The cast and crew of Paramount’s “Iron Man 2” – Robert Downey Jr., Mickey Rourke, director Jon Favreau, Gwyneth Paltrow, Scarlett Johansson, Don Cheadle, screenwriter Justin Thoreaux and the head of Marvel, Kevin Feige – were out in, er, force on Friday to talk up what’ll undoubtedly be one of the movie highlights of 2010. Ashley Hillard was in attendance.
Question: Let’s get started here.
Downey: I feel like you kind of cramped our style. We all came out with our intros and then you flooded the table to put down your recording devices. Next time we do this I want your recording devices here before our intros so that we get what we’re due. We should come in again [laughs].
Question: How do you feel doing the sequel to ‘Iron Man’ after the first one was such a big hit, is there more pressure with this one?
Downey: Do you mean feel as in past tense? I didn’t sleep last night. I didn’t sleep last night. Jon?
Favreau: I’ve never done a sequel before unless you count me being an Under Five on ‘Batman Forever’ as a sequel, as an actor.
Downey: It’s a sequel.
Favreau: But for me there wasn’t the same pressures that you’re used to seeing especially coming up with smaller movies where you’re throwing a party and you don’t know if people are going to show up. Here we knew that people were going to show up. We just wanted to make sure that everyone who showed up had a good time and that this was going to be fun or more fun than the last party. So it’s a different kind of pressure.
Downey: Scarlett Johansson was in ‘Home Alone 3?. Don Cheadle, ‘[Ocean’s] Eleven’, twelve and thirteen.
Question: I read that there were two versions of Tony Stark’s opening scene. Can you talk about that?
Favreau: Yes. We had different versions of things that we tried. That was something that was a great image, a scene that’s going to be on the DVD but we had two different versions of it and because of the pacing and the way that it revealed Tony Stark it felt really good to flow into the drop down and reveal him for the first time on the stage. For those of you who haven’t seen the movie it doesn’t make any sense but often times in the editing room we figure out what combinations of scenes –
Downey: Gwyneth is just finding out that that scene was cut, Jon. You might be a little more tactful.
Paltrow: Nothing would surprise me anymore.
Question: Gwyneth and Scarlett, it seems that Tony is surprised that your characters work together quite well in the movie. Can you talk about two women saving the world –
Paltrow: Well, if Scarlett and I were doing it the body count would be different, less bloody.
Johansson: More organized. We’d just stack them. I don’t know. I think with the brains and the muscles and the beauty and the blonde I feel like maybe we have a greater chance but you guys can fight for yourselves.
Paltrow: We’re unstoppable.
Johansson: We are, it’s true. Unstoppable. I feel like if I could wield the guns and the karate chop movements and you can –
Paltrow: Out think people?
Johansson: Be the brains behind the operation, sure. That’s your one superpower.
Question: This is a little off topic. Robert, are you going to be the Vampire Lestat?
Downey: Yeah. I mean anything that’s going on, just imagine that it’s been offered to me.
Cheadle: ‘Precious 2?.
Downey: I like that you’re imagining that we’ve been on topic so far.
Question: Can you talk about how much fun it was to play this character, Mickey?
Rourke: I had a lot of fun.
Question: Can you talk about the challenge?
Rourke: It was great. I worked with some great people and it was real easy to work and have some fun. It was nice because I’d just come off working on a film that had no budget and I didn’t have to chair to sit in. I remember the first day on this I said, ‘Can I have a cappuccino,’ and they said, ‘Which kind would you like?’
Question: Robert, did you dress up as a superhero as a kid for Halloween?
Downey: Growing up, no, but in my mid thirties in Palm Springs right before an arrest, yes. Underwear Man. It was a premonition.
Question: I know there was a lot of discovery in the making of the first film. So how much of this film was the same process and how much was strictly the script?
Thoreaux: It’s a heavily improvisational set. My job as the writer was really to just stay on edges for Robert and Jon and Gwyneth and everybody and just sort of try and rewrite things on the fly. We did have an extensive development process obviously where we actually had a script and then that ball just keeps rolling into production and then once we’re on set it gets very frenetic very fast.
