As we countdown to when Avengers: Infinity War makes it debut next month, we are also wrapping up our set visit interviews with the cast. This week features Paul Bettany — who plays Vision and inhabits the mind infinity stone and Elizabeth Olsen, Scarlet Witch who has a splintered relationship with him. Elizabeth reveals a bit of a spoiler about Shuri and we wonder will this be Vision’s last film?
[Speaking of the scene we saw filmed] You guys get off the Quinjet, Vision seems a bit hurt. What happened to Vision?
Paul Bettany: Oh, I just had some really bad brain freeze. I had a really bad, I got a curry on the plane. I got skewered.
Elizabeth Olsen: In front of a kabob shop.
PB: In front of a kabob shop, which is ironic. And these bad guys are trying to get the stone out of my head and so Wanda and I fought them off and then we ended up here for surgery.
EO: I always get confused on how much we can talk about. Like are we allowed to explain what we try and do in Shuri’s lab?
[The on-set publicist says “no”]
PB: I gotta get fixed up.
You’re like the scarecrow in Wizard of Oz when they’re putting him back together?
PB: Just a little bit like that.
EO: [After a beat] Any other questions about today? [Laughs]
What can you say about both of your characters and what they’ve been doing between the events of Civil War and now?
EO: We have stayed separate teams and the people on Cap’s side have been fighting more rogue missions. Hence, we all look a bit different to suggest being in hiding and we’ve been trying to within that time find points of meeting in different places in order to try and forward our relationship.
For better or worse, we have seen some of the paparazzi photos.
EO: It’s really sad.
Is there anything else you can say about your characters’ relationship?
PB: I think that Vision’s been on this quest to understand what being human is and I think Scarlet Witch [has] to a large degree helped him figure that out and what love is. [Sings] “I wanna know what love is?” It’s in the movie, that’s the scene the paparazzi [shot]. “I wanna know what love is?” Yeah, so they’re trying to figure that out.
EO: [Continues singing] “I want you to show me…”
PB: [To Olsen] I think we should stop now.
[To Bettany] I imagine since you carry one of the stones that you’re going to have a significant arc in this story. Obviously, without giving too much away, can you give us what we can expect from Vision’s story?
PB: It’s gonna be kinda of a significant arc ‘cause I got one of the stones in my head. That’s about all I’m allowed to [say]. Now, there are some really bad dudes who want the stone from my head and that’s a problem for Vision.
What would happen if they got it, hypothetically?
PB: Well, that’s a very big question and one that troubles…
EO: That we explore in the movie.
PB: Yeah. One that troubles Vision and Wanda a lot. I don’t know what to do about that. It’s really having these conversations because you don’t wanna sound slightly obtuse and being a difficult interview, but you’ve got… [trails off]
Being undercover, how does Vision go undercover?
PB: Well, you either travel to different Mardi Gras around the world or Halloween, you’re golden — Halloween, it’s his night out — or you discover the ability to change your appearance with nano-technology.
Do you get to play different incarnations of Vision or are other actors going to be brought in so he can shapeshift into different looks to be undercover?
PB: I wouldn’t want to lead you down the garden path, no. I don’t look like this in real life. [Laughs]
I have seen you outside with no makeup on.
PB: I really didn’t look like Vision playing Vision. [Says to himself] “You look a lot like Paul Bettany.”
How much would you both say that characters are dealing with the fallout of what happened in the last movie [Civil War]?
EO: I think in a different way not so much about the last movie and their own sagas, but this is definitely the most emotional arc I’ve done in an Avenger film, that’s for sure.
EO: ’Cause when we’re talking about Vision becoming human, we’re talking about their relationship and it’s a pretty grounded arc.
PB: And significant. [Laughs] Yeah, I think it is the most emotional. Also, the cost and the danger that we’re all facing becomes more important than certain beef that people had in the past because it’s so desperate. The point of the Avengers, and by extension mankind, it’s fraught with danger. So I think old grudges are buried and put off until next time.
How would your characters describe Thanos? What do you guys think of him?
PB: He’s such a dick.
EO: I don’t really know yet. We haven’t really figured that out ourselves yet. Right?
EO: We haven’t really gotten to that bit in the exploration, but he’s not a good guy. We don’t necessarily want to be his friend. You don’t want to be his friend.
PB: You don’t want to be his friend, no, but you can admire… He has an ambitious goal.
EO: Yes, he sets his goals very high.
PB: He sets his goals very high.
EO: I think [Josh] Brolin is doing a really cool job creating an interesting villain ‘cause he doesn’t really come across… he seems he’s defending it quite well.
We’ve asked the rest of the cast how they relate to Thanos and how they feel about him, and they were talking about it in very abstract ways, but for your characters, it’s actually very personal because if Thanos gets what he wants your romance would end. Who knows what would happen to Vision. So from that point of view, does Thanos perhaps frighten your characters more than the rest of the team?
PB: He is, like I said, I think he’s a real dick. [Laughs] I just found out what it means to be human and now this Thanos guy. Yeah, I don’t know. I think for everybody the stakes are so high that I think that it’s…
EO: As bad as bad can be.
