Victoria Alonso and Jeff White Talk The Avengers
Currently the third highest grossing film internationally of all time, The Avengers has become the crown-jewel of Marvel’s superhero movie franchise. Arguably one of the most complicated visual effects driven films of all time, the task of managing the integration of such sophisticated work across a dozen studios fell to executive producer Victoria Alonso. I recently had a chance to speak with her, along with ILM visual effects supervisor Jeff White, who, among other aspects of the film, was intimately involved in the creation of The Hulk and the helicarrier.
Dan Sarto: The Avengers was truly a behemoth of a film to create. Integrating visual effects from a number of different studios, a huge number of digital characters, the list goes on and on. Looking back on the production, what are your feelings on having pulled it off so successfully?
Victoria Alonso: It was scary and exhilarating. Every day, you think, “Oh my god, are we going to make it?” That constant battle against time. We always say we are trying for the utmost quality. We’re striving for the utmost consistency. You can’t have one sequence that looks awesome and then everything else be anything less. For us at Marvel, the commitment is to make a consistent, great looking movie that has a story people want to stay on their seats for two hours and watch. Even when you see the movie and you think we have something that the fans will like, you don’t know until the fans show up. It’s always a leap of faith even after you’ve been working on it for seven years. You say, “OK, let’s cross our fingers…” and pray they love it as much as we love it because we surely left a lot on the line for it. I’ve only cried twice in my career. When we crossed the billion dollar mark [on this film] I cried. Tears of joy. You don’t have those moments in your career as a producer when people say, “Your movie just crossed the billion dollar mark!” It meant not only that people went to see it but their reaction was very positive.
DS: Along those lines, as you’re making the movie, there must be particular sequences you figure will resonate with the audience more than others. But of course, you never know until the film is released. Are there any scenes or sequences where you were surprised at the audience’s reactions?
VA: I was surprised that the whole Alien story line was accepted with such open arms and so wholeheartedly. People were into it. In concept, I thought it was going to take me out of the picture. But god bless ILM and the other 11 companies that ushered us through the process. They created something that was phenomenally interesting and integrated in a way that felt it belonged there. I could buy it. It was a journey I knew I was taking and it didn’t take me out of the film. I was happily surprised. You always have faith that “Well, let’s see what happens.” But, you do have that tummy ache for months and months.
Jeff White: Any time you’re creating a new race, you have to get a lot of buy in at the low level from the audience. With the Chitauri, early versions were very gold, very bright. It just wasn’t working. We went back to the drawing board and really weathered them down and created more character in them, which I think really helped them fit in the world better.