Billionaire Tony Stark's penthouse atop his newly unveiled Stark Tower is a wreck. Overturned designer chairs and broken glass from massive windows cover the expensive flooring, which sports gaping holes.
Apparently, hosting a battle between good and evil can be messy.
Though the actual location is a New Mexico movie set rather than the New York skyscraper portrayed in The Avengers (out May 4), Robert Downey Jr. still takes the destruction of his character's pad very personally.
"I'm not even done designing Stark Towers, and already it's destroyed. I was still making tweaks!" he says, before adding slyly, "It all kind of reminds me of the '80s."
On the bright side, the Avengers superheroes have assembled in the room and seemingly cornered the evil Norse god Loki (Tom Hiddleston). As Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) points a bow and arrow directly at Loki, he gets backup from Iron Man (Downey), Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson). Even Mark Ruffalo, who won't be fully transformed into the massive Hulk until special effects are added in post-production, glares down at Loki from a table.
Director Joss Whedon knows that this is an Avengers money shot. "I've had this in my head for a long time, seeing all of these guys together and just the power of the thing," he says during a break from filming last July. "It's like boom! They are here."
This is what fans will demand of the spectacle, which has been watched closely since its inception and is expected to pack one of the most powerful box-office punches of the summer.
To get it absolutely perfect, Whedon shouts out directions — "Chris Hemsworth, raise your hammer much more slowly on this one" — and replays the scene, with the off-camera Hiddleston feeding the same line to the other actors to get them started: "If it's all the same to you, I'll have that drink now."
They hear the line enough that Downey finally asks: "Do you want me to actually get him a drink? Maybe we can do that for the director's cut."
The laughs continue in Johansson's trailer, where she commiserates with Renner about their superhero attire.
"To see us all in our latex catsuits with staffs and shields, it can be surreal," she says, not bothering to wipe away the blood on her forehead from the previous battle scene.
The bizarre collection of costumes, from the flowing capes of Norse gods to the shield and patriotic bodysuit of Captain America, is something Whedon makes light of in the screenplay, which he co-wrote.
"There's a level of absurdity that started in the first Avengers comic," he says. "You have to plant a flag in it, otherwise the audience will."
Ruffalo and his mates don't need their costumes for the next shot, which has the camera focused on Loki. But Hiddleston needs something to play against, so the off-camera Evans throws on a gray sweatshirt and Johansson dons a silky black robe. As Hiddleston crawls through shards of glass (actually small pieces of rubber), he repeats the line about needing that drink, this time for the camera.
"That last line, a little more regret, a little more exhaustion," Whedon calls out.
Hiddleston repeats until he nails the scene. He is rewarded by Downey handing over a long-overdue cola in a cocktail glass from Tony Stark's bar.
"You've earned that drink, buddy," Downey tells him. "Congratulations."