Clark Gregg does not want to you to read this interview.
Let me clarify: Gregg, who plays Agent Phil Coulson in "Marvel's The Avengers," does not want you to read this interview if you haven't seen the movie yet. So, if you haven't, stop now.
Still here? Well, ahead, Gregg speaks in detail about a heroic act that Agent Coulson performs, which brings the Avengers together. If you've seen "The Avengers," you know the scene to which I'm referring; if you haven't seen "The Avengers," you don't -- in which case, you should stop reading right now. You wouldn't want to make the man who plays Agent Coulson angry, would you?
I'm barely exaggerating. Over the past couple of weeks, I've had several conversations with Gregg, and he has made it abundantly clear just how much this character means to him. He also doesn't want to spoil the moviegoing experience for you. In fact, after this interview ended, Gregg teased me, "If you don't put ample spoiler warnings before this, then you're a dick." We both laughed. Then we both stopped laughing, because it's true.
So here, for the first time, Clark Gregg discusses how he first learned of Agent Phil Coulson's fate and what was going through his head when he filmed that scene.
When did you first find out about Coulson's fate?
When did I first hear he was "in jeopardy"? I got a call from Kevin Feige at Marvel -- and he's someone I've really come to love. He's a great guy. And he's always really been not just, "We like what Coulson's doing and we're going to keep using that," but he's also been really cool about, "The fans like this, let's try to find a way to give the fans what they want." As someone who loves these comics, I love that about Marvel. To have the fans embrace Coulson -- it's as cool as anything I've ever been involved in. I'm not here to just do stuff that 10 people see. I like that -- I've done plenty of movies like that -- but I really like the fact that this lands in such a big market. And the way it is every step of the way with this, they don't tell anybody anything.
Weren't you told at one point that Coulson would make it through alive? I read interviews in which you said that.
Well, yeah, I've been very cagey. But, also, you don't know. You don't know what's going to happen and I don't know. I kept saying, in "Iron Man 2," on the day they gave me a line to tell Tony Stark, "I'm sorry, I have to go to New Mexico." I did it a couple of times and I said, "I don't feel like I'm really imbuing this with truth, because why I am I going to New Mexico?" And I was told, "Has nobody talked to you? You're in 'Thor'! And I was doing the 'Thor' panel and Joss Whedon said, "You're in 'The Avengers'! You have a big part!"
So, finally, I get this call saying, "Listen, you really are in 'The Avengers' and you have a really great role." And I was like, "That's amazing, Kevin, thank you so much." He says, "Yeah, we're sending the script and we want to shoot some short films with Agent Coulson. We really want to expand Agent Coulson."
I said, "This is fantastic. Kevin, I'm hearing a 'but' in your voice. I hear a 'but.'" He goes, "No, you bring the Avengers together." [Laughs] I was like, "Yeah?" He responds, "What happens to you brings the Avengers together." I said, "Kevin?" He says, "Look, I'm not going to say another word. Just read the script."
And I read the script, and I thought it was just a remarkable script. It's hysterically funny and it's also, somehow, without seeming like, "Oh, here's where they try to make it be about something," it's about something! And if you love New York or live in New York at all, yet again, another species who wants to take on America via New York ... you can't watch buildings get knocked down and -- sorry -- not have it mean something a little bit more than it would. You know, it's a pop movie. It's fun. But it felt fantastic to me the way he chose to take the character that had been there and had been involved with a couple of other writers and directors.
Did you get any say on that final scene?
I didn't have, or need, a bit of say. He nailed the script and it was beyond my wildest dreams of what the next step would be for Coulson. I freaked Joss out. I called him up right away and, from his tone of voice, I realized that he thought I was calling to yell at him. But I was calling to tell him, "It's one of the best scripts I've ever read."
When I watched the scene, I did have visions of Joey Tribbiani on "Friends" not wanting to step into the elevator shaft when "Days Of Our Lives" killed off Dr. Drake Ramoray.
I'm not going to lie. I would love to see the gag reel someday, because there were definitely some times when I turned to the camera and was like, "Are you sure there are no new pages?! I mean, have you heard the term, 'Glue of the Marvel universe'? Have you heard this term?" But, you know, I just love the way it went down. I love every part of it. I've loved being the guy and I loved what they've done with it. I've got no regrets.
Was that scene the last scene that you filmed?
That's a really good question. That was the last scene I did. No, maybe I had one other. But, then, I had to re-shoot a scene. You know, it's not much of a scene: It was a little scene on the truck. It's because one of Joss' kids saw an early cut of the movie and said about Nick Fury on the helicopter, "Why is he leaving his friend?" And they realized that they never showed Coulson escape. "Where's that man's friend?" So they shot that, but it was weird for me because, suddenly, I was ... You know, it was very emotional to me. It was very emotional to me the days that we were shooting the big showdown. Then I was back, putting the suit on again. it was a little bit like breaking up with somebody, then you miss your plane and you have to go back and spend the night. You know, it kind of felt awkward.
If there's ever a Nick Fury movie, does this prevent any return of the character? For example, if a Fury movie is set before "The Avengers"?
I don't know. It's above my pay grade. They don't tell me too much. And I'm not being deliberately enigmatic -- I don't know.
So there's a small chance we'll see Coulson again?
I think it's over. You know, it is the comic book world, so, you never know.
Mike Ryan is senior entertainment writer for The Huffington Post. You can contact him directly on Twitter.
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