Favreau: The story was very well fleshed out but what has to happen each scene we understand. We leave a lot of room in those scenes and try to do multiple cameras sometimes or stay up and rewrite and Justin, he was doing multiple passes, sometimes double digit passes on scenes because we learn things from each scene that we shoot. We try to shoot pretty much in order and what’s nice about having the actors that you see up here is that they’re all very good stewards of their characters emotionally and they’re used to being in films where you don’t have the safety net of all the high technology and the explosions. So if they have an issue with something that we’re asking the character to do for the story we discuss it and we figure out a way so that it can work for them as a performer and also for the movie.
Question: Don, you’re character of Rhodey was played by Terrence Howard in the first film. How did you feel when the opportunity for you to play that role in this movie came up and you got to put on an War Machine suit?
Cheadle: Well, I don’t know why the War Machine suit was actually made of metal and his was made of a light fiberglass material. Maybe it was just an initiation. But I felt very fortunate to get the opportunity to work in a film like this. Terrence is a friend and I’ve known him for a long time. One of the producers on ‘Crash’ put him on that. So it was good to also kind of see him and put anything to bed that people were thinking about that might have been a problem. It wasn’t. We’re cool. Look, it’s a lot of fun. We get to play with the best toys and the best technology. So it’s just kind of doing what you like to do as a kid but all fleshed out.
Downey: The reason that Don’s suit was heavier is that it’s almost impossible to get that mirror like look of polished metal with CGI. I would not wish that on an enemy.
Cheadle: No. We’re going to have to come up with something different, a different material.
Downey: It was horrific.
Question: Jon, can you talk about casting Mickey in this role and why you thought he’d be the right actor?
Favreau: Well, I’d met Mickey at this hotel, remember? I brought him some artwork. Whiplash in the comic book is a guy wearing tights with a big plume, a big purple feather coming out of the top of his head and that wasn’t what we wanted, but what was the tech version of that. So we were thinking, we were concocting a version of a Russian. We were thinking of Viggo [Mortensen] in ‘Eastern Promises’, tattoos and that that might be a cool in. So it was going to be a Russian and then we were like Marv and ‘The Wreslter’, between those two, between the fanboys and the independent film community he was back with a vengeance and it was like, ‘My, God. There’s a lot of people, we’re not going to have a tremendous amount of screen time, who’s going to be able to be there and be able to make an impression where you feel like this guy is in trouble?’ So Mickey brought a lot of intensity to both of those roles. We did some artwork. I met with him, sat down with him and we talked about everything and it was before all the awards things started to happen. We had a nice little connection and I talked to people who had worked with him and they had great things to say about him. His talent is undeniable. So that conversation ended and then Robert was on the road with him because he was on the ‘Tropic Thunder’ awards tour and I think he was lobbying him every time that I think they sat together to get him to join the movie.
Downey: I really worked you like a rib, didn’t I? I was embarrassing. I was literally begging you in public.
Question: Robert, from the first movie to the second movie you’re working with a lot of new characters and new actors. So how was the dynamic different this time from that first film?
Downey: It was great because these are all folks that I’d be happy to work with in any circumstance and in any medium. So it was just swell. As for the management of it because I’m a little, I don’t want to say neurotic but I felt a little bit like a co-manager of a baseball team that just got an even better lineup in the spring, and so I felt a little beholden to be partially responsible for their experience. But really a lot of that fell on Justin. I don’t know why we haven’t talked about it but he had a horrible neck problem during the whole shoot. I mean at one point I thought that he was going to have to have his head removed.
Favreau: This poor guy here, we’d show up and they’d wheel him and he’d just type and hand us pages. I’ve never met anybody with a better work ethic or somebody who could bring inspiration to each scene that he would do because we talk a lot about how we bounce stuff around. The fact is that these guys had a really good repartee from ‘Tropic Thunder’ and he understood his voice and how to weave in and out of Robert’s creative process very effectively and to jump onboard a franchise, I think it was probably the sharpest learning curve for Justin than it was for all of us. He really did a fantastic job.
