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The Reason Behind Hawkeye’s Big Secret In “Avengers: Age Of Ultron”

Writer-director Joss Whedon tells BuzzFeed News why he gave Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner) a surprising backstory that is already making some fans upset. Warning: SPOILERS AHEAD!

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Warning: The following story contains MAJOR SPOILERS for Avengers: Age of Ultron.

Jeremy Renner in Avengers: Age of Ultron.
Jay Maidment / Marvel

Jeremy Renner in Avengers: Age of Ultron.

One of the perils of making a Marvel Studios movie is that the comic book source material is so vast and complicated that any major creative choice has the potential to majorly upset fans. With Avengers: Age of Ultron, writer-director Joss Whedon runs that risk many times over, including making Tony Stark the creator of the titular villainous robot instead of Hank Pym, altering the origins of new characters Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch, and the Vision, and fracturing the roster of the Avengers itself.

But in an interview with BuzzFeed News in March, while Whedon was still finishing Age of Ultron, there was one major creative choice the filmmaker was particularly curious to see fans' reaction to: giving Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) a pregnant civilian wife, played by Linda Cardellini (Mad Men, ER, Freaks and Geeks), and two young kids, who live on a farm far away from the Avengers' world-saving derring-do.

"He's normcore," Whedon said with a huge grin. "Hawkeye's dark secret being that he doesn't have a dark secret is among my favorite things we've ever done."

Renner in Avengers: Age of Ultron.
Jay Maidment / Marvel

Renner in Avengers: Age of Ultron.

Making Hawkeye just a normal family man — which is revealed when he takes his Avengers compatriots to his farm after a disastrous confrontation with Ultron — provided Whedon with a two-in-one storytelling opportunity: He got to redeem and enrich the character after making him Loki's mind-controlled lackey in 2012's The Avengers, and he got to use Hawkeye's everyman quality to underline why Ultron's hatred of the Avengers may not be entirely unfounded.

"Hawkeye's weird distance — his 'dark side' — is, to me, ultimately the thing that ends up defining who they all are," Whedon said. "You realize he has distance from these guys because everything that Ultron hates about them, everything that's wrong with them, everything that they can be pulled apart for — their distance from humanity, their grandeur, their elitism — he doesn't have any of that. He has a wife and kids."

Whedon also liked the idea of bringing the world's mightiest superheroes to a humble home on a Midwestern farm. "The middle of the last movie, they were on the helicarrier and everything went very sci-fi," he said. "Now, it couldn't be further from that, and it was very deliberate. This movie is all about bringing them back down to earth."

Some Marvel die-hards, however, may want to cut Whedon down to size a bit. At one point in the comics, Hawkeye, aka Clint Barton, had a relationship with Black Widow, aka Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson), a connection fans thought was on the horizon in Marvel Cinematic Universe given how close the two were in The Avengers. To get a sense of how fans have been 'shipping the two characters, just search "Clintasha" on Tumblr.

And Whedon clearly has, because he's known a long time that Clintasha was never going to happen, something fans realized after Age of Ultron trailers began hinting at the romance between Natasha and Mark Ruffalo's Bruce Banner. "Like, Bruce and Natasha getting snuggly?!" Whedon said with a laugh. "I'll be curious to see how people react, if they're cranky because it's not Clintasha. Or if they feel about it the way I feel, which is like, Oh my god. This is awesome."