With Avengers Assemble finally hitting home video on September 17th, Starburst sat down for a chat with fan favourite Clark Gregg, better known for his role as S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Phil Coulson...
Starburst: What part, if any, did comic books play in your youth?
Clark Gregg: I was a Marvel Comics fan. I was a fan of Tony Stark and Iron Man. I liked Daredevil. In the 1970s, during the era of Bruce Lee – I’m dating myself – I was a fan of a guy named Iron Fist who was spectacular. And there was one that was a little bit more surreal that definitely connects to some of the things that we see here and he was called Warlock. I spent way too much time drawing these things in my notebooks when I should have been doing my lessons. Which is probably why I’m here doing this today. So I definitely felt like a sweepstakes winner when I got called to be in Iron Man.
How did the experience of working on Avengers Assemble differ from the other Phase One movies?
The origin movies were a little bit smaller, they were not at the very high extreme of expensive movies and I guess it says something about Joss’s script that it felt very human. From time to time it did feel like Chekhov in spandex, although thankfully I was not in spandex. The expectation was built over four or five years and for the comic book fans and the movie geek fans of this universe it became clear that this was leading toward The Avengers. So they gave themselves an impossibly high platform to dive off from. And I think it is quite miraculous and quite a testament to Joss and to the folks at Marvel and the cast that the movie splashes so perfectly into the water.
Is it difficult acting in a film with so many SFX?
I’ve only done some of this, mostly in these movies and there were things in Thor that I was reacting to that I wasn’t really seeing. There are movies when you are reacting when someone is yelling at you that it is the scariest alien you’ve ever seen. Oh it looks like Orson Welles, it’s horrible! But in this film so much of it was there. There was this incredible Helicarrier and Tom Hiddleston is kinda scary when he has his antlers on. There was not as much to imagine as one would think.
How collaborative was Joss Whedon?
The script was pretty spectacular. I thought Agent Coulson would be handing The Hulk a sweatshirt when he returned to his normal size and that would be the extent of his duties. So I was so thrilled how integral each of the characters – including Agent Coulson – were in the script. There was a thing early on when he said I was changing the words of a line. I apologised and he said not to worry because the way I was saying it was better.
Having directed in the past (2008's Chuck Palahniuk adaptation Choke), would you like to be at the helm of this scale of film?
The stuff that has interested me has been dark, comic, character driven pieces. It is hard to make the jump from a sex addicted, colonial theme park worker from the world of Chuck Palahniuk to super hero version of Marvel. But I’ve come to feel the resonance of these themes. There is something about the spectacular nature and the child-like matinee nature of this and the science fiction element that makes such an interesting forum to look at us from a different angle. I have started trying to figure out a way to convince the guys at Marvel to trust me with a budget that was one millionth of what these other movies would be. But I’d want to take it in steps.
So if they said yes to it, which Marvel character would you have it feature?
I wouldn’t mind making a movie about Black Widow – Scarlett’s character talks about this tremendous moral debt that she’s carrying because of what went on in Budapest. So I think there is a prequel movie about who these people are at S.H.I.E.L.D. It could a cross between the nastiest Hong Kong shoot 'em up and Men In Black that I’d be very interested in. Black Widow – The Bad But Very Sexy Years!
Sold! With so much merch being made, and with so much love for your character, how come there's no Phil Coulson action figure yet?
Hasbro has not been forthcoming with the Agent Coulson action figure, despite passionate requests from literally dozens of my fans.
What do you do in your downtime when you're not either acting, writing and/or directing?
I play a ridiculous amount of basketball for a man my age and I’m basically tortured by my daughter and I torture her back. I like to take her out in public and dance – just because of what that does to her!
MARVEL AVENGERS ASSEMBLE is released to own on DVD/Blu-ray from September 17th.