Over the course of ones life there are a lot of movies that hold to a certain time in your life. The 80s brat pack was how I grew up: Pretty in Pink, Less than Zero, etc. I’ve always loved James Spader and even more so in the past couple of years since he’s been in Lincoln and the Highly acclaimed Blacklist series. It was intriguing to sit and chat with him to see just how different he was in real life.
James Talking About How He Became Ultron:
JAMES: I had multiple sessions doing additional dialog recording. It really was sort of new stuff to further define, clarify, but most of the dialog that you hear in the movie and most of what you’re looking at, we shot on the set just in a fairly conventional fashion.
It didn’t feel conventional at the time, considering everything I was in, but to be able to film…The dialog was all from what we shot on the set doing scenes with the other actors as you would in any film or in any setting. I was so pleased ’cause I haven’t seen the final film but I was very pleased that I saw a lot of footage during post production.
I sort of saw big sections of the entire film. Even in its sort of formative stages, it was remarkable to see. I haven’t seen face really yet fine-tuned ’cause that’s the most sort of precise and infinitesimal thing that they do in terms of trying to take advantage of my expressions and translate them into a metal guy.
I was amazed that I saw, you know, with this magnificent body made out of vibranium and all the rest of it, this sort of technological wonder. To see all of my sort of gesture and posture and movements and expression and all of it was there. And then my son did see the film a couple of days ago.
And I said, “But how about the face?” And he says, “You know, I see you in the face.” He said, “Amazingly enough, considering it doesn’t really have a nose.” And he said, “I really saw your eyes and your expression and certainly movements: head movements, everything. I saw it all there. So it was worth it, I guess, to go through all of the arduous process of motion capture. Which is fascinating actually. Do you mind if I tell you just very quickly? Sorry Paul that, uh…
PAUL: No, no, no. No it’s…I’ll just have a snooze.
I love when actors are so excited about a project and you can tell that James Spader is kinga geeling our over being Ultron! (We can see why)
JAMES: I’ll tell you a very funny thing. I’m just excited about it because somebody in an interview just before this had asked specifically about this and I hadn’t thought about it until now. The very first day that I walked onto the studio lot, before I ever hit a set or anything. Within a half hour, uh, I walked into a room and they had a big empty room and there were cameras set up around and there was a bunch of guys with a whole bunch of laptops and women and, and so on all sitting around.
They put me in a fractal suit, which is just a sort of two piece or, you know, looks like you’re gonna go for a run, but has shapes and colors and things and all over it. Then they dotted up my face and they put a big rig on my back and a big headgear rig that had two sort of antenna that come down that are cameras that are right here with headlights right here, so I’m lit right here.
They had me go through a range of motions: fingers, everything, head turns and all the rest of it. Then they put it into some program on the computer or something and I stood around for about ten, fifteen minutes. And fifteen minutes later I was set up around the room were these monitors, and in fifteen minutes I could walk in my outfit into the center of the room and turn my head, move my fingers, go like this, and I could look at a monitor and see a sort of formative stage of Ultron doing everything I was doing.
So right from the very first moment I arrived there, I could start getting a sense of what sort of physicality would be appropriate for that eight foot robot. There was a guy there, quite small, who would’ve been proportionate to my height. I’m five-ten. He was very small. Sort of proportionate height to what, you know, not Chris Hemsworth but, maybe an average height avenger might be in proportion to me if I was eight feet tall.
He was a stunt guy, he was wearing a fractal suit and all the gear as well. They made him do the range of motion and everything else and within 15 minutes he and I would go move around the room and he was as, you know, different character and, and so I was able to see right away an eight foot Ultron, me as, as an eight foot Ultron with another, actor who’s a proportionate height to what an average size person would be.
It was really amazing.
I had a question for Paul: We always knew you as Jarvis. What was your reaction when you found out that you would be The Vision?