Question: How hard is it to balance the Tony Stark story and also feed the franchise and the universe of Marvel? Also, you talked about how Sam Rockwell made a great Justin Hammer so why didn’t he make the poster?
Favreau: The character’s, the trick is to feather them in so that they don’t overload the story and you don’t suffer from villainitis and so by having Justin Hammer and Mickey Rourke’s character come together fairly early you really have two storylines that are weaving. You don’t have five separate storylines and the same thing with Scarlett as Black Widow, working her way into Gwyneth’s and Robert’s story. So we really try to keep narrative flows going so that it didn’t get too convoluted. I lose track of that stuff especially in sequels, as the franchises get more complex. I don’t always remember what happened in the last movie. Not for nothing, I like to watch the stuff blow up but I’m not going to do homework before I go see a sequel to be up on everything. So we tried to keep that simple. Justin Hammer. I mean Sam Rockwell was someone that I had known and thought would work really well with Mickey. He’s not intimidated by talented performers and movie stars. He’s done a great job with a lot of people.
Rourke: We had a great time. We had a lot of fun. I think we were doing this improvisation where I said, ‘I need some vodka,’ or ‘This wine is shit,’ and he goes, ‘Yeah, this is shit.’ He was fun to work with.
Downey: I’m sorry. Hold the hell up. I think we waited long enough. Can we talk about the parrot already? I don’t know why the parrot is not on the poster.
Rourke: He’s home.
Favreau: You bought one, the one that was in the movie.
Rourke: A different one.
Favreau: Not the one because we switched the parrots?
Rourke: I don’t have Elvis.
Rourke: The real one.
Favreau: The real one and then you bought another one, you flew it in. Then we switched it on the set and then we made a scene about switching the bird. Okay. That was really your bird. Marvel likes to cut costs where they can.
Cheadle: You cut costs so much you guys ate the second bird.
Question: What’s your definition of a hero since you’ve now played a few? Also, Gwyneth, can you talk about how you trained for this role?
Downey: I think a hero is someone who if they’re abroad or traveling they go to the Goop website to find out what restaurants to go to, what clothing shops they might enjoy and what sights they should see and they do that not fearlessly but they do it in spite of their fear.
Paltrow: Actually, not this coming week but next the Goop newsletter will be about my ‘Iron Man’ training regimen and how I lost weight and got in shape to play this part and you can check that out.
Question: There’s a real ‘Moonlighting’ thing going on with your two characters in this film, but the kiss was highly anticipated. How it was finally having that onscreen kiss?
Downey: I couldn’t get her off me. It was embarrassing.
Paltrow: It was great because both my husband and his wife were right there.
Downey: Yeah. She said to me that I didn’t know what I was doing, like it didn’t feel good and I was like, ‘You know what, first of all, we’re all friends so what would be creepy was if I was coming off all sexy to you,’ and by the way I’ve done that in movies and it creeps them out. So what am I going to creep you out for? I felt like I was just going to swallow this mike cover for a moment. Despite what she said on set she still thinks about it.
Paltrow: Oh, God. You’re funny.
Question: Jon, I noticed your cameo from the first movie definitely got more fleshed out. Why did you decide to join in on the action yourself? Robert, I noticed your wife’s name was in the credits as a producer when she wasn’t on the last film. What did that mean for you?
Downey: Do you want to swap questions?
