Earth's mightiest reunion
Filming for Avengers: Age Of Ultron was 'just like old friends catching up'
The team is back and what a reunion it was.
Opening here next Thursday, blockbuster sequel Avengers: Age Of Ultron sees the superhero squad known as the Avengers being pressed into service once again to save mankind from its biggest threat yet: Ultron, the evil self-replicating killer synthetic life form, a mainstay villain of the Marvel universe.
With the S.H.I.E.L.D agency being dismantled, Earth's Mightiest Heroes are on their own, squabbling and bickering while trying to foil Ultron's malevolent plans for world annihilation.
US writer-director Joss Whedon, 50, who helmed 2012's The Avengers, said at the Age Of Ultron press conference in California last weekend: "Yeah, we're lovable and, yes, we're messed up. We're funny when you don't expect us to be and we're serious when you don't expect us to be.
"The Avengers are a really dysfunctional team and I liked the idea of seeing them act as a team and how it shows that they shouldn't be a team."
US actor Jeremy Renner, who plays master archer Hawkeye, loved working with Whedon.
The 44-year-old said: "We did one take for most of the entire movie. It's really easy to make him happy.
"It's nice to get a guy with a lot of responsibility and stress to come out of that tent (after watching the take) smiling. It felt great."
But corralling the A-list cast, who have all become good buddies since the first movie, was a challenge.
Renner said: "When there're 10 of us in a scene, it's like wrangling and herding kittens. Poor Joss, I feel sorry for him. But we do have a good time together."
Australian hunk Chris Hemsworth, 31, who reprises his role as Asgardian god Thor, said: "You are just trying not to laugh and mess around. It's like being in high school, with Joss telling us to shut up and focus.
"But we were just old friends catching up since the first movie and we were all excited about this journey."
Paul Bettany, 43, had a particularly good reason to love Whedon.
The English actor who voiced J.A.R.V.I.S., Tony Stark/Iron Man's (Robert Downey Jr) artificial intelligence companion in the Iron Man films, was cast in Age Of Ultron as Vision, a pure-hearted android created by Ultron.
He got the casting call "at a very peculiar time".
"I had just been told by a producer that my career was over. And I went outside and sat down on the pavement with my feet on the road thinking, 'Wow.'
"Then my phone went and it was Joss and I thought karma was so quick."
US actors Downey and James Spader - who plays Ultron, a sleek, shiny, scary monster sporting glowing eyes and a rumbling voice - have been friends for a long time, so it was a kind of homecoming for both.
"He was the first person I saw when I came to Los Angeles and he really took me under his wing," recalled Downey, 50.
Spader, 55, relished this family-friendly project. The father of three said: "Throughout my career, I have never made a film that any of my kids could see until they were older. With this, I thought I could finally do something for my boys."
Then there were the new members to the Avengers family.
For English actor Aaron Taylor-Johnson, 24, who plays Ultron's super-speedy henchman Quicksilver, the first day on set was worrying.
"I was really nervous because I was still trying to figure out and discover the character. The first day is always the tricky one because it's going to be in the movie, it's not a test run.
"It's the first time I've got the wig on and it's kind of fluffy and it hasn't settled yet. I was also trying to figure out the accent.
"So they are nerve-racking things, especially around these guys who've done it four or five times before.
"But they made me feel welcome and comfortable, and lightened the mood."
Robert Downey Jr.
PHOTOS: WALT DISNEY STUDIOS, HFPA, REUTERS, SHAW
"When there're 10 of us in a scene, it's like wrangling and herding kittens. Poor Joss, I feel sorry for him. But we do have a good time together."
- US actor Jeremy Renner, who plays master archer Hawkeye, on director Joss Whedon (above)