It’s a special Secret Origins of Supervillains edition of BAM! POW! ZAP! as the Big Bad of the next Avengers film downloads the details of how he became a world-conquering artificial intelligence, why an Oscar-nominated actor wanted to play Spider-Man’s thickest (literally and figuratively) enemy: and a supersoldier’s comrade-in-arms-turned-psychotropic spy explores the real-world roots of his role.
Alias Ultron: James Spader
And now, for the first time, James Spader reveals the secret origin of Ultron: the (surprisingly heartwarming, for the voice of an android despot) tale of how and why he became the titular villain of Avengers 2: The Age of Ultron.
“I met with [Marvel Studios president] Kevin Feige a couple of years ago and just told him that I would love to come into that world at some point if the circumstances were right,” Spader says. “I never had any comic books in my house, and [my friend Will] had trunk loads of them. I used to go over there and bury myself in his room with his comics and devour them. And then I sort of put that down in my life and didn't pick it back up again.”
Years later, it was his own offspring that prompted Spader to start musing about finding his way back to the Marvel Universe. “I have three sons, and a couple of them have shown a real keen interest in that world,” he says, “and so before it was too late, I wanted to try and see if I could be part of it.”
Eventually, as Marvel has effectively translated to the big screen, the right thing came along and Kevin Feige called up and said, 'I found just the thing!'” says Spader. “Joss Whedon gave me a call, and said that he really wasn't thinking about anybody else for it and that he thought it would be great fun to do.”
Beyond that welcoming invitation, says Spader – currently starring in The Blacklist, one of the best-received new TV shows of NBC's fall season – the role also uniquely challenged the Emmy winner. “It's one of the great luxuries as an actor that you're able to participate in projects [that are] so foreign to you. And that foreign world in many cases, forces you to work an entirely different way, and the challenge becomes so different. I've been doing this a long time, and it seemed like it would be great fun to do something that I have no frame of reference for."
Thick-Skinned: Paul Giamatti
image c/o The Movie Blog
Paul Giamatti, soon to be seen crushing everything in his path as the Rhino in The Amazing Spider-Man 2, admits he went through a fanboy phase as well: “I always enjoyed the Marvel stuff as a kid,” he says. “I grew up watching the old Batman show and things like that, always enjoying stuff like that, so I wanted to be the bad guy. I think it's a great art form, and I liked the Spider-Man movies in particular – the new franchise as well as the old ones.”
“The part was just completely unhinged – I was playing an animal!” says Giamatti, who did his homework. “I was amazed to see the extension of stuff about the character that was on the Internet. I remember him from the comic books and from the cartoon when I was a little kid, so I was drawing on that kind of thing for the most part. It's a fun character: he's not a very intelligent human being, and really, a rhino's not the most impressive animal in the world either. They can smash into a truck and probably knock it over, but that's about it. So that's what's fun about it.”
Until the Mark Webb-helmed sequel debuts next year, Giamatti can be seen a succession of high-profile year-end films, including Parkland, 12 Years a Slave, Romeo and Juliet and Saving Mr. Banks, and he produced and stars in the off-kilter Christmas comedy All Is Bright, which hits theaters October 4 and is available on VOD. “There's the clichés of Canadian-ness that we play with it a little bit,” he says. “It's kind of hard for [my guy] to get angry. With the Canadians, they don't quite even know how to get angry.” Giamatti shares an intriguing chemistry with costar Paul Rudd, whom he says is “so easy and laid-back and fun and has a lightness that just makes you be the same way – or try to be.”
Spy Ware: Sebastian Stan
Sebastian Stan was had plenty of time to prepare himself to play the name-checked adversary in Captain America: The Winter Soldier: Bucky Barnes, the character he played in the first Cap movie in 2010, returned from the apparent dead in the comics as the brainwashed Soviet assassin. He made sure to do his homework in between movies – both from the comics and the real world.
"I went through the comic books, and I researched in terms of Cold War – just anything spy related, anything brainwashing related, anything about supersoldiers, any ideas like that," he says. "I was very amazed at what I found along the way, which was that people actually have had ideas about things like this… for a long time.”
“I look at an acting gig as an opportunity to learn, so you're a little bit like a detective,” says Stan. “So when you get that chance, why not? Just go and learn about something else. And maybe some things you learn you can apply [to] make the character different.”
He loves the essence of Bucky and his subsequent alter ego. “I fell in love with him the first time they described him to me,” he says. “I was like, this is a cool character, man. He has a lot of different colors to him, and he was conflicted and flawed but at the same time, still trying to find himself. I feel like that's why this movie picks it up, all this time goes by and the character ends up back to a place where it's sort of like, oh my God, I have yet to decide what kind of person I want to be.”
Bam! Pow! Zap! has you covered with comic book tidbits and interviews here every Thursday.