Favreau: Sure. Do you mind if we swap questions? He’ll talk about Happy Hogan and I’ll talk about Susan Downey? That’d be great. We get asked this question a lot. Okay. Susan is a great producer. It’s not like she came onboard and became a producer because we’re making ‘Iron Man’. Quite the contrary. We were funneling towards a start date and we had a lot of ideas spread out and we had bulletin boards and Justin was there and Robert was there and Kevin and myself and Jeremy Latcham with index cards trying to figure out how to make the workflow through. She has tremendous organizational ability and she understands Robert’s creative process, understands the first movie and lived through it with us. So, Susan who had a very strong background both in development and in physical production was able to come and just help. It’s just like one of those shows where they’re going to organize all of their closets for you and you throw out the clothes that you don’t need anymore but it takes somebody to go, ‘You’re never going to wear that again! You’re never going to fit in that,’ and they throw it away or give it away or figure it out.
Downey: On a certain level they might’ve thought that she was going to come in and tame me or put me in check but I was completely out of my mind, power hungry. Let’s talk about Happy Hogan. There’s three Happy Hogan’s in the movie. There’s the Jon Favreau that’s in actually excellent shape. He was boxing everyday in preproduction and made it into the ring for the scene where he gets his ass handed to him by Scarlett. That was originally a longer scene and maybe he was just too emasculated to let it be in the movie but I think you laid the boots to him quite severely.
Paltrow: Is that in the movie? Am I in it?
Favreau: Yes. He’s on a run, let him go.
Downey: Then about midway he’s struggling with the meta-fast but occasionally binging on pizza and then saying, ‘This is crazy. I have to get back in the gym -‘
Favreau: Can I have my question back?
Downey: By the time we were doing re-shoots they were framing him out of shots. Here’s the thing though, this is one of the things that I love about you.
Favreau: Oh, here we go now.
Downey: You know what, I don’t even have the up beat part. I forgot it.
Question: The fact that Sam Rockwell isn’t on the poster and that he’s not here, I’m wondering if there was a falling out with you guys?
Downey: Yes. You hit the mother load.
Favreau: No. Sam is doing a play. I hope to be working with him again.
Downey: I had that same question though. I thought, ‘He must be doing a play or something.’
Favreau: He’s doing a play right now. He’s awesome. He’s going to be at the premiere and you can ask him yourself then. Ever since our first collaboration when he was the gender unspecific concierge in ‘Made’ I knew that he was an inspiring and inspired dude. I wish he could be here selfishly because he’s a fun and funny guy. He really always was a fountainhead of ideas and great stuff. I wish that he could’ve been here. Unfortunately there’s no fire where that smoke is.
Question: And you considered him for Tony Stark for the first one?
Favreau: Well, we were putting lists together long before I even met with Robert.
Downey: This is enough. This is embarrassing. You’re embarrassing yourself.
Favreau: I thought that he would’ve been a sort of fun and nontraditional other way to go because we were listing a lot of younger actors that didn’t have a lot of experience and were a little bit more traditionally what you’d think for a superhero role. Then when I met Robert we pretty much clicked and I knew that was the guy but as Justin Hammer you see a cool, goofy image of what – Justin Hammer wishes that he was Tony Stark and he really embraced that aspect of the character. I think it’s really fun for that and he has a ball with it.
Question: There was talk at one point about a spin-off movie for ‘Black Widow’
Favreau: I would love to see that. Hell, yes.
Feige: Definitely possible.
Question: What are some of the cool extras that you’re planning on for the DVD and Blue Ray?
Favreau: Well, there’s a lot of featurettes. We were running cameras behind the scenes all the time. We don’t like to really show too much of it before the movie comes out to keep some surprises but everything was very well documented. As you can see we have a very interesting group of people and so between the interviews you get a really good sense of that work. We’re fans of these movies. Kevin and I are always swapping back and forth books and things about the movies that we grew up loving and that’ll be documented very well. There will be pretty extensive featurettes and then commentary this time around. Also, deleted scenes that we thought would be interesting for people to see. So it’s more a movie fan set of extras, for people who really want to immerse themselves. If you don’t it’s going to be boring. We did overkill on this one.
Question: Scarlett and Gwyneth, both of your characters are suave and smart in this film. You’re not just sex symbols. Can you talk about that?
