'Avengers: Age of Ultron': James Spader to play maniacal robot in Marvel sequel

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Image Credit: Gregg DeGuire/WireImage; Marvel

Avengers: Age of Ultron has its psycho robot.

James Spader has signed on to play the villain in writer-director Joss Whedon’s upcoming superhero sequel, Marvel announced today.

The film is set to open May 1, 2015.

Marvel’s announcement didn’t specify whether the three-time Emmy winner Spader (Boston Legal, The Practice) will perform motion-capture to play the mechanical being (as Mark Ruffalo does for his scenes as The Hulk), or simply provide the character’s voice.

Smart money says Spader’s commitment won’t be too intense. He’s starring in the NBC series The Blacklist this Fall, as an ex-government fugitive now helping the FBI track down the world’s most wanted criminals. That probably won’t give him a lot of time to go galavanting in a robot suit.

Whedon recently told EW’s James Hibberd about his plans for the character, an artificial intelligence with a heavy-duty god-complex, overwhelmed with rage toward his creators and longing to overtake the planet with his own spawn.

Think of him as a droid with one hell of a set of daddy issues. “As a character I love [Ultron],” Whedon says, “because he’s so pissed off.”

“I knew right away what I wanted to do with him,” Whedon added. “He’s always trying to destroy the Avengers, goddamn it, he’s got a bee in his bonnet. He’s not a happy guy, which means he’s an interesting guy. He’s got pain. And the way that manifests is not going to be standard robot stuff. So we’ll take away some of those powers because at some point everybody becomes magic, and I already have someone [a new character, Scarlet Witch] who’s a witch.”

In Marvel comics lore, Ultron is the creation of scientist Hank Pym, a.k.a. Ant-Man, a hero who has a suit that allows him to shrink to tiny proportions and a transmitter that can manipulate insects to do his bidding. Pym is a genius R&D guy, and Ultron is one of his greatest creations. But since the machine is designed to be self-aware and self-teaching, it quickly develops a narcissistic quirk in its programing that sends it off the rails into murder and mayhem.

Ultron begins rebuilding himself into more and more powerful iterations and seeks to create artificial life on his own in a twisted desire to become a parent — especially important since he feels betrayed by his own builder, Pym, when he doesn’t support his programming’s new murderous bent.

But Ant-Man, a film being co-written and directed by The World’s End filmmaker Edgar Wright, won’t be out until after the Avengers sequel. So there is a question about whether Ultron’s origin story will be changed, or if Pym will show up a little early. (Whedon has told Annalee Newitz of io9.com that he won’t.)

In footage shown at Comic-Con in July to announce the title and reveal Ultron as the new villain, it begins with a close-up of what appears to be Iron Man’s mask. We hear various lines from the assorted Avengers that were spoken in previous Marvel movies. As they bicker, the Iron Man helmet revolves and is pulverized by an unseen force.

At the end, we see the title reveal — and Iron Man’s mask has become Ultron’s grinning, fang-like metallic skull.

That has led to a lot of speculation that Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark, no slouch in the Research & Development field for new technology, may be rewritten as the creator of Ultron, whose mission is to eradicate organic life from Earth and replace it with his own mechanical offspring.

Right now, we can only guess. But one thing is for certain — this pairing of ’80s Brat Packers Downey Jr. and Spader is the most unlikely Less Than Zero reunion anyone could have imagined.

Maybe Ultron just wants Stark to give him his 50K?

UPDATE: Even Whedon has gotten in on the action, tweeting this out to his followers…

All these old Spader & Spader/Downey references and NO LOVE FOR “TUFF TURF”?!?!?! Step up your game, people! #madthrilledbtw

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