SDCC: Avengers: Age of Ultron's Paul Bettany Talks Transforming Into The Vision

Following months of rumors and years of speculation, Paul Bettany was recentliy confirmed to play Vision, the android Avenger in Joss Whedon's upcoming mega-sequel Avengers: Age of Ultron.

A character who starts out as a potential antagonist before moving to the side of the angels, Vision is so far one of the most unknown quantities of the film.

Bettany joined ComicBook.com and a small group of reporters at Comic Con International: San Diego today to discuss his transition from the voice in Iron Man's head to a full-fledged 

When you came and joined as J.A.R.V.I.S. in Iron Man did you always have it in your contract that if the movies did well, you wanted a bigger role where you could do more?

No, I didn't, and for a long while I discovered that having played J.A.R.V.I.S. in the Marvel rulebook I wasn't allowed to then play another character and Joss Whedon and I got on very well and he looked for a way to make that happen and he found one so I'm very happy.

What's The Vision's relationship to J.A.R.V.I.S.?

I can't tell you. I can tell you there is one -- I'm supposed to keep it vague and mysterious, which I will do.

Everything's a double-edged sword. I used to turn up 45 minutes in a darkened studio and be J.A.R.V.I.S. for 45 minutes and then they'd give me a huge bag of cash and I would go about my way like a burglar. With swag! Like, "Wow, can this be real?!"

And now they want me to work for my money, which is great and sweaty and hot, which you'll realize once they unveil everything. It's a very sweaty and hot decision that got made but it's really f---ing cool. It's really cool and it's just been a ball to sort of join this train that is on really clear tracks and really lovely, funny, creative people. It's been a joy.

What is it that intrigued you about this character going in?

Item one, I've got to say that the greatest thing about this job for me is that however much research I could do, I would never know as much about Vision and the world as Kevin Feige and Joss Whedon so it's really nice to sort of acquiesce all responsibility of that to those guys.

The thing that appealed to me was this nascent creature being born and being sort of omnipotent and totally naive and the danger of that and the complex nature of a thing being born that is that powerful and that fully created in a second and the choices that he makes morally are really complex and interesting and they've really managed to maintain all of that. The famous image of him crying is really expressed kind of beautifully in this Avengers.

This is a great ensemble cast. Are you having a chance to enjoy that, or is it still just you in a room or with one or two people?

That's both of those things -- initially it was everybody on set at the same time and the introduction of Vision on the first day and that was huge and everybody was incredibly welcoming and really prepared.

That sounds really stupid but I can't tell you the amount of times you turn up on a set with huge, famous, overpaid actors and they haven't done any work. You're going through the scene and you realize "you don't know what the scene is." That happens more often than is noble but this situation, there's so many characters to cover for a filmmaker that everbody's getting two or three takes. So everyone's really on point and really focused and really creative and a really lovely atmosphere. It's been great.

Can you tell us how you approach the voice for The Vision differently than J.A.R.V.I.S.?

I can't really, not for any other reason that it happens entirely naturally as you're on set. Those things are hard to analyze.

There are absolute differences, clearly. I worked on it but then the interaction between other people, other actors, changes things and your interaction with the director changes things. He is not J.A.R.V.I.S. and he is not a child of Ultron. He is The Vision and that weirdly happened on its own.

Was it nice to finally be working in the room with Robert Downey, Jr.?

It was lovely, yeah. Oftentimes you're saying these quite outlandish things to each other on these sorts fo movies and with all of them -- with him and Spader and Ruffalo and Hemsworth, it's amazing how you can sell these very outlandish notions, farfetched.

What's The Vision's relationship with Tony Stark?

I think that Vision probably feels paternal toward a number of people.

How many of those guys do you get to punch?

I'm really good at punching. Vision is very good at punching.

What's his relationship with Elizabeth Olsen's Scarlet Witch?

Protective.

How many movies are you signed for to play Vision?

368. That's a lot of bags of cash; it's good for the family business.

Is it true that you shot a scene that flashes back to World War II with Chris Evans and Hayley Atwell?

Not unless I was wildly drunk, no. I can tell you that hasn't happened but that doesn't mean it's not going to. But I doubt it.

What will the relationship be between J.A.R.V.I.S. and Edwin Jarvis, who will appear on Agent Carter?

[Looks out the window, smiles]

J.A.R.V.I.S. is a bit sassy and sarcastic. Do you miss that at all when you transition into being The Vision?

I wouldn't say I missed it because I doin't think that it entirely went away. You'll see. As he is born and becomes more realized, it's hard to be ironic when you're -- there's a sort of knowing irony with Jarvis and babies aren't particularly ironic but he is somebody who's learning about the world at a quite exponential rate and he becomes more sassy as the movie continues.

