As you are aware, "Marvel's The Avengers," a superhero team-up movie involving Marvel comic book characters, hits theaters this weekend. What you might not be aware of is that a movie called "The Avengers" was released back in 1998.
That "Avengers," based on the popular television show, was about two British government agents -- played by Uma Thurman and Ralph Fiennes -- who have to stop Sean Connery from destroying Earth with some sort of weather-changing gizmo. As you might have expected after reading that last sentence, 1998's "The Avengers" was box-office bomb.
With both "Avengers" films fresh in your mind, now meet Stephen Morahan, a man who worked on the two different movies.
Morahan is in the art department -- and is currently working on the design of the ark in Darren Aronofsky's "Noah" -- and, yes, is one of the very few, if only, similarities between 1998's "The Avengers" and 2012's "The Avengers." Here, he speaks about his duties on both films and his strange distinction of working on two films with the same title, which Morahan admits looks odd on a resume.
It was hard to find a connection between the two "Avengers" movies, but you seem to be it.
Well, they both have heroes.
When you got this job, did you think, Huh, I've already worked on a movie with that title?
Well, yeah, that came to mind. And it looks a bit odd on your resume. So, I made this before, now it's something completely different. And when you talk about it, people don't even know about the other film. it didn't do very well. I mean, that's another big difference, too. The original "Avengers" was a big flop. It bombed.
What was your role on the 1998 version of "The Avengers"?
I was a draughtsman. Which, here in the U.S., is a set designer. Basically construction drawings of the set -- the sets are built from those drawings. It was only my third movie and I was still a little green. Learning. It was a nice movie to work on. It was a nice set -- a nicely designed movie. I worked on a Turkish bath in the movie -- a white marble set. And there were two huge cutout backings for the domes at Greenwich, I think they were. So I designed the frames that support it -- they were 70-feet high.
And what was your role on the 2012 version of "The Avengers"?
I was an assistant art director on this one. They were originally going to make it in New York in its entirety -- and that's partly why I was on the job to begin with. I went out to L.A. for seven weeks for prepping and they were supposed to then move to New York. And I came back to start setting up New York. After a week or two, they made the decision to make it in Albuquerque: that well-known movie-making city. I can think of a number of reasons: I'm sure money was probably the main one. New York is not always going to be the cheapest place to make a movie. So, I ended up working remotely and working on one of the major details of the largest set.
Which detail was that?
It was on the aircraft carrier -- it was a huge window and it's like half of the set. it was this huge observational window, like a porthole that Nick Fury can stand on. I drew up that window, that was the thing that I worked on. It was quite challenging. I never saw it finished, so I like to think it looked very complicated. Another difference for me working on the projects was that on the first "Avengers" I drew set drawings by hand with a pencil. At the end of the project I was asked to draw the "end set" -- the interior of the bad guy's weather machine known as "the silo" in a 3D computer model so the director could plan his shots. That was the very first time I used a Computer Aided Drafting for a film and from then on, for me, it took over from hand drawing. For the more recent "Avengers," I solely used CAD to generate the 3D model and construction drawings for the window of the bridge set.
Are you comfortable with your responsibility of bringing these two movies together?
My responsibility? [Laughs] Well, there's nothing apart from the title and me.
Which movie did you enjoy working on more?
It's hard to say. Back in 1997, when I was a lot younger, it was all an amazing experience. But I also enjoy the complex challenges, which the new "Avengers" was. I found that each film I go on seems to be more complex -- to push the boundaries. It can be odd to start with your conceptions, then, every time, they seem to push it. And I enjoy those challenges. But, probably the first one because I was more involved in the team and such. I was surprised when the first one bombed, because it was OK. It had its problems, but it looked good.
At least now when someone looks at your resume and asks, "Which 'Avengers' are we talking about?'," you can say, "Both."
That's if anyone knows about the first one. I don't know how true these figures were, but in front of a test audience, the original "Avengers" scored a 13 out of 100. So, 13 out of 100 said, "It was OK," or whatever.
Mike Ryan is senior entertainment writer for The Huffington Post. He has written for Wired Magazine, VanityFair.com and GQ.com. He likes Star Wars a lot. You can contact Mike Ryan directly on Twitter.
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