Joss Whedon And Kevin Feige Discuss The Design And Introduction Of The Helicarrier

Joss Whedon and Kevin Feige discuss the inclusion of the Helicarrier in The Avengers, revealing why we haven't seen it in previous Marvel Studios movies and more. Production designer James Chinlund and actor Samuel L. Jackson also weigh in with their thoughts.

The Helicarrier was created in Albuquerque studios and the production was based there for 14 weeks. One of the biggest and most iconic sets of the film, the headquarters of S.H.I.E.L.D. is a vital part of The Avengers. "It’s basically an aircraft carrier in the sky," says director Joss Whedon. "Throughout the years, the look of Helicarrier has evolved in the comics, but it was always the idea of this floating fortress. It was part of the bargain in writing the script that it had to be included and I wasn’t about to say no. We had a lot of discussions on figuring out how to make it work, but the streamlined design that our production designer James Chinlund came up with was very sleek and cool, but it also toed the line between fantasy and reality very well. The Helicarrier had to be state of the art and visually stunning because it elevates S.H.I.E.L.D. to something other then a bunch of guys in a cave with banks and banks of computers. A good portion of the movie takes place on the Helicarrier and it’s the only place that makes sense in having all of the Avengers there."

"It’s such a beautiful set to work with and Joss really wanted to explore the architecture of this set as well as the placement with the lighting design," adds cinematographer Seamus McGarvey. "We’ve also tried to give him as much freedom and movement as possible to accommodate all of the cast as they interacted on the Helicarrier. The set was predominantly lit with a lot practical sources. All of the technician areas are accented with lights on the consoles and some architectural accents along the outer edges."

However, after five previous solo movies, Kevin Feige knew that introducing the Helicarrier to audiences would be a big part of The Avengers. "One of the things that was bumping for us early on was the idea that the Helicarrier had been flying around the whole time in the film. If there’s an object the size of an aircraft carrier floating above Manhattan, I think the world would know about it and I think Nick Fury would have acknowledged it in our earlier films. There’s already so much we’re throwing at the audience with the idea of S.H.I.E.L.D., the idea of Loki and Thor in Manhattan, the idea of invading evil forces, so we can’t just say, ‘Oh, and on top of that, this whole time there has been this large ship flying around in the sky keeping track of everything.’ So we decided S.H.I.E.L.D. is a crisis response team and we should see the Helicarrier rise up out of the water in a big moment in the film."

"The bridge of the Helicarrier is one of the most iconic locations in all of the Marvel Universe and James Chinlund did a spectacular job creating it," he continues. "It is one of the largest sets we have ever created on stage because we wanted something that stood apart from anything we had done. We wanted audiences to be able to feel the hustle and bustle of being on a massive ship that is essentially the command center for all of S.H.I.E.L.D. James really infused a unique look and feel to it, which really made it feel original."

Production designer James Chinlund had this to say about his role in bringing the Helicarrier to the big screen. "We spent a lot of time trying to distill the essence of the Helicarrier from the various versions throughout the Marvel Universe. Ultimately the goal was to create a ship that was completely mind-blowing and massive in its scale, but was also believable as a vehicle that could plausibly exist in today’s military. It was a real challenge creating a vehicle that occupied one-quarter mile of airspace and have the audience accept it as a viable piece of military equipment." Actor Samuel L. Jackson was particularly impressed with the design. "It’s a pretty awesome set," exclaims the actor. "To have my own place of power, where I actually control the ship and control everything that happens on it, is a pretty great feeling. It’s spectacular; it’s kind of wonderful. A lot of people are there running around doing stuff all the time, so it gives me a sense of power and the sense of urgency and business that a big ship like that would have, with all the intelligence gathering and capacities there too."

Some of the interior scenes of the Helicarrier were filmed in Wilmington, Ohio, in a massive one million square-foot, state-of-the-art shipping facility. Producer Jeremy Latcham explains what made this the perfect location. We needed a location that was very big and could accommodate large military vehicles, but still felt like it could be inside of a Helicarrier. It also needed to feel high-tech and easily integrated into the production design that we already established on the Helicarrier." Joss Whedon concludes, "I was really thrilled with the look of the set. James did a great job integrating what we needed into the practical location. It was seamless and you really couldn’t tell the difference between what was real and what we built. It also gave the actors a real environment to play within and anytime you can do that, you’re going to get more visceral performances."

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Chris Evans as Steve Rogers/Captain America
Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man
Chris Hemsworth as Thor
Jeremy Renner as Clint Barton/Hawkeye
Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Ramanoff/Black Widow
Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner/Hulk
Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury
Clark Gregg as Agent Coulson
Cobie Smulders as Maria Hill
Tom Hiddleston as Loki

RELEASE DATE: April 26th, 2012. (UK) May 4th, 2012. (US)

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