Comic book movie casting announcements have become big game sport amongst the studios, with a tense rivalry brewing between Marvel Studios and DC Comics that mirrors their old print days in the 60s, 70s and 80s. The biggest news of the year was dropped last week, when Warner Bros. and DC whispered that Ben Affleck is going to be Batman in their highly anticipated untitled Man of Steel 2 sequel, which continues to be known in fanboy circles as Batman Vs. Superman. They quietly slipped a press release into the wild at exactly 6:15 pm, after most everyone had gone home for the night. Within in minutes, it blew up into a firestorm of controversy.
Warner Bros. and DC's announcement was strategically placed later in the evening so that word of mouth could evolve and morph into a mushroom cloud of speculation and petitions. It was also released on that particular Thursday night in somewhat of a rush, to counter and sink the day's previous announcement that Guardians of the Galaxy was in talks with Bradley Cooper for Rocket Raccoon. Marvel had also confirmed through various sources that Elizabeth Olsen was going to be their Scarlet Witch in The Avengers: Age of Ultron that same morning. Neither has officially signed yet, and their big moment was pretty much swept to the side for the time being.
We're not positive, but we don't think we've ever seen another casting announcement that continues to generate so much interest heading into its second week out of the gate. But the Ben Affleck memes are still humming strong, and people just don't want to let it go. So, exactly seven days after the fact, again on a Thursday, Marvel has carefully placed their counter attack with the news that James Spader is their titular villain in the highly anticipated The Avengers: Age of Ultron, a movie that will be released alongside Batman Vs. Superman in the summer of 2015.
This comes exactly one day after a rumor story placed its bets on Paul Bettany as Ultron, claiming that the killer robot would be a creation of Tony Stark. A JARVIS gone mad, if you will. And that storyline still makes sense. But it's not what we're getting. We're getting James Spader! This guy throws rabid dogs at people. In more than one movie. Of course he's our Ultron.
It's actually pretty cool news. And if you read any of the comments that came in this morning, people are pretty stoked about the decision. Which doesn't make for a story that will last two weeks. It's not hot, on fire. It's not full of controversy. James Spader was a cocky little shit back in the 80s, one of our all-time favorite villains! And he's gone onto have a storied career, becoming an enigma of awesomeness that you can't really complain about, pin down, or petition against. Joss Whedon is a smart dude. He knows what he is doing. He wants something that is good and strong, and will stand the test of time. If he wanted two weeks of controversial hate shouts sprinkled about the atmosphere, he would have cast Matt Damon or Bobcat Goldthwait and called it a day. But he didn't do that. He made the smart choice. The right choice. The only choice.
What the press release failed to mention is James Spader's long personal and professional relationship with Robert Downey Jr. They were drug running buddies back in the day, and they made two 80s classics that continue to stand the test of time. They have a powerful dynamic that is electrifying to watch. In 1987, they made a cult classic ode to their cocaine habits with Less Than Zero, and if anyone can stand toe-to-toe with Tony Stark, it's surely James 'Mother Fucker, I'll throw a Pitbull at your Face' Spader. That relationship must have been floating at the back of Joss Whedon's mind ever since he got involved with Marvel. Surely.
Thing is, we should have all seen it coming. As their first film together, the 1985 cult classic Tuff Turf clearly predicts and prophesizes this reunion exactly 30 years to the date that The Avengers: Age of Ultron hits theaters. Yes, that's right. In the film, both James Spader and Robert Downey Jr. stand against a wall gleefully spray-painted with the logo 'The New Avengers!' in what will now be a glaring distraction anytime someone goes back to watch the movie.
See that? Tuff Turf made this same casting announcement way back in the day, when VHS was the only way to fly.
Tuff Turf is really James Spader's movie. And it happens to be the first featured role for Robert Downey Jr., who plays Spader's best friend. At the time, it was odd to see both of them playing the 'hero', as they would mostly be cast as villains throughout this portion of their career, especially James. He literally made a career out of it (did we mention he likes to throw vicious hounds into the faces of his enemies?). It makes for an interesting movie, too, because both actors are pretty edgy. And they don't play good kids. They are almost as bad as the high school jerks they have to content with. Tuff Turf sets James Spader's Morgan Hiller up as a vigilante of sorts. He doesn't really care about the other people in school. He just wants what's best for himself. Its strange that his character and Robert are even friends, here. Which makes it even more of a fascinating watch.
So, what is this? A conspiracy? Is this how Robert Downey Jr. decided to thank his friend on their 30th anniversary of working together for the first time, which gave Robert Downey Jr. his first real shot at being a movie star? Or was Joss Whedon cruising through his Netflix cue, watching Robert Downey Jr. movies for inspiration, when he saw this graffiti and thought, 'Holy hazelnuts! The answer has been right there in front of me the whole time!'
We like to think the government had a hand in this. Everything's subliminal. Isn't it? We live in a Matrix, and here's your proof. Go Team Spader! (And please, Joss Whedon, can you have them reenact this scene in one of your photo shoots for the movie?)