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'The Avengers' almost had an R movie rating -- and this is why

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It’s rare that any superhero movie would garner more than a PG-13 rating — but Joss Whedon’s The Avengers was a different story. Marvel head Kevin Feige recently revealed that the 2012 blockbuster came pretty close to having an R rating, though maybe not for the reason you’d expect.

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Best of 2013 (Behind the Scenes): 'Iron Man 3' VFX artists on the Mark 42 suit design

Tony Stark is invincible — at least when it comes to the numbers for Iron Man 3, that is. A whopping $174 million at the box office opening weekend. A staggering $409 million domestically. More than $1.2 billion grossed worldwide.

But the genius/billionaire/playboy/philanthropist character who’s appeared in five Marvel films so far was fallible in his third standalone feature, spending much of his post-Avengers time in his basement, designing prototype after prototype of his Iron Man suits to keep his mind off his near-death experience.

The most eye-popping one he built: The Mark 42 (below), which he can summon remotely in individual pieces to his body via sensors he injected under his skin.

Of course, “Tony Stark” didn’t build the suit at all; instead, 1500 visual effects artists worked on the film, and according to Chris Townsend, the film’s visual effects supervisor, at least half of them worked on the Mark 42.

“We ended up having eight [visual effects] companies throughout the world working on that particular suit,” he tells EW. “Hopefully in the end, for the audience, if we’ve done our jobs right, they’ll think from shot to shot, it looks like it’s all created by Tony Stark.”

EW talked to the minds who spearheaded the suit’s concept — the real Tony Starks, if you will — to get a breakdown of the process, from the initial idea to adding Robert Downey Jr.

Click here for more of EW.com’s Best of 2013 coverage. 
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'Don Jon': How Joseph Gordon-Levitt wooed Scarlett Johansson for his sexy passion project

It was summer of 2011, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt arrived in New Mexico hoping to catch a Black Widow.

The actor had arranged a meeting with Scarlett Johansson, who was in Albuquerque filming The Avengers, and though he played it casual, this encounter would be a critical part of getting his first film as a writer-director off the ground. The two had crossed paths before, but didn’t know each other well. He was hoping she would take a chance on him.

This is how he won her over for the sexy satire Don Jon, which opens today, starring the two of them as a young New Jersey couple who are dazed, confused, and underwhelmed by their own fantasies.

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Joss Whedon on killing an Avenger and why Loki's not in sequel

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Joss Whedon has teased “death, death, death” for The Avengers sequel, but will he really kill off a Marvel icon?

During our extensive interview with the writer-director in this week’s Entertainment Weekly, we asked Whedon if he was planning to axe Thor or Hulk or one of the other heroes, plus asked him why Loki wasn’t going to be in the Age of Ultron sequel.

“I’m always joking about that,” he said when asked about the “death, death, death” quote. “Um… maybe? But I’d have to have a really good reason, a really great sequence for [Marvel executives] to go, ‘We’ll cut off a potential franchise, that’s fine!’ They know, as any good studio does, that without some stakes, some real danger, how involved can we get? We don’t just rule it out across the board, but neither is the mission statement ‘Who can we kill?’ We try to build the story organically and go, ‘How hard can we make it on these people?’”

The Avengers, of course, killed off non-Avenger Agent Coulson, but even making that stick turned out difficult, as now he’s being resurrected for ABC’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

As far as Loki goes, Whedon had high praise for actor Tom Hiddleston, but sounded firm that Ultron would be the only villain in the next film. READ FULL STORY

'Avengers 2' scoop: How Ultron will differ from the comics -- EXCLUSIVE

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Joss Whedon has picked one formidable villain for The Avengers team to battle in the sequel to last year’s mega-grossing blockbuster. But sentient super-bot Ultron also presents a challenge for the film’s screenwriter too: How to make a machine that can do just about anything into an interesting on-screen character.

Created by a scientist in the Marvel comics, Ultron is a self-aware robot who develops a lust for power. He has a laundry list of abilities — super-human strength, speed, stamina, durability, flight, mind control, a coma ray and a genius intellect. For Avengers: Age of Ultron, Whedon reveals to Entertainment Weekly in this week’s cover story that he’s stripping back some of Ultron’s abilities and will find a way to humanize — to some degree — the angry bot.

