Actor Paul Bettany has been a consistent presence on the big screen since around the turn of the century, with memorable roles in films like A Knight's Tale and Master and Commander, not to mention A Beautiful Mind. In 2008 he joined the first Iron Man as the voice of JARVIS when the MCU was just getting off of the ground. But Hollywood is a rough business, and Paul Bettany's career was not always on an upward trajectory. In fact, he was told that his time as an actor was over not that long ago. It was at this point of thinking that his career might actually be over that he received a call from Joss Whedon about playing Vision in Avengers: Age of Ultron, as Paul Bettany explained recently at Ace Comic Con:
I had just got done with a meeting with a producer who told me my career was over. That it was done, and that I should pack my bags and go home. And I kind-of stood up to him and I said, 'Listen, you know, in this town actors have second and third acts, and you should mind your fucking manners.' And I walk out and then my legs give way, because I think maybe my career's over. Then I sit down on the sidewalk on Sunset and I went, 'Wow, maybe my career's over.' My phone rang; I answered it, and it was a number I didn't recognize. I went 'hello.' [He said] 'It's Joss Whedon.' I went,' Oh hi Joss.' He says, 'You want to play the Vision in The Avengers?' I went, 'Yes I do, thank you very much.'
Sometimes you get lucky and things come along in life at exactly the moment you need them to and that's what happened to Paul Bettany with that call from famous director Joss Whedon. This must have been quite the whirlwind of emotions in the span of a short period of time. Paul Bettany was defiant at the assertion that his career was over, but then was forced to consider the possibility. I can't imagine what it must be like to have someone tell you that but it's got to be infuriating and a bit demoralizing. So, to have an onscreen role in the biggest franchise in the world come right at that time was likely an amazing bit of serendipity that felt like a huge weight being lifted off his shoulders. I like how he responded to Joss Whedon too, with a very calm, matter-of-fact response, not letting on how exciting or what a relief the opportunity must have been.
As Paul Bettany recounted in a panel with Kevin Smith at ACE Comic Con, plenty of actor's careers have been presumed dead only to suddenly have a pulse and then roar back to life. Fellow MCU-er Robert Downey Jr. is a good example of this, as he's also doing pretty well for himself these days. Wonder Woman herself, Gal Gadot almost quit acting before landing the role of the Amazonian, as did David Harbour before Stranger Things and Kelly Marie Tran before Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
I'm not sure why the producer would have declared Paul Bettany's career over. Around that time he was probably coming off his role in Priest, so perhaps that film's critical and commercial reception is why the producer jumped to that conclusion. Luckily the MCU has kept him pretty busy. In the time since Avengers: Age of Ultron and his first outing as Vision, Paul Bettany has appeared in Captain America: Civil War and his character played a crucial role in this year's Avengers: Age of Ultron. Outside of the MCU, he also joined the Star Wars franchise in Solo: A Star Wars Story and played Ted Kaczynski in the acclaimed mini-series Manhunt: Unabomber. Clearly that producer was mistaken and Paul Bettany's career was not over, even if it felt like it at the time.