One of the biggest question marks regarding the future of the Iron Man franchise is how much longer Robert Downey Jr. will be playing Tony Stark. When Downey first signed his deal with Marvel, it was for almost ten movies and he was still considered a big risk given his unproven status as the leading man of a major tentpole property. Cut to now. Downey is known the world over as Tony Stark and his amazing portrayal as the genius billionaire is one of the main reasons Marvel movies have exploded in popularity. I honestly can’t see another person playing the role. Thankfully, it seems that Downey is still having fun playing the character as he told me during a recent group interview that:
“the agents and the lawyers are having a bit of a ball right now.”
Meaning they are working on a new contract! In addition to talking about a possible new contract, Downey discussed what fans can expect from Iron Man 3, what working with director Shane Black has been like, the action sequences, what Joss Whedon‘s Avengers did for the Iron Man franchise, how Jon Favreau‘s Happy Hogan character is an integral part of the story, and so much more. Hit the jump to read or listen to what Downey had to say.
Note: This interview took place the day before the Super Bowl and it was after Marvel showed us about 15 minutes of Iron Man 3. If you’d like to know what I thought of the footage, here’s my spoiler free recap.
In addition, Marvel has just released a new trailer for Iron Man 3, so you might want to watch that first before reading the interview.
And since I know some of you like to read the highlights, here’s a few of them from this interview. Just know (slight) spoilers are discussed.
- At some point in the movie, Tony Stark gives out his address taunting the Mandarin.
- Tony Stark ends up in middle America
- Downey says Iron Man 3 is “a much smaller storytelling style” but he’s also “never done so much action in my life. The scope feels really, really big. Again, I think Marvel’s intention is to defy expectations again. Let’s not just start with this thing that starts and gets to a big bang at 11. It wouldn’t be nice counterprogramming for The Avengers.”
- Downey Jr. feels that Joss Whedon brought momentum to Iron Man 3.
- When asked to compare Jon Favreau to Shane Black, Downey says, “they’re very similar. You also can’t really work with one without reaching out the other. Jon and I reached out to Shane on several occasions and Shane definitely would refer back to Jon on a lot of stuff. Jon has an incredible sense of showmanship and Shane is much more kind of introverted.”
These highlights are just the tip of the iceberg. Trust me, interviews with Downey Jr. are always fantastic and this one is no different.
Click here to listen to the audio, otherwise the full transcript is below. Iron Man 3 opens May 3.
RDJ: I was kinda looking forward to it. I don’t want to say “kinda”. That’s tepid. You know that thing of it’s spring break or summer or winter and you have these plans? You want to go to Sedona, right? So push that peanut down the road a little bit. This is, to me, the kind of grab bag wish list of things we’ve always wanted to do and haven’t had the chance. I put so much onus on Iron Man 3. Iron Man 3 was supposed to answer all the questions for an audience. Cure all my uncomfortable moments in the past playing this character and get in every idea that fell by the wayside the last three movies. Then we shot the movie and I feel like there’s still a number of other things we have to do.
So there will be an Iron Man 4?
RDJ: I don’t know.
What was it like working with Shane Black again and how much of a force were you pushing for his involvement?
RDJ: Well, we all know each other fairly well now. Without coming to me, they said Shane was going to be in the running for this. They said they had narrowed it down to a couple of choices. I liked both their choices. Shane still — and I say this as a testament to the fact that we’ve shot the movie and have started to cut scenes together — he still has a place in my heart. He turned out to be a great choice.
RDJ: It’s two-fold. As we were finding our way and trying to build towards the possibility of Avengers, there was a lot of armature and things we had to deal with as far as, “What are we going to exactly do?” and “What are we going to exactly say?” But there was a lot of, “What are we doing in act three?” “Where are we ending all this?” I think that, by the time Shane had teamed up Drew Pearce, the overall arc of the turns and acts and themes and all that stuff in the story remained relatively unchanged, which is amazing. They really kind of made just exactly the right size sandbox for the whole thing, but there’s some new kind of twists in it architecturally. That’s just the way Shane writes, you know? Nothing is arbitrary. Everything has some meaning at some point later in the story or speaks to a theme. That’s the hardest stuff to try and grab when you’re already shooting. That said, I respect him so much that I did not respect his day to day writing at all and I just looked at scenes at the beginning of the day as, well, they had to put a bunch of words on this or they couldn’t have a call sheet. These are called sides. I call them three-piece. Three pieces of paper with print on them. Which must be annoying to an excellent writer, but that’s just the way I’ve been conditioned. I get a good script and go, “This is good! I mean, we’re not going to shoot it, but…”
We’ve seen Tony Stark go through a lot in The Avengers. How did the events of that movie wind up helping him change for this one?
