Interview: Stunt Coordinator Greg Powell talks Avengers: Age of Ultron
The assembly of superheroes in the Avengers series isn’t just an amalgam of movies for the audience; it’s the same for everyone involved, especially the stunt coordinator.
“You’re not really making one movie; you’re making Thor, Captain America, you’re making Iron Man, you’re making all these movies in one,” says Greg Powell, the veteran coordinator who helmed the stunt department on Avengers: Age of Ultron. “It’s very busy for us as a stunt department. All these characters have their own stuff they done, it’s like working on several different films. These are all major players in a Marvel film, that why it’s as big as it is.”
Among the many credits to Powell’s name are installments of Harry Potter and Pirates of the Caribbean, as well as Skyfall¸ Hercules, and Band of Brothers. He has also worked with Tom Cruise, who he says is still the same Tom, always willing to do anything. Still, this film was surely the biggest and one of the most challenging films for Powell, and working on a Marvel production means a lot of people and a lot of expectations.
“This is my first Marvel film, and everything we’ve done was a challenge, from Ultron fighting on the truck in Korea, to the hole lifting up from the Earth [in the finale],” says Powell. “Even in South Africa, we had big scenes. It’s a very busy film for a stunt person.”
“You have to think Marvel all the time,” adds Powell. “On other films, it’s just another film. It’s not been a book or a comic, so you have to stick with that, you don’t want to disappoint the audience. “
With a cast that includes Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Scarlet Johansson, among many, many others, the task is to juggle actors and knowing when to let them do their own stunts and when to cut them off.
“I personally like actors to do as much as they can as they are capable, and all the actors on Avengers are,” continues Powell, who adds that the actor-stunt person split was about fifty-fifty on the film. “We have to be very careful when they start jumping off; all it takes is a twist of an ankle and they are out of work and so is everyone else on the film. We let them go as far as we think they can go before we let the doubles do it.”
It’s Powell who makes the final decision; he is the one who cuts off the actor. It’s certainly a bit of pressure, at least when he first started off, but a task he has become more than able to assume.
“They probably have to fire me if they want me to do something I’m not happy with,” he says. “I’ve been doing it for quite a while now, been comfortable with that for a number of years. When you start and you’re standing next to a big star and telling them they can’t do it, that’s not what they want to hear. You have to make those decisions and you have to stand by them. I’m comfortable standing by them.”
Everyone made it safely out of the Avengers, and having enjoyed his experience, Powell would love a chance to enlist again. “Hopefully they do a good job and they ask me again,” he says. “As long as they remember the old stunt man from the Avengers.”