PAUL: It was sort of vindication really because I had just come out of a meeting with a producer who told me my career was over. This is a true story. I sat on the curb in Hollywood with my feet in the gutter and my phone went and I looked at it and went, “Hello?” I didn’t recognize the number and it was Joss Whedon. He said, “Do you want to play The Vision?” And I went, “Um,” it’s so quick these days, “yeah, I kinda do.”
True story. So it was lovely.
He also chatted about the difference between playing Jarvis Vs. The Vision:
PAUL: The difference was I had to go to the gym. Had to stop eating carbs. I finally got to be on set with a bunch of really lovely, creative, talented people. However, it also means that I have to show up at junkets now, you know? The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away.
JAMES: I did not have to cut back on carbs. Somehow amazingly enough, those animators were able to slim me right down.
Fun Fact: James Spader wanted to do this film for his boys! Here’s why:
JAMES: You know, I had met about two to three years prior to the telephone to me from Joss Whedon, uh, I had met with Kevin Feige and Jeremy Latcham. My agent is also Sam Jackson’s agent. So she’s very in tune with what’s going on in the Marvel world. I have three sons.
I have never in my entire career ever chosen a film to work on for the sake of my children. Most of the films that I’ve done, they really shouldn’t watch. I remember I took my mother when she was in her eighties to go with me to Sundance to see this film I did called Secretary …..
My second son was really loved comics and loved superhero movies and fantasy and all that stuff. He just loved it. By circumstance I also at the time I had a three-year-old son, again, and he was already sort of raiding his brother’s little figures and little things like that and was excited about it. I just thought, I just want to make a film for them, you know? So I went in and I sat down with Kevin Feige and Jeremy Latcham and they had reached out to my agent and said, “You know, we’d love to sit down with James.”
Those sort of meetings are always just so brutal and fruitless. I had said, “Really?” But, I mean, do they, and, and then my agent said, “Kevin doesn’t really meet with anybody unless there really is a genuine interest. And, and I said, “Great. Well then I’d love to talk to him.” So I sat down with him and I said, “I just would love to do one
of these things and just be such fun.” And I told him the reasons why and I think he really responded to that ’cause that’s his fan base, you know? We were sort of looking for, he was looking for something and I was sort of thing.
All of a sudden, like, about two or three years after that meeting, Joss Whedon walked into their offices and said, “You know, I don’t really have anyone else for this role except for James Spader.” And they said, “Well, funny you should mention that ’cause we’ve been trying to find the right thing. And so the next thing was a phone call from Joss and, uh, and, you know, as soon as I spoke to him and he, he, he… I’m sorry. I’ve never been able to answer anything in a short and precise… But anyway he, you know, I said, “What the hell can I bring to, to an eight foot robot, you know? That’s not my skill set.”
He told me sort of what he was looking for in terms of the character. But he said, “You know, let me send you some- something to look at ’cause the script is in revisions right now, but let me send you something so you can get a sense of what this character really is.” And he said, “In the comic books, the guy’s just sort of this raging robot. ‘I am going to destroy you’ you know?” He said I really want to extrapolate on that. So, he sent me these scenes that were, you know, threatening, intimidating, crazy, funny, quoting Emily Dickenson.
Uh, it was just such a weird, complex amalgamation of things. And as it turns out, Kevin Feige told me a couple of days later he said, “You know, Joss, those aren’t even scenes from the movie. Joss wrote those scenes just to send you, so, just so that you’d have a sense of the character.” I thought, what a lovely thing to do, you know, that he just wrote these scenes as this is what this character’s going to be like, an example of sort of who he is.
And he was absolutely right. It was all of that. Just a weird mix of crazy, scary, funny, poetic, you know, just a weird guy.
As you can see Mr. Spader is a talker and as fascinating as I hope he would be.
Grab your family and go see Age of Ultron in theaters NOW!
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***Disclosure: I attended #AvengersEvent . My flight, lodgings, and expenses were covered by Disney & MARVEL. All opinions are 100% mine. ***