The actor resurrects his Avengers android hero in the new Disney+ spinoff series

By Julie Jordan
January 14, 2021 10:00 AM
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Credit: Taylor Jewell/Invision/AP/Shutterstock

Paul Bettany is well-versed on heroic measures.

Currently resurrecting his Avengers' android hero, Vision, in the new Disney+ spinoff series, WandaVision, Bettany, 49, had to adjust to a strict wellness regimen while sheltering at home last year in Brooklyn, New York, with his wife Jennifer Connelly, 50, and their three kids, sons Kai, 23, and Stellan, 17, and daughter Agnes, 9.

"I kept thinking that I was going back, and so I had to kind of stay in shape," he tells PEOPLE in this week's issue of maintaining Vision's superhero physique. "So while the rest of the world seemed to be eating banana bread and making their own sourdough starters, I was having to resist it. C'mon, I'm an old man; I just want to eat cheese and sit in a chair and read a book!"

He won't get that chance anytime soon. With WandaVision, the British actor is poised for the resurgence of his fan-favorite character, who died in 2018's Avengers: Infinity War. The new weekly series is a play on the various eras of TV sitcoms, following supercouple Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) and Bettany's Vision.

For more on Paul Bettany, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday, or subscribe here.

Credit: Marvel Studios

The actor admits he was blindsided when first approached about the spinoff. "I got the call to come into the office, and I went in and said, 'Hi guys, it's been a great ride and thank you,' and they went, 'Wait, no, we want to pitch you a TV show,'" he recalls, laughing. "I went, 'What?' It was really lovely."

Relishing homelife with Connelly and their kids has meant embracing all its challenges, especially elementary homeschooling during the pandemic. "I'm still quite an active dad, because I've got a 9-year-old," he says. "There's a lot of staring at a math problem, bewildered, and asking Jennifer to solve it for me."

Credit: Donato Sardella/Getty

But Bettany wouldn't change a thing. When he met Connelly on the set of the 2001 movie A Beautiful Mind, both were in other relationships. Their friendship blossomed into romance shortly after the shock of the 9/11 attacks — Bettany has said he realized he was in love with the actress after frantically worrying about her. He proposed to Connelly before they even dated and moved in with her in New York City.

"Yeah, totally faked my way into that one; poor Jennifer, as she slowly realized how ill-educated I was," he jokes. "She's much better read than me. I just sound like it because of the English accent, that's all."

The couple wed in 2003 and raised Kai, Connelly's son from a previous marriage, before welcoming Stellan later in 2003 and Agnes in 2011. "Marriage and children changed my life," says Bettany. "It really altered who I was and what I saw as my goals."

Now the moments that mean the most to the actor are "when I catch myself and realize the five of us are laughing together," he says. "And there is nobody on earth with whom I could be having a better time."

WandaVision premieres Friday on Disney+.