Last June, when Iron Man 2 was filming here in Los Angeles, I was invited – along with a few other online journalists – to visit the set. While I was allowed to write about my experiences on set last year, I haven’t been able to post any of the interviews until now. But with Iron Man 2 getting ready to be released all around the world, Marvel/Paramount have lifted the embargo and I can share the awesome interview I got to do with Jon Favreau.
While a lot of the info we got on set is now readily available, what’s great about the interview is hearing Favreau talk about the film in the middle of production when things were still coming together. Also, the people who visited the set with me all asked great fan questions and you’ll learn a lot about Howard Stark (Tony’s father) and why the Stark Expo is very important to not only the Iron Man universe…but maybe another Marvel movie…Of course we also talked about so many other subjects, it would be impossible to summarize it here. Trust me, if you’re a fan of the Iron Man franchise, you’ll love the interview.
Hit the jump to read or listen:
As always, you can either read the massive transcript below or listen to the interview. Due to Favreau having to take breaks while talking to us, the interview is in 4 parts. Here’s part one, part two, part three and part four.
Note – This interview was conducted on June 3, 2009
Jon Favreau: [In regards to the set] Have you seen it? Or just through the screen?
Question: Just through the screen. We’ve heard about the floor though.
Favreau: We’ll let you see the floor. You can’t really walk on it. Well, you can, but it’s not set up. But [Tony Starks] environment in this one, remember how we had… you saw Iron Man right?
Favreau: We were playing at the very end… we were shooting at the very end, it was in the middle or the beginning of the movie where he was doing some work with interactive holograms. Holographs? What do ya call it? Holographs I guess. But that was just something we did as an afterthought that we animated into it, it was pretty cool. And as a matter of fact, we were contacted by, where’s Jeremy [looking for one of the guys on set]… Jeremy? What happened with the holographs, that we were doing the holograph manipulations and we got contacted by a military contractor?
Jeremy: Oh yeah, a company out of Austin, that has the DARPA contract called us, and they were like, ‘We would like to license the images from the movie for our presentation, because we’ve been working on this technology for seven years…’ [Laughing], ‘We can’t make it look that cool, but we want to show the Government what we want to do…’. So we licensed them the images and they use them in their presentation now.
Favreau: So it was something we just did as an afterthought on the set. Just try something different than just a glowing table, so we were playing with moving an image from the screen to the table and making it holographic. That was so cool that we now created an entire workshop, so you can see there is not a lot of screens around, everything is done virtually. So this is… he is investigating the grounds of the fictitious 1974 Stark Expo. He’s taking a model of the expo and he is now trying to figure out some clues hidden within them, within the layout and structure of the model that was his father’s model from back at Stark Industries. So that is what we’re doing now, getting some close focus shots on the model that is based on the 1964 World’s Fair at Flushing Meadow Park. That’s one of the things we’re building too.
Is there anything else different that you’ll notice…?
Favreau: Well, we got those robots back. We’re working on them a bit.
Any new robot friends, or just the same two?
Favreau: Same guys.
This gives you more freedom shooting right, when everything is a virtual world?
Favreau: In some ways it is. In some ways its harder because I have to explain exactly what… you know, you have to build it all in previs and show it to Robert, and you are dealing with non-practical elements which becomes tedious after awhile. Especially when you’re the only person in a scene. But we have time to dial that in, so it is easier in that respect, right now. When we are in production, it gets really challenging to accomplish everything we need to.
And keep the floor looking shiny and pretty…?
Favreau: That’s right, everyone’s wears booties and socks.
You mentioned Howard Stark. How much of a role does he have in this movie? How much of a look at Tony’s past do we get?
Favreau: A bit… quite a bit. We have John Slattery playing him this time around. So he is somebody who has passed away by the time the movie begins, but he’s definitely a presence as Robert delves into his past and explores the relationship with his dad, who we started to make certain overtures towards in the press conference. He’s definitely got “daddy issues” on some level. And as we explore the way his life’s been changed by saying that he’s Iron Man and what that really means here, now, six months later and how his life has changed. He’s already gone from somebody who is one of the most famous people in the world and one of the richest people in the world to know being a superhero on top of it. And how his infrastructure attempts to manage that. It’s like when a billionaire becomes a reality TV star on top of it, you wonder how that integrates with their life. And this is a more extreme version of that.