“I knew right away what I wanted to do with him,” Whedon says. “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.”
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How Chris Hemsworth lost 30 pounds for 'Rush'

Chris Hemsworth was still filming The Avengers when made an audition tape for the role of British Formula One driver James Hunt in Rush. The tape impressed Rush director Ron Howard and the film’s writer-producer Peter Morgan, but the pair had one major concern. As Hemsworth was still filming The Avengers he had the musclebound physique of Thor rather than that of the lithe Hunt. “He had the right look, assuming he could lose the weight,” says Howard. “Chris said, ‘Thor can’t even get in an F1 car — but I will be able to.’”

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'Avengers 2': Tom Hiddleston confirms Loki is out

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Tom Hiddleston’s Loki had some of the best scenes in The Avengers, from bringing an entire crowd in Germany to their knees to getting whipped around like Raggedy Andy by the Hulk. And fans of the mischief-making villain should savor those moments — because Loki won’t be back for the sequel, Avengers: Age of Ultron. “He’s not in it,” Hiddleston confirms to EW. “Here’s the thing: I don’t think there’s anything else Loki could contribute to The Avengers, narratively. Joss gave me so many wonderful things to do in that first film that we’d only be trying to repeat ourselves, and probably less well in the second one.”

The actor, who earned a spot in EW’s New Hollywood issue (on stands now) for bringing Loki to life with such devilish charm, says there are no hard feelings — he truly believes it’s better for the series to move on without him. “When I think of all the things I loved as a child, for example, Hans Gruber wasn’t in Die Hard 2. And in Indiana Jones, by the time he moved from the Lost Ark to the Temple of Doom, there was a whole new bad guy. I think keeping it fresh and new is good for The Avengers even though it’s a shame for me. And let’s face it, there’s seven or eight of them as it is, and Joss is thinking about adding two more, so the screen’s gonna be a busy place. But I had the time of my life on that film. It was the most fun ever.”

But the character isn’t gone for good: READ FULL STORY

'Age of Ultron': 'Avengers 2' title revealed, plus 'Captain America' and 'Thor' sequels storm Comic-Con

Prepare yourself for the Age of Ultron.

Joss Whedon surprised the crowd at the end of Marvel’s Comic-Con 2013 panel to reveal this as the title and main character of Avengers 2.

We’ll get to that. We promise.

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Robert Downey Jr. to return as Iron Man for two 'Avengers' movies -- BREAKING

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Picture a big pile of money in that metal hand.

Robert Downey Jr. has reached a two-picture deal with Marvel Studios to appear in The Avengers 2 and The Avengers 3 — but notably not for a possible Iron Man 4.

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'Much Ado About Nothing': Choosing Joss Whedon's next literary muse

Back in 2011, between shooting and editing The Avengers, Joss Whedon was supposed to take his wife, producer Kai Cole, on a dream Italian vacation to celebrate their 20th anniversary. Sensing an oncoming crisis of faith in filmmaking — perhaps one reason they’ve been able to achieve 20 years of marriage in an industry that seemingly grinds up and spits out unions just for kicks — she had another idea.

She suggested he finally shoot his dream project, a new black-and-white contemporary spin on Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing using the original text with his friends/constant collaborators like Nathan Fillion, Alexis Denisof and Amy Acker and set in his Santa Monica house, during his 12 days off.

“Pretty much making Much Ado was my anniversary present from my wife. It wasn’t so much that she said she’d let me make the movie. She said she was going to make me make the movie,” Whedon explained exclusively to EW at Wednesday night’s Oscars Outdoors screening and Q&A in Hollywood. “We were supposed to go to Venice, [but] she said, ‘I think the best thing for you would be to do Much Ado. We’re ready. We have our micro-budget studio set up. You have a crew. You have a cast. The location is really cheap. And you have a palpable need to reconnect with why you love your job. And Venice isn’t sinking that fast.’ So, yeah, she performed an act of extraordinary sacrifice, and on the first day of shooting, she asked me, ‘Are you happy?’ I smiled so hard that my face broke.” READ FULL STORY

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