. What is it that I could possibly bring to this? And then have this great collaboration with Taika [Waititi]. We really decided to do something different to see how we could make it unexpected and unique. And then I had been calling Joe and Anthony and saying, ‘Look, I’ve got this new version of Thor that we’ve just shot. And I want to continue that version. I don’t want to do the old version.’ And he said, ‘We’ve got an even newer version for you.’ And it was.”
The other beloved Chris on the Avengers roster of heroes is Chris Evans as Captain America, though he’s not really able to say much about the film or his character’s story. “I guess I can give broad strokes. I think just the completion of the arc,” Evans said before paranoia kicked in and he looked to his directors and co-stars. “That’s safe to say, right? This movie does kind of provide kind of an ending to a lot of the…”
After a bit of back and forth, Evans opted to play it safe. “I’ll echo what Chris said,” Evans said. “Just truly, not to seem like a safe answer or something, but really honestly, the friendships and connections I’ve made over these ten years now, it truly has become a family. And playing a character…”
Before he could finish his thought, Robert Downey Jr., Iron Man himself, interrupted Captain America.
“But you couldn’t make it to Rudd’s birthday last night?”
“Yeah, I didn’t make it,” Evans conceded. “I was exhausted. It was a long day yesterday. I’m sorry, Paul.”
“It’s all right. I’m one of the newer guys,” chimed in Paul Rudd, reprising his role as Scott Lang aka Ant-Man.
Then it came time for Scarlett Johansson, Black Widow, to take questions from her Iron Man 2 director, which she used to reflect on her character’s journey over the course of nearly a decade of movies. “The fans and the audiences have really pushed, certainly Marvel, but pushed all the studios and filmmakers to really throw up on the screen what represents what’s going on in the zeitgeist and wanting to see diverse films and casts that represents their own aspirations and how they feel. I feel the character has sort of grown in reaction to that,” Johansson said of Widow’s continuing evolution.
Then there’s Guardians of the Galaxy breakout Karen Gillan returning as Nebula, the villain turned anti-hero. “Well, I think it’s maybe safe to say that she suffers from some daddy issues because her dad is Thanos, so who wouldn’t?” Gillan said with a laugh. “I think I’m excited for her to finally face the source of this abuse. This has sort of been building through multiple movies through the Guardians movies. And she’s talked about how she wants to inflict revenge. And so we all know about that. So I would like to see her try and face that. I don’t know if she will. Maybe she won’t. I’m not saying anything. I just got really nervous I gave something away. So I’m going to stop.”
“I’m terrified to say anything,” said Paul Rudd. “I did see the trailers. I do know that I’m in it. How I fit in, how any of this works, it remains to be seen. And it’s going to be fun to have audiences discover it along with us.”
Returning from Infinity War and Black Panther is Danai Gurira as Okoye, the loyal Wakandan warrior. “The first day of Infinity War when they all came to Wakanda and we were coming onto their set and we opened that tent door, that tent whatever flap. And there inside are like all the Avengers sitting there. That’s the minute you realize you’re a part of a universe, which was pretty darn awesome,” the actress said of being a latecomer to the MCU.
The latest Marvel sensation has been Captain Marvel, which has lit up the box office since its March release, but star Brie Larson’s first turn as the new hero came on the set of Endgame. “This film will always be personally dear to me because it was my first time playing Captain Marvel. We shot this first. So I had to stumble and try to figure out who this character was with no script for this and no script for Captain Marvel either. And perform for the first time in front of legends. But it was incredible,” the Oscar winner said.
“We’re all talking about it like we’re dead,” said Mark Ruffalo returning once again as the Incredible Hulk. “I loved working with these guys. It was great knowing them. They were great boggle players. There is something very bittersweet about this moment. Because as actors, we’re like vagabonds. We kind of bounce around. We have these intense relationships. And then you don’t see anybody until you get nominated for something or you’re nominated in something and you end up in an award ceremony.”
“Rhodey obviously started, I think it’s fair to say, as a lighter toned. In a visual, sort of bigger than life than I am in real life,” Don Cheadle said of his character with tongue planted firmly in cheek. “But as the character sort of darkened and things became more compact, the narrative, I think we’ve seen a real growth of this character. And we’ve kind of, as he’s gone through his trials and tribulations obviously over the course of these films and come out the other side now and has his legs under him, no pun intended, literally, and is able to really be a part of this team and really contribute at a high level, it’s been a lot of fun to see where he’s come from and to see where he’s gone and see what else happens next.”
Despite all the reticence on stage, there was one thing that the Avengers were willing to discuss – Boggle. “Let’s be real. Nobody can beat Don. Paul is good, too,” said Chris Evans.
“I feel like Paul definitely was like sleeper boggle champ,” added Scarlett Johansson.
“I have selective memory. I feel like I crushed the whole time. Did I not?” wondered Brie Larson.
Then the attention shifted to Mark Ruffalo with Chris Evans mocking his ability at the word finding game. “You would be lucky if he finds cat. He found asbestos. Literally. Mark, he has nothing else. But he found asbestos. And that was a lot of points.”