You’re talking about more non-practical elements because you’ve expanded that holographic thing. You’re somebody that has been very vocal about liking practical elements. Are you finding that you are kind of having to go less practical as the scope gets bigger, or are you able to keep it practical?
Favreau: The trick is really integrating them well, and knowing – we actually had shot more with the practical suit this time then we did last time because we’ve learned how to build it better, design it better and make it more wearable and understand what looks good and what doesn’t, so we don’t waste time shooting the stuff we don’t have to shoot anyway. But we can focus in on the things that can be done, in a more practical way. So it’s a matter of reshuffling where you put your resources and how you use those elements. The best way is to integrate digital by shooting something practical. When you have a digital explosion, a digital character and a digital missile and a digital background, you run into trouble. But if you have certain layers that are digital and certain layers that are practical, you can get away with a lot. King Kong, especially the first two acts of it, is a really good example of the use of miniatures mixed with digital characters and how convincing it was. But when you have a digital background and everything that interacts with the digital character and digital background is digital as well, your brain starts to tell you you’re not seeing something real. But we also wanted to expand. We were going for beyond what we could achieve practically and I think that was another lesson I learned from the first one is to really deliver a really heightened [greater] action sequence, you are going to have to be more comfortable using digital elements, especially with flying characters. I can’t explain it any other way than once you do it, you understand it better. But it’s not like I’ve just given up on the practical side of things, it’s understanding how to design it so that it is still convincing and emotionally relevant.
Can you talk about the Russian slant to this movie?
You’ve got the Black Widow, you’ve got, is it Crimson Dynamo…
Favreau: I’m not sure if I’m supposed to talk about that…
Well, Kevin said it was Ivan Vanko…
Favreau: Yeah, Ivan Vanko.
Can you talk about the Russian slant on this?
Favreau: Yeah, it’s Mickey Rourke. Mickey Rourke’s character. Son of Anton Vanko, a famous Russian scientist in our world. And he is our shadow figure, he’s our dark character. We also have Justin Hammer. He’s an American played by Sam Rockwell. So we have a bit of a mélange of characters that come together that are different combinations of elements that are from the books. But we also like to spin it against expectations sometimes, against what the books are. We definitely take into consideration what the comics had and then know that our core audience will be aware of what was written, and we either play into it or against it, we take those perceptions into consideration as we craft the story. But I’m extremely happy with the group we have. We just have tremendous actors that bring a spontaneous nature to the film. Downey really branded the first one with his style, tone and personality and spontaneity. And I tried to get a cast around him that would be in sync with his way of working and the tone that he branded the first film with.
So are Mickey and Scarlett kind of partners in crime in all this?
Favreau: Oh… I don’t know… we got a whole year [Laughing]. I can’t blow it all.
At this point in the interview, Jon had to go work with the actors for a scene. But once he returned, he began to tell us a little story.
Favreau: [About meeting soldiers overseas] We met a lot of the enlisted personnel and they would give us “challenge coins”, have you ever heard of challenge coins? It was something I’d never heard of, it is something that they had made up for their unit and they slip it to you in a handshake if they are diggin’ what you’re doing. It’s a sign of respect. And after they had been our host, they had given us… so I had collected a dozen different unit coins when Robert and I screened the movie in Korea on a military base there. They gave us unit coins, thanking us for screening the film and we were always empty handed. So I had made up challenge coins to give to the troops that I met along the way and the people who helped us out as we shot. Because usually it is just something the military does. So we had made these up. Sometimes like a base commander would make up a coin saying “Edwards Air Force Base Commander” or the “C-17 Maintenance Squad”. So sometimes it would be a person, sometimes it would be base, sometimes it would be a unit, sometimes it would be an aircraft, a B-2 coin you’d get. So I had a bunch made up and I have some that I’m going to give out to you… Sometimes they have bigger ones, but I tried to make it the most similar. This would be something that they would put in your palm, there is a special handshake. They would shake your hand and they would say, ‘Hey look, thank you for doing this.” or, “It means a lot to us that you depicted us a certain way.” or, ‘Thank you for being so good to the guys. It meant a lot that you screened the movie.’ and they’d press it in your hand and they’d flip your hand over and let go. And you’d see, when you do it to them you’d put it there and you’d look at it. And you’d say, ‘Oh, look at them, they looked at it and put it in their pocket.’ It’s like a big ceremony. It’s sort of a, not a secret thing, but definitely an important thing that’s been around since World War I. And they call it a challenge coin, because if you don’t have it… what happens if you go to a bar, like the Officer’s Club at Edwards and you tap the coin on the bar, everybody in the bar has to tap their coin on the bar. If they don’t have their coin, from their unit, they have to buy the whole bar a drink. And if everybody has it, then you have to buy everybody a drink if you start the challenge. That’s when the challenge comes.
