“Avengers: Age of Ultron” debuted to a mixed critical reception and even though nearly a year has passed since its release, it’s still something that weighs heavily on director Joss Whedon’s mind.
Whedon appeared in New York City Monday evening at a Tribeca Film Festival director’s talk with “Avengers” actor Mark Ruffalo to speak about his career. While the Marvel movie wasn’t the main focus of the evening’s discussion, when “Ultron” did come up, Whedon didn’t shy away from mentioning it.
“Directing became fun for me. Writing is perfect joy. Writing is the moment I started writing I was like, ‘Oh, this is it. This is my true love. This is why I am on the planet, if there’s any reason at all.’ And that’s still the case … even after things sometimes don’t go the way you wish they would. (In a hushed voice) Even after ‘Avengers’ [Age of Ultron].”
Ruffalo quickly chimed in for some moral support from the audience, “‘Avengers Age of Ultron’ was a great film, right?”
While Ruffalo steered the conversation away from “Ultron,” Whedon came back to it about five minutes later when the two began joking about their careers being all over now that their latest big gigs were up.
“You had a really wonderful few years,” said Ruffalo.
“It’s over, is what you’re saying?” joked Whedon to much laughter from the audience.
“How do you feel about it? How do you feel about where you are right now?” Ruffalo pressed on.
“That it’s over,” Whedon continued to joke.
Ruffalo finally caved in. “Yeah, that’s how we always feel, right?”
“This is a bad one. I mean, I know that you get that after any project, probably. It’s worse this time,” said Whedon, speaking of “Ultron.” “‘Ultron,’ I am very proud of. There were things that did not meet my expectations, of myself. And then I was so beaten down by the process, some of that was conflicting with Marvel, which is, inevitable. But a lot of it was about my own work and then … and I was also exhausted.”
After “Age of Ultron,” Whedon famously said he wasn’t going to be doing any future Marvel movies. Whedon said he had clashed with Marvel execs over several scenes, including a confusing one with Thor which was trimmed down for the film’s theatrical run.
When Entertainment Weekly interviewed him last March ahead of the film’s release, they described him as looking physically drained and exhausted. At that point, Whedon had moved into a suite on Disney’s Burbank studio lot temporarily so he could wake up, work on the film, go to sleep, and then start all over again. Not an ideal life.
“Then we went right away and did publicity and I kind of created the narrative wherein I am not quite accomplished at — and people just ran with that [about ‘Ultron’],” said Whedon. “So it became, ‘Well, it’s ok, it could be better. But it’s not Joss’ fault.’ And I think that did a disservice to the movie and to the studio and to myself. Ultimately, it was not the right way to be because I am very proud of it.”
“The things about it that are wrong frustrate me enormously and I had probably more of those than I have on the other movies I’ve made, but I got to make — for the second time — an absurdly personal movie where I got to talk about how I felt about humanity and what it means in very esoteric and bizarre ways for hundreds of millions of dollars,” he continued. “The fact that Marvel gave me that opportunity twice is so bonkers and so beautiful. And the fact that I come off of it feeling like a miserable failure is also bonkers, but not in a cute way. Like, it becomes problematic.”
Whedon said after that, he took his first vacation that was more than two weeks in 25 years.
“I really set out to do nothing, to accomplish nothing, and I’m proud to say that I have truly accomplished nothing. I got to a higher state of f— all,” said Whedon.
But that wasn’t going to last long.
“My resting state is not a good one,” he admitted. “I work hard. I love to work. I love the work that I do. When I’m not doing it I remember that I hate myself. So the vacation’s over.”
Whedon teased that he has another project in the works coming up, but he wouldn’t say anything else about it other than that it’s “super good.”