Joss Whedon is no stranger to working with a large cast of characters. Each of his shows has revolved around a well-developed ensemble cast, ranging from Buffy the Vampire Slayer's "Scooby gang" to the family-by-circumstance crew of Serenity in Firefly. Added to his proven love of, and knack for, writing comic-book characters, Joss is ideally suited to be directing Marvel's Avengers movie. In a new interview with Yahoo Movies, Whedon reveals some specific details of what we'll see from many of the core characters in next summer's superhero epic.

By far the character with the most onscreen history, at least as far as the current Marvel movie "canon" is concerned, is Robert Downey Jr.'s Tony Stark/Iron Man. Downey's easygoing charisma made the first Iron Man movie something of a surprise hit, but the character also has a darker side, often struggling with alcoholism in the pages of the comics. For Avengers, Whedon and Downey worked together to find the right balance of where and who Stark's character should be after the previous two films. "He didn't want to be the tortured lonely man, which I totally get," said Whedon. "And it was easy to make him as delightful and gregarious as he can be and still go, well, there is a piece missing and it's the piece that makes him an Avenger."

Whedon said that Captain America, traditionally considered a hard character to "crack," was one of his favorites -- precisely because he's such a straightforward character. As Whedon explained:
I am the guy who loves Cyclops on the 'X-Men', because he is square. [Captain America] is a little square, and he is aware that he is a little square, and he is aware that the world is a beat ahead of him, or in his case, 70 beats. I think that's very disarming and very charming. I relate to that guy. I also don't know who the popular singers are right now, so he is actually really easy for me to write.

In spite of Whedon's love of writing Captain America as a bit of a square, there were times where actor Chris Evans asked him to tone it down just a little bit. Whedon explained that Evans is "very aware of [Captain America's] dignity, but at the same time understood why I wanted to find the humor in somebody who was so out of touch."

Perhaps the character with the most convoluted recent history is Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner/The Hulk. Unlike Downey, Evans, Sam Jackson as Nick Fury, and Chris Hemsworth as Thor, he had the challenge of stepping into the role for the first time, despite the character having been played twice in recent years in two unrelated reboots (first by Eric Bana, then by Edward Norton). Rather than referring to the recent films as their "official" version, Whedon and Ruffalo cast their eyes further back for their Hulk touchstone. "Both of us agreed upfront that the template for who we wanted this guy to be in his life was Bill Bixby, the TV [show character] who was busy helping other people," said Whedon. "That was more interesting to us than the Banner in the first two movies who was always fixated on curing himself."

You'll get to see how all these characters merge together when The Avengers hits theaters on May 4th, 2012. In the mean time, you can read the rest of the interview over at Yahoo Movies.
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