Vision, Paul bettany, Avengers Age of Ultron, photo

A new Vision for Paul Bettany in Age of Ultron

Paul Bettany couldn't hear anything.

When the 43-year-old actor initially donned a noggin-encasing headpiece to portray the mysterious Vision in Avengers: Age of Ultron, in theaters Friday, Bettany could barely make out what anyone was saying around him. That isolation ended up fueling his imposing performance in the follow-up to the 2012 smash that brought together Marvel's mightiest heroes.

"I would go to a place of real Zen, where I meditated on the line of thousands and thousands of actors that would love to be in my position in an uncomfortable suit," said Bettany in a recent interview at Disney Studios. "However, I would be lying to say it didn't take a great deal of (expletive) effort not to rip it off. They ended up drilling holes in it because I literally couldn't hear anything."

After five years of voicing Tony Stark's soothing operating system sidekick J.A.R.V.I.S. in the previous Avengers and Iron Man films, Bettany's role as the purple-skinned Vision marks the first time in front of the cameras in a Marvel film for the lanky British actor best known for starring in such films as Wimbeldon, The Da Vinci Code, and Priest.

"The first day I walked on set, Robert (Downey Jr.) made a lovely speech welcoming me," said Bettany. "Everybody was completely convivial and pleasant. They were making jokes - or at least I think they were making jokes because I couldn't hear a (expletive) thing. It's actually a really nice atmosphere on those sets. Often, it's not like that."

Bettany is portraying perhaps the best-kept secret of the second Avengers outing. In the comics, the commanding Vision is a type of android dubbed a "synthzoid" by Ultron, the nefarious robot that created him. The cinematic rendition is similarly fashioned by Ultron (played by James Spader as an evil artificial intelligence program).

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However, this Vision might not be what he seems.

"He's an android, technically, but I would say he's what's next," said writer-director Joss Whedon. "He's more evolved than the rest of us, which may prove to be a good thing or not. To me, this Vision feels like what it meant to me to read him as a kid. He has that calm distance but is also strangely emotional. Paul is just soooo phenomenal as him."

It's a new chapter that's been years in the making for Bettany.

"I knew that I was going to be the Vision for three years because there was a bit of business to do," said Bettany. "The contract for voiceover work wasn't the same, so I knew that for a long time and had to keep it secret, which I did really well. I had to travel everywhere on set in a (expletive) bag because there were so many cameras everywhere."

Transforming into Vision was a three-and-a-half-hour-long process each day for Bettany that involved a skintight suit, lots of makeup, a bit of computer-generated flair and that metallic headpiece. Bettany noted "the solution is often in the problem itself," and that the oppressive costume provided a sense of calm to his interpretation of the Vision.

"I never thought I was going to play someone being born, obviously, because I'm 43 years old," said Bettany. "It's actually a really interesting opportunity and peculiarly edifying to imagine yourself as a total innocent without any moral compass experiencing the world as it hits you, and at the same time be omnipotent and extraordinarily powerful. "

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The character, who is romantically involved with Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) in the comics, is expected to play a part in the upcoming Avengers sequels: Infinity War - Part I in 2018 and Infinity War - Part II in 2019. Bettany acknowledged he doesn't totally know Marvel's grand vision for Vision - and he doesn't want to hear it just yet, either.

-The Associated Press/Photo: Getty Images