Johansson: Well, I’ve never really seen this kind of film, a film of this genre where the female characters, that their sex appeal came second. I mean of course they’re sexy characters and you have a sexy secretary or a girl swinging around by her ankles in a cat suit, that’s innately sexy. But the fact is that these characters are intelligent, are ambitious, motivated and calculated to some degree. To be just a pawn in this story of a whole bunch of men fighting it out and rolling around and getting down and dirty and there you are to be the sort of vision in a tight cat-suit would be a boring thing to me. I think that Jon really made that very clear in the beginning, that he felt as far as Black Widow was concerned or that Natalie was concerned that she was mysterious and nuanced and something to kind of peel back the layers to. That there was something there, he wanted that. I think that’s why this film is so much more dynamic for me as an audience member. I’ve never been a huge fan of this genre really and I think that’s because it was always sort of one note and very kind of explosive. I think because Gwyneth and I are able to sort of be the brains behind the operation in some aspect there’s kind of a happy medium there that adds to the charm and charisma of the finished product.
Paltrow: I agree with Scarlett. I think it’s a very smart decision actually to have women who are capable and intelligent because it appeals to women. So it’s not only a film for fifteen year old boys. It’s a film that can relate to a lot of people on a lot of levels and a lot of my girlfriends like it because of the romance. Scarlett in the trailer, it’s appealing, like, ‘Who is she?’ It doesn’t look gratuitous. It looks like there are interesting women in the movie and certainly from the first one, too, my character is quick and she’s articulate and I think that makes it so that when you take your kid, if you’re a mom, it’s really fun for you to watch as well. So it’s nice to see women who are aspirational, smart and sexy all at the same time.
Cheadle: I think that fifteen year old boys are into that, too.
Johansson: It’s oddly kind of old fashioned actually in the best sense of the word. These characters are like those fabulous femme fatales of the kind of golden age of Hollywood, that Bette Davis more than the Jane Mansfield which I think is so much more dynamic to watch.
Question: Do you have some kind of interior monologue for Pepper or ideas beyond the dialogue about her being so supportive of Tony, and Robert, I’m wondering about the physical challenges of this film but also the emotional and intellectual ones – can you both talk on that?
Paltrow: Do you want to go first?
Downey: Whatever you want, hon.
Paltrow: You go first.
Downey: Yeah, they probably want to hear me first. Let’s see. Physically I feel like Don and Scarlett and Mickey actually had a heavier load this time in terms of armature.
Paltrow: He made them do it all in CGI, like, ‘Get it in CGI. I’m walking off.’
Downey: But again I think we just labored really hard to say, ‘Okay, we’re audience members who made the first “Iron Man” successful and is smart which is kind of why we were drawn to it and so what do we expect?’ So we kept putting ourselves in the audience’s seat. For me the mental and emotional development and aspects of Tony, to me they were a lot more, it’s strange to say, person. It’s not necessarily relating to my life, so to speak, but just the mythology of saying you’re something and being that thing or something entirely different. Also, this whole idea of Howard Stark and the legacy and the shadow of that legacy that we were always talking about, Mickey and I, about being two sides of the same coin. One who was able to escape that captivity and one who saw his father die in the ruins improper recognition and having to reckon with that. So really all of the characters, Black Widow/Natalie in certain places bringing me back to an extended family I’ve always had. And Mickey as Anton telling me that all is not well and people have vendetta’s for reasons that I might not understand but that I need to understand. Rhodey is there saying, ‘Hey, you’ve always had me kind of on your wing so why won’t you really let me help you?’ Obviously, the Pepper thing is really about love. Ladies and gentlemen, Sam Rockwell! I was actually getting bored talking about that.
Paltrow: The inner monologue of Pepper, she’s trying to hold it all together. Without Pepper the woman this is what you get. Bullshit. Bumbling around and can’t even hang a poster. I think she tries to hold it all together. She tries not to be reactive and she tries to steer him in the right direction really like the great woman behind the man. So I think that’s what runs through her mind. You dropped the poster.
Downey: Yep. Well, I got a little self-conscious, strangely, as you were talking.