Episode 7’s cliffhanger was one of the best WTF moments of What If…? season 1, as the introduction of an Infinity Stone-wielding Ultron was pretty unexpected. During the week’s wait for the next episode, Marvel fans wondered if Paul Bettany might voice this Ultron variant who was inhabiting Vision’s body, as per the robot’s original plan in Avengers: Age of Ultron. Come episode 8, however, and we discovered that Ross Marquand was playing the character instead.
Marquand, who also portrayed Red Skull in Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame and voiced him again in What If…? episode 1, took over the role from James Spader, who originated the part in the second Avengers movie. While speaking to Entertainment Weekly, showrunner A.C. Bradley explained the logic behind not inviting Bettany to play Infinity Ultron and getting Marquand on board 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 got out and me, him, and a few friends literally wandered the streets looking for my cat, so Ross Marquand always gets a thumbs up from me. We wanted Ultron to be as terrifying as possible, because he’s terrifying, and Paul Bettany is the loveliest man on earth. He is such a sweetheart. We felt that, if Paul Bettany using Vision’s voice voiced Ultron, it would be too much of a disconnect, because we’re asking the audience to believe that this is Ultron in Vision’s body and not Vision. So by having Ross step in and give an incredibly chilling performance helped us make that clear to the audience, especially people who aren’t as familiar with Age of Ultron , Vision, and that whole canon as we are.”
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Director Bryan Andrews was also involved in the conversation and he agreed with Bradley, arguing that recasting Ultron instead of Bettany “just seemed to make sense.” Andrews then made the very good point that having Ultron sound like Vision wouldn’t have added up logically as Vision gets his voice from the JARVIS A.I. and not from his Vibranium form. In his souped-up body, Ultron “could probably choose to sound any way he wants”, Andrew added.
Episode 9 ended with Infinity Ultron seemingly eradicated by the Zola A.I., though his form was overtaken by the HYDRA scientist and frozen 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’s already taken over Johann Schmidt from Hugo Weaving, Marquand probably stands a good chance of retaining the role, too.
The complete first season of What If…? is available to stream on Disney Plus now.