Assembling "The Avengers" was clearly a Hulk-sized job and the signs of strain were still apparent when Moviefone sat down with director Joss Whedon three weeks before the film's release. While relative newbies to the blockbuster world Chris Hemsworth (Thor) and Tom Hiddleston (Loki) could barely contain their excitement about the film, Whedon seemed to have just gone 10 rounds with one of his superhero characters. He wasn't in a joking mood (our jest about a previous Samuel L. Jackson film fell painfully flat) but his wry sense of humor was still intact.

Still, with the movie getting rave reviews and racking up record-breaking ticket sales overseas, Whedon's hard work has clearly paid off. And a little exhaustion seems a small price to pay for comic book and box office glory.

I can't count the number of times I geeked out watching this movie. Cool.

When you were putting it together, what scene were you most excited to film? Well, unfortunately I can't say because it's a spoiler. It's one of the few things that hasn't been spoiled by the commercials. But .. [makes flip-flopping motion with his hand, which will be clear after you've seen the film.]

Okay, what about the Iron Man versus Thor scene? That wasn't a bad time, although all night in the woods was a bit cold.

That wasn't a set? Oh no, no, we shot all of it in the woods. And Hemsworth didn't have any sleeves.

This is a ridiculously good looking cast. You know, they're not unattractive. And a couple of them seem to know how to act.

Since the previous two Hulk movies weren't well-received, people were a little apprehensive about bringing him back. But after the press screening, people were saying exactly what I was thinking: "Excellent use of the Hulk." Thank you. It was the biggest challenge and the thing I'm proudest of. I love Mark [Ruffalo] so much and he's so good. And the animators came up so hard to try and find his performance and still take it that much further. I think they did a beautiful job.

He got the biggest cheers. The Hulk is a difficult character and he's very easy to get wrong. I think making a Hulk movie would be almost impossibly difficult because he's not a straight-up superhero at all. He's more than one thing. It would require a lot of delicacy to get him from Point A to Point B and then back to Point A. It did in our movie. But the payoffs are so enormous because the Hulk is so pure. He's not big with the self-doubt. When he gets in there he gets in.

Was there one Avengers character you wanted to have in the film that just ended up not fitting? For a while, we had some worries about Scarlett [Johansson]'s schedule, so we started talking about the Wasp and I sort of fell in love with the character. But ultimately it would have been just too much. I mean the movie's too much as it is. [Wry chuckle.]

And you cut it down a little bit, from the three-hour long original cut. Yes, we did. But still, for the sheer bulk of the FX houses, I made too much movie.

Uh oh! So will you be back for more Avengers? No idea. I've just got my head down.

So how hard is it knowing that you have to fit this film into a bigger master plan, like you have to keep Loki alive for the next "Thor" movie. [Echoing the phrase]: "Keep Loki alive." Sometimes it's frustrating, but mostly you know it going in. You know there are going to be certain parameters. So you try to turn them into advantages. And, quite frankly, I like not killing the villain. I didn't do it in "Serenity." I think it's more interesting to see hubris brought down than to just see it killed off.

Loki's a great villain. I think so too. Tom's phenomenally talented and extremely generous.

The scene where you have Samuel L. Jackson and Stellan Skarsgard together in an underground lab... I almost expected a shark to come bite off Stellan's arm for a moment there. You know, nobody else remembered that. Sorry about that. I feel I've let you down.

Well, Sam gives a much more effective motivational speech in your movie. He's good at those. Well, he is. He's a good motivational speaker. Although there was one take, where he may have gone a little far with the motivational and he asked me, "Was Reverend Jackson in the house?" And I was like, "A little bit."

So you had to tweak his performance a bit. Every actor.

What about Downey? How much tweaking went on there? Directing Downey is enormous fun because every take is completely electric. And every take he gets you where you need to be. There's a level of, "I'm going to twist this," "Here's some improv," "Let's work this out together." It's always fluid but he always knows exactly where he's going. It's just exciting.

Almost all these actors have already played these characters for other directors. How hard was it to get everybody on the same page? Everybody knows the reality of the thing and the reality is that I'm directing the movie. And because I'm writing it, they know that everything I'm doing is with a purpose. As soon as they feel that kind of trust, it doesn't really matter. I've already asked them, "What do you feel about your character?" before I put pen to paper. So we already had a pretty organic process by the time we got on set. Nobody was like, "Whoa, hold on."

Let's say the 12-year-old Joss Whedon has just found out he's going to direct an "Avengers movie," which character would he be most excited to work with? Moon Dragon! Or the Beast. Because when I was 12, the Beast was actually one of the Avengers. That's absurd, that's a terrible answer.

And if you had a chance to direct a non-Avengers Marvel movie, what would it be? The rights are tied up elsewhere, but I always felt that a Kitty Pryde movie would be awfully fun. What a shock!

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