The cliffhanger of episode 7 was one of the best WTF moments of What if…? season 1, because the introduction of an Infinity Stone-wielding Ultron was quite unexpected. During the week before the next episode, Marvel fans wondered if Paul Bettany could voice this variant of Ultron that inhabited Vision’s body, according to the robot’s original plan in Avengers: Age of Ultron. Come episode 8, however, and we found out Ross Marquand was playing the character instead.
Marquand, who also portrayed Red Skull in Avengers: Infinity War and End of Game and expressed it again in What if…? episode 1, reprized the role of James Spader, originally the role in the second Avengers movie. Speaking to Entertainment Weekly, AC showrunner Bradley explained the logic behind not inviting Bettany to play Infinity Ultron and involving Marquand instead.
First of all, I love Ross Marquand, ”Bradley began. “He’s the nicest guy. Last summer he was at my house drinking wine and my cat went out and me, him and a few friends literally wandered the streets looking for my cat so Ross Marquand always has a helping hand. my part. We wanted Ultron to be as terrifying as possible, because he’s terrifying, and Paul Bettany is the most charming man in the world. He’s so darling. We felt that if Paul Bettany using Vision’s voice were to voice Ultron, it would be too disconnected, as we are asking the audience to believe that this is Ultron in Vision’s body and not Vision. So asking Ross to step in and give an incredibly creepy performance helped us make that clear to audiences, especially people who aren’t so familiar with it. Age of Ultron , Vision, and all that canon as we are.
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Director Bryan Andrews was also involved in the conversation, and he agreed with Bradley, saying that the overhaul of Ultron instead of Bettany “just seemed logical.” Andrews then pointed out that Ultron’s sound as Vision would not have made sense as Vision derives its voice from the AI JARVIS and not from its Vibranium form. In his swollen body, Ultron “could probably choose to sound whatever he wants,” Andrew added.
Episode 9 ended with Infinity Ultron seemingly wiped out by Zola’s AI, though its form was overtaken by the HYDRA scientist and stuck in a pocket dimension with Killmonger. It’s not impossible for the villain to return in the next season of What if…?, then, or maybe even in live-action. And seeing as he has already reprized Johann Schmidt from Hugo Weaving, Marquand probably has a good chance of retaining the role as well.
The first full season of What if…? is available to stream on Disney Plus now.