So this is to keep you from having to buy the drinks?
Favreau: Yeah, exactly [Laughing]. It comes in handy, it might save you a lot of money. And on the back there is the shield logo.
You mentioned earlier when you were over here before that there is a lot of – I’m jumping into the movie for a second – that there are a lot of characters, a lot of stories. Does that mean that this film will probably be longer than the first one?
Favreau: I hope not. Maybe… I don’t know yet, you know, were not even assembled. But more than length, the sinkhole is when you have too many characters, where the movie doesn’t feel like it moves. That’s more important. I was just watching Seven Samurai again and there is not a dull moment in it and it is three hours long. But that’s Kurosawa. And it’s a different subject matter. I wouldn’t say that this type of movie could support that kind of length. But it is all relative… I want it to feel like it moves. A lot of times when you get into deeper, deeper into sequel land with this genre of film, and the studio or the filmmakers feel compelled to add more and more characters to drive toy sales or keep the film different from the last one, it gets a little high bound and it is not an enjoyable experience because you feel like you are doing a lot of homework in keeping up with everybody. We had the added challenge of wanting to spend a lot of time with Robert as Tony Stark in this, and see how his life had changed as Tony Stark. You know, arguably, Tony Stark was more interesting in Iron Man in the first one and we definitely didn’t want to lose sight of that, as we learned the first time around. So that gives you even less time to deal with the plots of other, secondary characters, several villains. So we tried to integrate the villains storylines with one another and weave it all together so that you were never losing sight of the real life experiences of Tony. That is still the most important aspect of the film, for me. So I don’t think that length is going to be the challenge, because of the nature of how we’re filming these scenes. I just don’t want people to ever lose sight of how watchable the film is for people who don’t necessarily follow the genre of film, because it becomes too complicated. Even I can’t follow a lot. I don’t have a lot of patience for movies that aren’t cleanly told. So I want to maintain that.
You’ll have enough back-story for these secondary characters to where they’re not just going to come out of nowhere…
Favreau: Yeah. Well, it is not going to be a black blob climbing the leg of our superhero like that [Laughing]. The most minimalist introduction of a villain I’ve ever seen. We wanna have enough there that there’s an emotional ground. The best combo for us is having an emotional grounding, so that people can understand what it is and what you’re rooting for or against. And have enough of a tip of a hat to what happened in the lore of the books that it feels like you are rewarded for having done your homework coming in. But it is not a requirement. It is something that will add to the viewing experience, not a necessity. And it sometimes might lead you down a blind alley, so there is a little bit of a cat and mouse game with the fans and then there is also, living up to what the expectations might be from the first film.
[Another break for filming.]
So let’s talk about this Twitter thing and you.
A lot of us are very much enjoying reading your little updates but you seem to be getting more cryptic…
Favreau: It’s very hard, you should talk to the Marvel guys because they have been trying to figure out what the policy should be for it. Last time around, if you remember, I had a MySpace where I was blogging and really, I was answering questions. So I’ve revealed far less this time around. But, I don’t know if it is because of the level of interest or… I don’t know what, but there is definitely a sense of less is more with revealing things.