How do the other Avengers feel having Vision around?

Incredibly jealous.

It's been, like I say, it's just been a really lovely working experience since everybody's been -- I think there's a lot of distrust in the plot and that has to be navigated by THe Vision and he does it in a quite extraordinarily shocking way. He gains their trust in a real roof-raiser of a moment; everybody will flip.

Are you Vision when the film starts or is this later in the story?

You might have gone to get your popcorn by that time. Minutes have passed. I don't know how many, but minutes have passed.

Do you have a bright yellow cape?

I can't discuss that.

Um...there is a cape and it's fabulous.

How do people respond to you in the costume?

With a great deal of pity. It's a real thing and we spent a lot of time on how to keep me cool in that costume because the costume is genuinely just an extraordinary achievement that has nothing to do with me, it's just a beautiful piece of design and then manufacturing this thing out a lot of materials that haven't existed for a very long time. It's really cool looking. The consequence is it's f---ing hot!

Can you talk about playing a character that undergoes such a rapid evolution?

Yeah, I mean I talked a lot about it with Joss and it's sort of about experiencing and processing things in the moment and superhumanly quickly.

I know how that feels to play it but it'll be up to other people to judge whether that has been realized -- Sort of, "Well, so that's really happened." Working on questions in the moment rather than having a pat answer to questions.

Can you talk about what sort of abilities he has in this movie?

No...yeah, a little bit. We've already discussed he's incredibly good at punching, which is key.

He also has an ability to change his density and that is awesome and really exploited brilliantly by Joss in terms of really cool moment that Vision is able to do something that is really otherworldly and it's kind of great and he's discovering it all as he goes along.

Did you have to do wirework for this film?

Yes.

Can you talk about that?

Have you ever been hung in the air by your genitals? I have. It's great!

There's a lot of wire work and I enjoy it...he said on the back of talking about his genitals. They make it as comfortable as they can possibly make it which is really uncomfortable.

It's as hard as doing something really uncomfortable for a lot of money is. You know, it's fine. The results are so like, "WOW that's so cool," it's all okay. It's another layer of the harness is to my mind is -- forget my genitals for a second -- it's another layer of clothing that I have to wear.

Do your genitals have a cape, too?

Not in the movie, but right now they do.

As an actor and watching the superhero genre evolve, do you feel like actors are almost compelled to find a place in these franchises?

I'm an actor and I'm naturally blond so I don't tend to think things through very clearly and I totally fell into it. I got a call late on a Friday night from Joss saying "You want to be the Vision" and I went, "yeah, sure."

I can't explain the amount of luck involved in that. No, I hadn't gone about cornering some market, thinking about getting my niche in the superhero world and frankly for ages, because I understood that once you were one character in a Marvel series you were never another, I kind of let it go, you know what I mean? "So that's cool. I'm J.A.R.V.I.S. and I do my thing and I get a bag of cash and I walk away like a burglar in my stripey outfit and my bag of swag, and that's great."

And then this other opportunity -- we all had so much fun. They're a really nice bunch of guys, the Marvel guys, and we've just had a lot of fun so they chose to bend the rules and I'm eternally grateful for that.

What do you love about working with Joss Whedon?

There's a lot of dancing that goes on onset which might be the reaosn he's bust his leg. He's just...never have I been more certain making a movie except maybe with Peter Weir that somebody else has a better idea than I did about what I should be doing. [Laughs] I mean, it makes you feel very safe to have the ultimate fanboy also your director.

He loves it. He loves that world and it's a huge amount of safety and so when he says I think it should be a bit more like this you say I get it and even if I don't get it I believe you mcuh more than I believe me. And he's incredibly relaxed and having the time of his life making the film.

Whether or not it made it onscreen, can you say whether there was any more schawarma consumed during the production of Age of Ultron?

Simply can't talk about it.

You've been around almost the longest, from sitting in a dark room with a bag of cash to now...

Say that bit again, it sounded so nice. A room with a bag of cash...

Did you have any idea that it would be the kind of epic it has become?

No, I had no idea. I could lie and tell you yes, I thought this is the way to focus my career, but I didn't. I really didn't.

I did it because it seemed like a fun idea at the time and I make astonishingly simple decisions. When I say simple I don't mean in a zen way. I mean simple-minded decisions. That will be fun, then I go and do that.

What does James Spader bring to the film?

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We have a scene and it was the first scene that we shot together toward the end of the movie and it was just, even though you're talking with these very farfetched ideas he managed to find something that was very human about the relationship that was happening between his character and my character and it was really amazing.

You look into his eyes, and it doesn't matter what he's talking about -- you believe him and he believed me and it was really a great little scene to work on and he was just so present, which is difficult when you're in a fractal suit. He's got very arresting eyes and you believe everything he says.