What is there to say about Paul Bettany? He really loves Paul Bettany. In the second to last episode of WandaVision, we got introduced to a new white copy of Bettany’s robot hero Vision. In the show’s finale — I won’t spoil the details of it here; we have a recap for that — the two of them got to face off, Bettany vs. Bettany, in a battle of floating, hyperarticulate robot punches and wits. What might’ve been most surprising about that moment for some, however, is the fact that Vision didn’t face off with another character played by another famous actor. That’s what a not-insignificant number of Marvel fans expected would happen, all based on Bettany saying in an interview that he got to work with “this actor that I’ve always wanted to work with, and we have fireworks together.” As it turned out: That actor was him, Paul Bettany, playing White Vision. Good joke. I love it.
But depending on your level of familiarity with the Marvel Universe and/or your willingness to read a lot of niche comic-book websites, you might not have been aware of the maelstrom of speculation that Bettany’s few lines in that interview, which took place on a Lights Camera Barstool podcast, set in motion among die-hards. People ran with the idea, compiling lists of actors Bettany might admire who Vision might meet. Foremost among the theories: The idea that WandaVision might reveal another villain who was behind Agatha all along, someone from Marvel’s rogue’s gallery like Mephisto or Nightmare, played by the likes of Al Pacino. Sure! Who doesn’t admire Al Pacino? Another connected, though separate, theory involved John Krasinski potentially showing up as the Fantastic Four’s Reed Richard, though that was more built around connections to The Office than the idea Bettany had long wanted to act across from Jim himself.
As things eventually got out of hand, Bettany had to come forward and confront the results of his little tease on Good Morning America. “Yeah … ” he admitted to the furious people of America on national TV, as though he were a brunette Reese Witherspoon fessing up to a DUI. “You know when you think something’s going to be funny, and then you say it, and then you actually panic about it?”
“They were guessing people like Benedict Cumberbatch or Patrick Stewart,” he continued. “I was thinking, God, that’s a good idea. They’re gonna be so disappointed when they find out it’s me.” Since the interview took place the day before the finale aired, Bettany had to do the standard Marvel thing of pretending he might not even be telling the truth then and acting like his camera had frozen when asked directly if there is a big appearance from someone new on the show. He’s a goof!
Now, surely there are a few people who are frustrated that Paul Bettany didn’t face off against Al Pacino and/or Benedict Cumberbatch and/or Patrick Stewart and/or John Krasinski as Jim from The Office as Reed Richards in the WandaVision finale. But you have to admit that referring to yourself as “this actor that I’ve always wanted to work with” is a pretty funny line. Also, I refuse to believe that Bettany didn’t think that people would latch onto that suggestion and run wild with it, but I also support his decision to be a troll. Paul Bettany has been in Marvel movies ever since he was just the disembodied voice of JARVIS in Iron Man, and so Paul Bettany has earned the right to have fun with the whole media circus that accompanies the Marvel Universe at this point. I have no idea if he’ll stick around given the [events of the WandaVision finale redacted], but either way, I’m glad he’s having fun with all this. Paul Bettany, teach all the other Marvel stars your ways. Let rumor chaos reign!