You’ve always been a fan of that, because you’ve been doing it since Made…
Favreau: That’s right. I don’t know. I think I have the sense from being a fan, of what is too much and what is not enough. I definitely don’t want to know more… Look, I want to enjoy going to the movie when I’m looking forward to a film. So I never read spoilers, and sometimes I don’t even watch trailers because trailers are the worst spoilers there are. You know, I remember even from being an actor in Deep Impact, I was like, you are showing that the meteor hit? ‘Of course, we have to show the meteor hit otherwise people won’t come to the theatre. Because that’s the big effects sequence.’ But that is the whole end of the movie. But from a marketing standpoint, you are fighting so hard to get people to come to your movie the first weekend, that you don’t want to hold back, even if you ruin things a little bit. Fortunately we are working with people at Paramount who are really good at putting trailers together, so even when they do show stuff, it is sometimes so disjointed and quick that you get to see the images but you don’t get the whole story. But now with the frame by frame, Zapruder way of analyzing anything [Laughing] that goes on-line, people will pick it apart. So the trick is to give enough information to keep the interest growing over the course of two years but not show so much that when you go to theatre there are no surprises left. And we’ve played that game a little bit. Like with the Nick Fury scene last time around where none of the press prints had it and then we released the film in theatres with it. Just to do little things…
That was very mean by the way… To make us wait…
Favreau: Sam Jackson was there the day after the press was there too… We had hidden him, I don’t know how that one got out. We had a small crew, a dark day, and we brought him in in a tinted limo. There were no script pages, no call sheet and somehow immediately thereafter, it was out there. And I know that the paparazzi were listening in on our radio frequencies the first day we were shooting and figuring things out. You know, to me it’s not a… I get a kick out of it, it doesn’t frustrate me. I think it is cool because I’ve been involved in movies where people didn’t care at all. So I definitely appreciate it. And people doing their jobs. And I think that if there is an enthusiastic conversation from both sides, with a level of excitement, I think it becomes a little bit of a game that people enjoy watching unfold. As long as people, you know, as long as nobody gets disrespected or hurt or, you know what I mean, as long as people’s lives aren’t ruined by it. But with a superhero movie, it’s not that crazy level of interest like with paparazzi and certain celebrities where it becomes stifling. With me, it’s usually you guys and me and it’s fun. I mean, I like the guessing game and it is like a little bit of a chess game goes on that the fans like to watch happen. And when somebody gets a spy photo, I’m not freaking out because it’s really cool, especially like the shot of Robert up in the donut. Because I think it was flattering, I think it kind of looked cool. But we hadn’t released it. That was where, I think we did a little misstep because we were considering releasing a photo before that knowing that somebody would get a photo. We didn’t think anybody got the photo and we didn’t release our photo and then their photo came out. So you’re always trying to play.. It’s a little bit of a dogfight with the press and the production. In addition we had people who, the mainstream press were really interested in, like Gwyneth and Scarlett. So I’m getting a taste of that end of the press. And there is not nearly the camaraderie that genre filmmakers have with the on-line community. I think there is a two-way respect that goes on here. It’s almost like sportswriters and athletes. There is a relationship that is sort of two sides of the same coin. When it comes to celebrities and tabloids, to me that is a bummer. That’s a little disappointing. And it is amazing how things really get made. I always used to think that where there is smoke there is fire, and now I see stories pop up out of nowhere with no basis in reality. And that’s really… it’s hard and I can see why a lot of people just ignore the press when hit that level of celebrity.
Can you talk a little bit about the scene here and what is going on?
Favreau: Yeah, [Robert] is in the workshop here, this is pretty deep into the film and Tony Stark is trying to – without getting too specific – there is a mystery that Tony is pursuing as it relates to upgrading the technology that he is dealing with. So he is trying to figure out solutions to problems that he’s having with his tech…
Tech meaning his armor?
Favreau: Yeah, the Iron Man technology. So there is a – part of his journey is realizing the breakthroughs that his father had made in the past and coming to terms, both emotionally with his dad and also with what technical innovations his father was doing ahead of his time, ’cause his father was like a Da Vinci who was inventing things that couldn’t be made yet, you know. He was one of those futurists of his time. And as Tony starts to learn more about his dad, he starts to learn more about the work that his father had done. So this is that.
Now with the first film, the first story, was it that Tony’s father was going to come into play in the sequel?