So if Scarlet Witch happens to cross paths with Doctor Strange, is there like a weird who’s-on-first thing where he’s like, “I use real magic,” she’s like “They call me a witch”?
EO: Sorry, that means I don’t know. I don’t know why I said the other, but I don’t know.
Can you talk about your dynamics in the film as being a partnership within the team dynamic, right? Are there certain challenges or is it comforting for your characters to have each other within this team but on a more personal and special level?
EO: As actors or as our characters?
As your characters or both?
PB: It’s a pretty dynamic team.
EO: It’s a pretty fun group.
Is it comforting to have one person on the team you can rely on in a different way than maybe the rest of the team?
EO: Oh yeah! Yeah, that is fun. It just feels like you have something really specific to work with all the time. And that feels nice. There’s like an anchor point to everything, which is what you’re constantly looking for when you’re doing these movies. What anchors you to a grounded reality? And you have that throughout the whole film. You have your partner, your life partner with you by your side, and that creates a different kind of stakes, as well.
The Guardians [of the Galaxy] come into this film and, obviously, cosmic villains. Do these cosmic characters and the other world stuff, does that make Vision want to quest beyond understanding humanity, realizing, “Holy shit there’s so much more out there now”?
EO: I feel like we should do this meeting before we [film] the movie so they can give us ideas. [Laughs]
PB: Yeah, I don’t know. I think he’s already thinking that way already. I mean, he’s a smart fellow, the Vision. So I think he’s already thinking that way. [Audio isn’t clear here for this answer] Frankly, being that you have to have a face for the quest to save humanity, well why? Well, because it’s the person that you love. Fighting for that I think is just a question because I don’t know quite how to answer my question. So, yes, which is I think about love and understanding what love is. [This part is clear] I think you can see by the end of the movie on a much grander scale a love of life.
With Scarlet Witch, specifically, there was an alternate scene in Civil War and it was, at least in my recollection, the first time a Marvel character had actually acknowledged the fact that she can alter reality as opposed to moving things with her mind.
EO: An alternate scene in Civil War? That was deleted but I was in it?
EO: [Laughter] I don’t remember it.
Vision is explaining to General Ross at the very beginning that “Wanda can manipulate molecular polarity to alter reality.”
EO: Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah.
So are we going to start to see more tricks from her now beyond the telekinetics and the force fields?
PB: You’ll have to wait and see.
How does this movie differ from a Joss Whedon [Avengers] movie? As an actor, does it feel different in this one as opposed to Ultron?
PB: Yeah, they’re really different. … It’s not that one is better than the other.
EO: The biggest difference is that Joss wrote everything. When he writes them, he plays every single character in, like, a cabin and he does the fighting sequences as much as he can and then he writes it. I think the main difference is that the Russos delegate and they trust everything that they’ve delegated things to. Not saying Joss didn’t, but that’s a lot of pressure to be a director and then go home to also do rewrites for the next week. So I think it’s just as it gets bigger, things become more specific to different departments and I think it allows maybe even a freedom within the dialogue sometimes because there’s a space some of us have the ability to step out and not be on the page. Not saying that one’s better than the other because Joss knows these characters better than maybe each one of the individuals do because he lives it and breathes it, and the Russos at the beginning of filming are like, “You’re in control of your character. If there are things you think we missed, please participate, please say.”
PB: They really want you to be a collaborator and it’s great. There’s a huge upside for that. For them [the Russos], when you’re dealing with so many characters and actors to have two of them, and it’s brilliant because you can play one off against the other.
Have you guys made suggestions about your characters?
PB: Oh yeah, I think everybody does all the time and Marvel has really been open to that, surprisingly.
EO: I think it would be shocking to anyone else who talks, writes, or talks about… People say it’s not a creative environment, you just are a pawn, and they make it the most creative environment it can be within its parameters.
PB: Also there are people with very clear vision. So they’re able to hear you and yet maintain the course of the ship. I found it really open and creative and genuinely interested in what you would like to happen and have happened to your character.
EO: Well, like a general specific, we have already shot part of the end, but we haven’t shot some things that happen before and there are just things that happen where you’re like, “You know what? Let’s create a string and when we go to the scenes we haven’t shot yet, let’s create something that will reflect that later.” … And people notice it or they don’t. It’s just good to have.
PB: I think the success of the Marvel films comes from the fact that they’re made by fans. They really love those characters. When I first came out dressed as Vision, Kevin Feige nearly cried. I didn’t grow up reading comics but they make you fall in love with your character. They really do. Their love for these stories is really infectious and you become really invested, and there’s a lot of invested people beyond the financials of it all. They really want to do a good job, and I think fans really trust that if they bend things that they’re in safe hands — that the story is in safe hands because I guarantee you it’s made by geeks. This movie is made by geeks. They love them, they feel it when they’re talking about it.
Avengers: Infinity War opens in theaters nationwide April 27th.
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Jamie Broadnax is the creator of the online publication and multimedia space for Black women called Black Girl Nerds. Jamie has appeared on MSNBC's The Melissa Harris-Perry Show and The Grio's Top 100. Her Twitter personality has been recognized by Shonda Rhimes as one of her favorites to follow. She is a member of the Critics Choice Association and executive producer of the Black Girl Nerds Podcast.