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Marvel Avengers Assemble - Cobie Smulders interview

Marvel Avengers Assemble

Interview by Rob Carnevale

COBIE Smulders talks about playing Agent Maria Hill in Marvel Avengers Assemble and why she took her role really seriously by training as much as she could.

She also talks about overcoming her intimidation, the coolness of The Hulk and her own career to this point, including her stint modelling.

Q. Comic books and superheroes are generally considered more of a boys’ thing. Did you ever read them?
Cobie Smulders: Not so much when I was younger. I discovered them later in life as my fiancée is a huge comic book fan… huge! He got me turned on to Why The Last Man and Fables. So, when I was auditioning for this role [Agent Maria Hill] his mind was… well, you can imagine what he is now [laughs]! We need to take that suit home for a long weekend [blushes]. So, now I feel… I’ve been to Comic-Con and there are women there who are dressed up too as their favourite characters. It’s really cool being able to play another woman in this film because I also feel like it’s true of life. There are women in positions of power now. And the great thing about Joss [Whedon, writer-director] is that he doesn’t really think about gender so much. He’s known for writing these strong female characters but I just think he writes great characters and some of them are men and some of them are women.

Q. Jodie Foster, for example, always picks scripts for men…
Cobie Smulders: And changes it, yeah. I’m going to try that next. She-Hulk!

Q. Are there days after exhausting action scenes where you think being a doctor might have been a good profession as well?
Cobie Smulders: Not at all! I went into this film… I did so much training for this film that was not asked of me. I found a trainer in Los Angeles who trained SWAT teams and he just drilled me…. there we go [raises eyes to the ceiling]. I’ve been doing sexual innuendos all day accidentally! So, he did it… it was part of the package so to speak [laughs]. But seriously, I worked very hard and initially when I got the script, the first version didn’t have the car chase sequence in it and it didn’t have Maria… I think it had her at the research facility but I didn’t get to do this awesome sequence. I was so excited… any time I could I would do my own stunt and I’d do it as many times as they wanted. It was something that I really wanted to take on. I think Sam [L Jackson], at some point, was really annoyed with me. I remember on-set, too, I was like: “Why does he get to shoot three times and I get one?” And he was like: “Fine, you can take one of my shots. We’ll each do two.” I loved it.

Q. Had you ever shot a weapon before?
Cobie Smulders: No, this is why I hired this SWAT guy. I’d used guns on-set before… on How I Met Your Mother the character I play, Robin Scherbatsky, is a gun enthusiast but every time I’ve done it she would shoot cowboy style or be pulling it out of her purse… there was always a gag behind it. I’d never shot a real gun and we went to the shooting range, so I got about as comfortable as I could get. I feel that after the experience I left more with… I respect guns a lot more. I see them as what they are as opposed to a prop, which I think I saw them as before.

Q. How was coming to the set on that first day and seeing all these A-list actors before you? Were you intimidated at all?
Cobie Smulders: Intimidated is the right word, I think. The great thing about how it worked out schedule-wise was that a lot of my stuff was first and a lot of my stuff was just me and Clark [Gregg] and Sam… I think Chris Evans came in for a little bit. So, it was all of the establishing of the heli-carrier. So, I was even intimidated walking around that set because it was huge! I mean it was the size of a sound stage. Everywhere you looked, you were on it. It felt like you were on a ship. There were hundreds of extras and I at least got two or three days of just me at the computer screen going: “OK, this is my job. I fly this thing, so let’s get comfortable with that.” And then the superheroes came on and when they did it was, again, very intimidating. But everyone was so welcoming, especially to me… everyone made sure I was comfortable because I was really the newbie. So, that was very nice.

Marvel Avengers Assemble

Q. Did you ever collect anything?
Cobie Smulders: I collect old cameras… some that work, some that don’t. I love photography. So, I just put them on a shelf.

Q. How much is improvised and how much stays on script when you’re filming?
Cobie Smulders: I think Robert [Downey Jr] improvises a lot but Joss’ script is so good that it’s hard for me to even pinpoint those moments. But I think Robert has been doing Iron Man for so long that he has a certain way that he talks. So, he’d either worked with Joss [on it] beforehand or came up with it on the day.

Q. When you were shooting some of the effects heavy sequences could you imagine what the end result would be?
Cobie Smulders: You can imagine or try to visualise what it’ll be. Like I said, a lot of the sets that I worked on, whether it’s the heli-carrier or the car chase sequence which happened in these mushroom tunnels that were outside of Pittsburgh… there were 300 miles of underground tunnel! We used a NASA facility, which tests the effects of zero gravity. So, we were on these great locations and I was lucky enough to have sort of a more tangibility to my sets. But when I watch the film that last 40 minutes I just guessed what that would be and it was really cool to see how that came together… not only, the alien race, which I thought was really well done in terms of looking more reptilian than I thought they were going to be, and then seeing how they linked the fighting sequences between all the superheroes. You got to see them fight together within this huge city, you know… I tried to think about what that would look like but it turned out so much better than I imagined. And The Hulk… I mean how great is The Hulk? Not only is he terrifying but he’s also so funny and kind of likeable. I feel like that’s such a great combination. It’s the first time you see him working with a team and the technology is just so great now to enable you to see him like that.

Q. You were also a model. Did you do that to earn money while you got started as an actress?
Cobie Smulders: Yeah, I was acting at the same time but while I was modelling I was able to travel for free to a lot of places and I was young! So, I was able to live in Italy and Paris and New York and had a great couple of years. All the while acting was my passion but I was attempting modelling to make money to go to acting school. I actually wanted to study marine biology but I moved back to Vancouver and really started pursuing acting.

Q. Did you do the really big shows and the catwalks?
Cobie Smulders: No, I was too short! 5ft 8ins.

Q. Will you be on board for the next one?
Cobie Smulders: I’ll be around until they tell me to leave!

Read our review of Marvel Avengers Assemble

Read our interview with Chris Hemsworth