While this summers superb superhero smash-up THE AVENGERS was expected to be huge, I think the film surpassed all predications. Joss Whedon’s epic, all-star film was also a hit with comic-book fans, cinema-goers in general and even movie critics. With the DVD and Blu-ray of MARVEL’S AVENGERS ASSEMBLE coming 17th September, we were lucky to put some questions to actor Maximiliano Hernandez, who stars as wise-cracking S.H.I.E.L.D. Special Agent Jasper Sitwell in the film, as well as THOR and the special ‘One-Shot’ short movies THE CONSULTANT and ITEM 47, the latter you’ll be able to see on the AVENGERS ASSEMBLE discs.
ITEM 47 sees Sitwell take over the position of the now deceased Agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) alongside veteran actor and new to the Marvel universe, Titus Welliver, who we also have an interview with on the way! The two must recover a high-tech alien weapon tagged ITEM 47, which despite all others collected and seemingly defunct, find one couple luckless (Lizzy Caplan and Jesse Bradford) who have managed to figure out how to work it and use to their criminal (and comedic) advantage.
How did you first become involved with the Marvel One Shots and the superhero franchise?
I auditioned for THOR and the women I know is a casting director, she cast IRON MAN and had seen me in some other films and this part came up for Agent Jasper Sitwell and she knew I was a big comic-book fan, Marvel in particular. She called me in and Kenneth Branagh was slated to direct THOR. I wanted to both play this character, be in a Marvel movie and work with him so it was sort of like a dream when you put that all together. So I auditioned for the part, the next day I got a phone call saying ‘Hey, Kenneth loved what you did and it’s you, it’s your part‘. I basically happened like that! I worked on THOR and then after that we did the Marvel One Shot THE CONSULTANT, which was on the THOR Blu-ray. Then they called me in for AVENGERS, which I wasn’t originally in the script at all, so it was almost a last minute addition because they sort of wanted to keep to keep the universe very consistent. The characters sort of bounce around from film to film and you know that they’re all part of this universe and then I got a call from Louis D’Eposito, the director of ITEM 47, who’s also the co-president of Marvel and Brad Winderbaum who is also one of the producers of the film, who said ‘we wanna do another short which we want to centre around your character and with Clark (Gregg) being gone you’re going to be the new guy stepping in to the role‘. I was like ‘absolutely!’ I was super excited about it and no way I could have turned it down.
Did you feel the need to prepare for the role, or do any research with the character of Sitwell being a government official?
No, not really because these guys are so outside the scope of what any government official would be. There so outside of it because they know everything. They know anything the FBI would know, anything the CIA, anything MI5. They know anything on Earth. Their power comes from knowledge and knowing things others don’t know, knowing them before. There is no real way of preparing for anything like that. The one thing I would prepare and did prepare for is this idea of a very stoic guy, doesn’t show a lot of emotions, reports the facts and stays in check. I mean the world is being attacked by aliens and we’re just trying to keep it together, we’re the guys who stay calm and thats the only thing I worked on. Don’t show any emotion, kind of very, very cold.
You seem to know how to handle yourself during one scene in ITEM 47. Did you need to train to pull something like that off, or is that something you already knew and were able to bring to the part?
You know what, it’s funny as I did Muay Tai (a version of Thai Kickboxing) for a very long time, I trained for many years and actually my son who’s almost 9, does it now as well, has done for the last 5 years or so. I’ve always been very good at physicality, moving and fighting. What’s great about Marvel is, they are one of the biggest employers of stuntmen. There is a constant flow of stuntmen going through there and you get called in saying we just need to do a little fight training, we want to train you to do this flip and you know you’re dealing with the best of the best. You’re dealing with guys who’ve been doing this forever, who’s generation of stuntmen is their bread and butter and actually the guy who is Jesse Bradford’s double is a friend of mine and it was so funny seeing each other in this capacity and he and I worked together to make the physical stuff look good, but I’ve always been good at that stuff.
Is it different working on a huge film like AVENGERS to something smaller scale like ITEM 47?
No! (laughs) Well, that not true. I think ITEM 47 was shot in 4 days and AVENGERS was something like 80. Right off the bat, I think there was something like four times as many people working on that. However, the beauty was having a lot of the core people that worked on AVENGERS, like effects supervisors and costume designers, all that stuff worked on the short. In that sense it was really seamless, even some of the make-up department worked on this so everything sort of carried over and you certainly felt the quality was going to be as good. It is as good as AVENGERS and it looks and feels like it was a little part of the movie that was ripped out, separated and put on its side, so you definately feel that. Obviously the scale is not as big but the attention to detail and the love that everyone put into it is just as equal to AVENGERS.
Are we likely to to see yourself, or any of the stars from ITEM 47 in any future Marvel projects/films?
Well, I hope to see myself (laughs). The truth is you don’t really know. Marvel keep their cards close and they’re really secretive and they like to keep their idea as a fantasy and really restrict information. I don’t know that we’re doing something until maybe like a month, maybe pushing two months before something happens. I’m pretty sure I’ll come back in some capacity. Sitwell is part of the Marvel universe and I think he’s going to stick around.
There is obviously a lot of humour running though the Marvel franchise and the One Shot’s. Is that something incorporated into the scripts or something actors like yourself bring to each project?
I think there is definitely a little of both. We’ll read the script and actors are kind of like dorks (laughs). We read stuff and think this is the funniest thing in the world, chuckling as we’re reading it. At the end of the day we just want to do funny and cool stuff. Yeah, a lot of the stuff is really written in but there are moments when you can improv and they’ll sometimes let you go with it. A lot of the stuff is just really, excellent writing. You can’t have a really good movie, without a really good script and Marvel and Disney know this and I think them pairing up together, they really kept to that. There’s gotta be those light moments. Sometimes they’ll bring someone who’s good at writing comedy and he’ll help punch up the script. Something like one-liners here and there, but character specific to pump up the energy levels so it’s maybe not as dark or sombre as some other comic-book movies.
Do you have a personal favourite superhero or film?
Definitely THE INCREDIBLE HULK. I have had an ongoing subscription to THE INCREDIBLE HULK since I was 12, so to me he was always my favourite. It’s funny that I ended up playing a character who that in the Marvel world, was always in charge of keeping an eye on where Bruce Banner and where THE INCREDIBLE HULK was at all times. I think it’s all kismet that it would be the character that I liked the most as a child.
THN, as always, would like to thank Maximiliano Hernandez for his time. AVENGERS ASSEMBLE is released on DVD and Blu-ray on 17th September.