RDJ: Well, we had to do something, you know? I thought, “Isn’t it odd that he had this experience? And why was he suddenly just in New York for one summer?” We know why he was there. Stark Tower. But what he was doing there was really building an architect for a third act set piece. I wanted him back home and I thought, “What if that happened to any of us? Wouldn’t we be a little tripped out? You’d be watching your back.” Then I thought about this 21st century reality and kind of oddball zeitgeist of America and terrorism and all he weirdo stuff that this country seems to generate and co-create. So I thought should be a little freaked out. We always had this idea where we wanted Tony and Rhodey to be at this place two miles away from where his house is called Neptune’s Net on the PCH. I really wanted to see them at Neptune’s Net with their suits just parked outside like motorcycles. They’re inside and just two guys. I didn’t even know if we could get Neptune’s Net. There’s licensing. It’s like saying, “Let’s go shoot at Spago!” I was like, “Is it? Did you ask them?” I wanted that kind of sensibility and so did Shane. We both wanted them just sitting on a couch with a martini. I go, “A martini? Hold on now!” “Alright! Just sitting on the couch. Pepper comes home. There he is.” Shane had all these iconic images and I had my own. The studio and Kevin [Feige] had an equal amount of theirs. It turned into this really surprising and entertaining and really deep and cool movie.
We saw a scene where Ben Kingsley is beginning his broadcast and how much goes into set-decorating and atmosphere. The notion of a media terrorist is an interesting one as is the notion of Stark standing in for America and a terrorist striking against the biggest opponent. How has Kingsley been to play against as the Mandarin?
RDJ: For some reason or another, I’m thinking about Oliver Stone and I’m thinking about — many years back — doing “Natural Born Killers”. I think that, unlike his own vehement take on demonizing the media — and I’ll backtrack and say that I’m not sure the biggest opponent needs to be toppled — I do think it’s evocative, that kind of paranoid idea that a terrorist is manufactured to blah, blah blah. People like that. It’s why I like “Manchurian Candidate”. I like the possibility of something like that going undetected until it’s up and running. I think it’s scary and it occupies, I believe, a part of the American paranoid psyche. I think it’s in there.
There’s a sense that Stark’s pride gets in the way, taunting the Mandarin and giving out his address.
RDJ: I know. It’s that problem, too, where you’re like, “What are you going to do about it?” If you’re a little bit traumatized, you become a little more reactive, right?
Is the taunting partially related to the fact that Stark has taken down aliens and he’s just not scared of a human being?
RDJ: The actual reason is because of something in particular that happens which makes it personal to him. Otherwise he probably wouldn’t have run his mouth.
There was a lot of groundwork that Iron Man 2 had to lay for The Avengers. Since Iron Man 3 is the start of Phase Two, is there still a lot of groundwork that has to be laid out for future films or is this one more able to tell a story all its own ?
RDJ: Yeah, more than any of the other three that I’ve been involved in. It seems to be very uninhibited. I’m just not used to working this way. Fortunately, Shane and all the other creatives and myself banged out a story that, quote unquote “earned” it. We had “The Avengers” and had something where we all loved how it turned out. We thought, “Let’s not get indulgent now, but let’s go back to Tony and Pepper”. It was also really, really great to have Happy come back. Jon [Favreau] was just so great. He was standing on the set and we had designed this workshop. He says, “All I have to do is put on a suit and crack jokes. This is going to be great.” He’s actually very integral to the story and all that stuff. But it is true, this one is Tony’s journey from A to Z, chasing the bad guy. It’s a bad guy who draws him out to places that he’s never been before and I think that that was what was attractive to Shane. He said, “I’d like to see him crashing in mid-America. I’d like to see him interacting with some kid who kind of doesn’t really relate to him as anything but Iron Man.