The whole enterprise is falling apart. Egos, tempers, uneasy alliances and bad attitudes are threatening the group, and failure would be catastrophic. Luckily, we’re talking about the actual team of superheroes in the Marvel Studios movie The Avengers, not the cast and crew. In this week’s issue, EW takes a deep dive into the May 4, 2012 movie that will finally unite Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man, Chris Hemsworth’s Thor, and Chris Evans’ Captain America — along with Mark Ruffalo’s The Incredible Hulk, Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye and Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow — on the big screen. We use the word “unite” loosely. “Just because they’re super heroes doesn’t mean they’re super friends,” says Renner. (For some exclusive, on-set pictures of The Avengers‘ superheroes, see our gallery here.)
It was a different story with the cast and crew: If anything, they got along too well. Far from home on the Albuquerque set, they had little to do except hang out together, maybe hit a Motley Cruë concert, or go dancing with writer-director Joss Whedon, who says he knew “every dance club in Albuquerque.” Whedon was actually counting on a little bit of friction, since there’s so much in the actual story. “I was like, well, if they hate each other, I guess we can use that,” he shrugs. “But they don’t.”
When he wasn’t out dancing, Whedon was obsessively rewriting dialogue. On the Iron Man movies, Downey was notorious for pushing for heat-of-the-moment script punch-ups (or as he puts it: “I dominated like a rabid, horny gorilla”). And even as part of an ensemble in Avengers, he still nudged Whedon to go a little farther in some scenes. The day EW was on set, Whedon (the creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the acclaimed Astonishing X-Men comic book series) was scribbling out new pages of dialogue right before our eyes. Says the director, “There is a weird element of: they handed me one of the biggest movies of all time, and I’m making it up as I go.”
For more on The Avengers, pick up the new issue of Entertainment Weekly, on stands Sept. 30.