Tribeca: Joss Whedon "Very Proud" of 'Avengers: Age of Ultron' Despite "Things That Are Wrong"

The writer-director also teased a new movie he's working on and revealed the Broadway phenomenon that caused him to stop working on a stage musical.
Ben Gabbe/Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival
Joss Whedon and Mark Ruffalo on stage at the Tribeca Film Festival

A little over a year ago, Manhattan's SVA Theatre was the site of a star-studded screening for Avengers: Age of Ultron. While a number of the Avengers actors were on hand for the event, including Mark Ruffalo, writer-director Joss Whedon wasn't. But on Monday night, in front of the same screen where Ruffalo's The Hulk, Black Widow, Iron Man, Captain America, Thor and other Marvel superheroes battled Ultron, Whedon revealed he's still wrestling with the ways in which the film didn't live up to his expectations.

During the Ultron press tour, the filmmaker indicated repeatedly that he'd fought with Marvel about various elements of the pic. But, he insisted during Monday's Tribeca Film Festival talk with Ruffalo, he's "very proud" of Ultron, and most of what he sees as flaws in the film are things he thinks he could have done better.

"There are things that did not meet my expectations of myself, and 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," said Whedon. "And I was also exhausted, and then we went right away and did publicity, and I sort of created the narrative, wherein I’m not quite accomplished, and people just ran with that: ‘Well, it’s okay, 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 probably had more of those than I had on other movies I made,” he continued. “But I also 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. 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."

Ruffalo also told the audience that he begged Whedon to direct the next two Avengers films as well as the third Hulk and Thor films, "and he said, 'I'll never do it again.'"

But he is working on other projects.

At last year's Comic-Con, Whedon revealed that he was working on a new six-issue comic book series called Twist, saying, "It basically deals with the most important question there is, which is why isn't there a Victorian female Batman?"

On Monday night, Whedon also teased another project he's writing. While he wouldn't reveal specifics, he indicated it's a movie, which he said is both "super good" and "definitely a departure … from the kind of storytelling I've done."

And it made him cry while he was writing it.

“I wrote all the way through to the end of the movie and was crying so hard in public that the restaurant closed, [and] the valet guy came to me and then just turned around and went away," said Whedon. "And I don’t like to make a spectacle of myself, but I had to take off my shirt and blow my nose into it because they had taken away all the napkins. I couldn’t stand up. I couldn’t stop writing. ... and then I got in a car — luckily somebody else was driving — and kept crying for about 20 more minutes. I'm like, 'Oh, I just wrote the end of the movie and I'm pretty sure it works.'"

During the audience Q&A, a fan asked the filmmaker if he would ever do a stage musical. While Whedon admitted he was working on one, he first decided to put it on the back burner, because "after Ultron there were too many moving parts and I [felt like] I need to write something that I completely understand," he said. There also was something else that happened that intimidated him off of the project: Hamilton.

"It was only after the album came out and I was listening to it 24/7 that I was like, I can’t hear myself,” Whedon said. “I can only hear him.”

He said he'll get back to working on his own musical when he stops listening to the Hamilton cast album, "in 2021."

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