Is Iron Man 3 the most divisive superhero film ever made? There are those that look at its third act reveal (the archly evil Mandarin exposed to be nothing more than a boorish struggling English actor) as a brilliant deconstruction of the superhero genre, whilst others will maintain it pisses on fifty years of Iron Man comic lore. The ‘Marvel One shot’ All Hail The King (which can be found as an extra on the Blu-ray of Thor: The Dark World) is very much a reaction to that angered subset of fandom. Trevor Slattery (Ben Kingsley) is now a “star” in prison – with his very own doting entourage, lavish prison room and his own exclusive documentary interview. But not all is as perfect as it seems. Slattery’s interviewer (Scoot McNairy) doesn’t have the slightest interest in getting any sort of story/scoop out of his subject – no, he has a far more sinister agenda: to confront Slattery on ruining the good name of the real Mandarin. McNairy’s character though ultimately serves as sounding board for every comic fan that bemoaned Iron Man 3’s twist.
It’s a nifty bit of satire – and on the red carpet for the World Premiere of All Hail the King, I had the opportunity to talk with writer/director Drew Pearce and Ben Kingsley briefly about fan reaction and the satirical undercurrents of the short. Their answers couldn’t have been more different. For the interviews, hit the jump.
Collider: There’s a really interesting meta-commentary obviously in the short dealing with fandom’s reaction to Iron Man 3…
PEARCE: (joking) Is there?
I don’t know. A tiny bit, maybe… But was it cathartic to make this short and reveal that particular ideology?
PEARCE: You know what — there’s a level to which that’s an exciting thing about writing and directing anything. First and foremost though: it was a chance to work with one of the best actors of his generation. Honestly that is my biggest motivating factor here. But I think one of the great things about short film is you can address a few different layers when you’re doing it. So on one level – yeah, it’s a bunch of jokes and a brilliant performance; but it also seemed like an opportunity to actually address some of what happened (with Iron Man 3) as well. So it’s just a good form.
How does Marvel and Kevin choose what shorts to do?
PEARCE: It’s a much more organic process than you would imagine. Everyone assumes Marvel is this gigantic conglomerate — and of course it is on some levels –but at the end of the day it’s six or seven very creative people, not including myself, just a group of people employed by Marvel who all care deeply about the movies and about comics and want to make the very best things possible. So it came about more from conversation than it did from a sort of white-board or a master plan.
How did you settle on this particular prison storyline?
PEARCE: The way we settled on it was: what’s the most exciting, entertaining adventure we can give to Trevor next. Honestly I think Trevor works best when everything around him is as dangerous as it could possibly be. He’s the only human in the world that reacts to that with nonchalance and vanity. So I wanted to put him in the most dangerous place I could think of — which is a high security penitentiary.
Speaking of which – there’s a grittier 70’s film aesthetic to the short. What type of films did you look to for emulation/inspiration?
PEARCE: Well… I did watch a lot of late 60s/early 70s prison movies like The Getaway, Escape from Alcatraz and all that stuff. But I’m not really a ‘homager’ because my memory is so bad that I can’t really remember any shots. But there’s definitely a hint of Eastwood walking through the prison at the beginning of Alcatraz in Trevor’s walk in the short.
Finally – do you see yourself moving more to directing in the future?
PEARCE: I’d love to if people will let me. We’ll see how this is taken to. I got into this originally to make stuff and directing is part of that so I really hope I can.
There’s a heavy meta-textual thematic to All Hail the King about fandom’s reaction to the Mandarin twist. I was wondering as the actor who played that twist – how did you deal with that controversy?
BEN KINGSLEY: Well – it’s very simple: I never read anything in print about me. I haven’t read anything in a long time. It started with not reading reviews and with the greatest respect to my publicist here, I never read interviews. I was there when I gave them. I never read reviews. I was there when I did the jobs — so I’m totally immune. Rather like Trevor: I live in a bubble.
I’m interested — how much room is there for improv given that it’s a short film and you’re on set for two or so days?
KINGSLEY: The script was so beautiful. I never changed a line or distorted it. I might have added some nuance or rhythm to it that was perhaps unexpected even to Drew but I didn’t stray off it at all. I love telling the story. I love being useful to the telling of the story — and his story was so charming in a way. Trevor’s a very vulnerable man.
That’s interesting — because there’s this strange juxtaposition: he’s a bit of a buffoon but there’s also a tragic side to the character…
KINGSLEY: And he’s a great survivor. Even in prison, he creates his own environment. He’s a great survivor. It’s always good to find something in a character you admire and I admire Trevor’s capacity to survive and adapt. He’s a chameleon.
KINGSLEY: How much does a tennis match change when you’re playing across the net? It changes all the time. I mean – the tennis court doesn’t change. The rules of the game don’t change. But you don’t know where or how fast that ball is going to come at you or how close to the net the ball will hit… Scoot was very, very inventive. Always stayed on the text. Never improvised. But his rhythms were wonderful to play off of. It really is like tennis. It’s like Wimbledon tennis.
How much of Trevor’s backstory are you privy to or do you create yourself?
KINGSLEY: It all came from Drew. I didn’t create anything additional. Only perhaps his accent and the Liverpool thing.
KINGSLEY: I loved it. I want to do the whole series. I want it to be picked up by Fox. I want those square trousers.
Where would you like to see Trevor go from here?
KINGSLEY: …To heaven
Well he is a survivor…
KINGSLEY: Yes, yes he is.
All Hail The King can be found via the Thor: The Dark World Blu-ray available now everywhere.