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Blockbuster Filmed in Duke City

Scarlett Johansson, left, as Black Widow, and Jeremy Renner, as Hawkeye, are shown in a scene from “The Avengers.” The green screen work was done at Albuquerque Studios. (Courtesy of Marvel Studios/Zade Rosenthal)
Scarlett Johansson, left, as Black Widow, and Jeremy Renner, as Hawkeye, are shown in a scene from “The Avengers.” The green screen work was done at Albuquerque Studios. (Courtesy of Marvel Studios/Zade Rosenthal)
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Captain America is ready. So is Iron Man. Now, don’t forget about Thor, The Hulk, Hawkeye and Black Widow. And, for fun, let’s sprinkle in some aliens as the antagonists.

What we have is a recipe that is so hot, it could only be “The Avengers.”

The movie is currently Moviemeter’s No. 1 most-anticipated movie this year and is expected to cross the $500 million mark worldwide by Monday.

If you go
Marvel’s “The Avengers” opens nationwide at midnight Thursday

Albuquerque played a big role in the making of Marvel Studios’ superhero-packed film; the Duke City was the home base for the film and superstars from April until August last year. While many scenes were shot in front of the green screen at Albuquerque Studios, scenes were also shot at the Albuquerque International Sunport, Atrisco Heritage Academy High School and the rail yard in Downtown Albuquerque.

For example, the rail yard was transformed to look like a Manhattan street that gets demolished. Cars were wheeled around on forklifts amid guys in alien motion-capture suits. (The footage of the suits would later be used to infuse computer generated characters, which would be used in the attack on Captain America, according to director Joss Whedon.)

“I like to shoot very fast,” Whedon said. “It was important for us to get it all done. As soon as we were done with Captain America, we brought in Black Widow. After that, Hulk was on deck.”

That would be Chris Evans as Captain America, Scarlett Johansson as the Black Widow and Mark Ruffalo as the Hulk. Add to the list of superstars Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man, Chris Hemsworth as Thor and Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye.

Whedon said the cast grew tight while working in Albuquerque, because the actors didn’t have any ties to New Mexico.

“We were forced to go out and see the city together,” he said. “We’d go out to eat and then go dancing at the clubs. Albuquerque is a charming place that has a lot to offer.”

Many of the cast members agreed that Downey Jr. was the leader of the group and united them on set.

“I offered rides back and forth from Albuquerque on my private jet,” Downey Jr. quipped.

He said his most memorable moment on set was when the entire “Avengers” cast of characters were assembled on a bridge, which was created and set in the rail yard.

“I think it was the time that we all saw each other and realized that we were probably likely to continue shooting the movie,” he said. “And (we) have to make good on this vision of (producer) Kevin Feige’s from as far back as I can remember.”

Hemsworth agreed with him.

“I believe that was our first day on set, too, with the whole ensemble, which was a pretty exciting and nerve-wracking experience,” he said. “But it was just amazing.”

The cast came together again last month during a teleconference in Beverly Hills, Calif., with members of the press, including the Journal.

Getting to the big screen

Producer Kevin Feige said that he’s been wanting to make “The Avengers” all his life and that it took a lot of hard work to intertwine all of the characters’ stories.

“I’ve been a nerd my whole life and wanted to see this movie made for my whole life,” Feige said. “When (Iron Man) movie succeeded is when we realized, wait a minute, we actually have the opportunity to do it. And the only challenge was to try to make all the movies live on their own, even if we weren’t leading towards an ‘Avengers’ movie.”

After filming in Albuquerque, the cast and crews moved to Cleveland, Wilmington and Sandusky, Ohio; Worthington, Pa., then New York City.

“We had a great experience in New Mexico shooting on ‘Thor’ (in 2010), and Albuquerque Studios is a world-class facility that was brand-new and could accommodate all of the very large builds we needed to do as well as production support all in one self-contained facility,” said Patricia Whitcher, executive producer.

“With so many moving parts in a production like this, it really benefited everyone to have the ability to set up shop and shoot in one location for three months before going on the road for the last portion of the shooting schedule.”

But Whedon said there was one challenge to filming in Albuquerque he and his superheroes hadn’t counted on – the smoke that engulfed the area during the massive Wallow Fire in Arizona.
— This article appeared on page A1 of the Albuquerque Journal

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