Favreau: We definitely laid out where we wanted the story line to go so that we weren’t just doing sequels in success, where it felt like we were redoing what we had done before. So we had very broad, general, long term aspirations. You know, unfortunately, the canon of Iron Man comics isn’t on the same level as Lord of the Rings, where you have it all laid out for you and you just have to service that. So we tried to select what villains and what storylines we felt came together. The logic of the comic books because the way they’re written, over the amount of time that they’re written, there are inconsistencies within the world. And so we tried to find the main players and how to build to those main players and how to keep the other villains within the reality and the tone of our world. Because there is not a lot of magic in our world. I mean, not yet certainly. You know, as we go into The Avengers, you’re crossing into different plains and different issues. But basically, this film and the first one, the only way we are stretching reality is with what technology can do. And we just didn’t want to arbitrarily – whereas like the X-Men films deals with mutations, that is their one place they bend reality – the place where we bend reality is through technology. And so we didn’t want to have all of a sudden, people come out of the blue who were magical and played by different sets of superhero rules that would seem consistent within a comic book world, but you know what, to a moviegoer who is not necessarily a comic book fan, would seem like it bumped with our first film. So how do we take what’s eluded to in the books and make it fit within our reality. And as they introduced new villains, and new good guys, how we fit them within those parameters too and stay within that same style. And there is that sort of tone that is a bit of a throwback to the old James Bond movies, that retro-futurist thing. You know, the James Bond movies have moved more towards The Bourne Identity feel and left behind the kitschy fun, tongue in cheek, Sixties image of a playboy that, I guess Austin Powers has been the only series that has played with that in a really camp way. So we’ve moved into that territory with the first film and we want to continue with that, make Tony Stark not just a superhero but an international man of mystery. We’re playing with that as well.
A lot of the pressures he is feeling then, in the middle of the film, aren’t just from him going public, they have to do with is father?
Favreau: Yeah, I think at its core, you always have to have emotional stakes with a character and some of it is what we laid out before we even started the first film and a lot of it is what we’ve learned from making the first film and what issues came up organically in the production and the editing of that movie. And how to service what established itself as the truth emotionally, because it is not just a writer or a filmmaker. It is the actor, it is the interaction, especially in these movies where everybody’s engaged in a collaborative… not until you see the final film will you understand what the tone really is and what the story really is. And so, the way that Robert played the first press conference and the issues that the character has in a funny way and a good way, but there is a negative side to it as well. And what would a person driven to those negative behaviors, what would be the core that pushed him in that direction, how much further does he go into his darkness as he is faced with a lot of pressures. Which tends to be when it comes out in people when they’re overwhelmed.
So are there flashback scenes, maybe an event that triggers how Tony is the man that he is now?
Favreau: You know, we try to steer clear of other comic book movies that are successful and find our own way and our own language for it. But from a story standpoint, we have aspects that serve the same purpose to inform how Tony ended up the way that he did and who he is, and why he is the way and how he changes over the course of the film.
In the scene with the model, he is looking down and saying, “The key to the future is… where?”. Are we gonna see this “where” or is it like a Raiders of the Lost Ark?
Favreau: We’ve created a mythology. Much as we put in the first film, his father was involved with the Manhattan Project, and inserted Howard Stark and Stark into the history of World War II and the history of America. There is a bit of a parallel history to our reality that we all live in, which is informed by the Stark family. And in the case of the World’s Fair, it is now the Stark Expo and it is something that Howard Stark was a sponsor of and helped motivate every decade, going from what our history from, I guess it is from the 1938 and the 1964 World’s Fair in Flushing Meadow Park, and then continued into the future.
The thing he is looking for is?
Favreau: Oh, you know, he doesn’t know yet and neither should you [Laughing].
Before the first film, you had been really interested in The Mandarin as the villain. And it sort of, well, he is there in the ten rings but not really there. Is it possible we are going to see Mickey Rourke wearing a ring in this film? Will the ten rings continue to play through?
Favreau: Interesting thing… is it too late to shoot that [Laughing]? The idea is, these things work best when, like pitching a tent or Teepee where you start it off with several distant points and they all work to one central point. If you start with everything together, the stability of the story doesn’t work well. So we are attempting to begin planting seeds in different areas that will unify, as informed by our real world. And so, in the first one we dealt with Afghanistan, unfortunately still a very timely subject. We picked the more relevant, theatre of warfare from our current events that still seems to be as present as it was at the time. And in dealing with our relationship with… you know it is interesting how Russia has become immediately relevant again. If we would have told a story about Russian characters five years ago, it would’ve seemed nostalgic. Now there is a new reality that forms that and what’s coming out of there and how that is informing everything. We are trying to borrow from what happens in reality in our headlines and mix it with the lure of the comics in a way. And then, tonally keep it within the context of what we established in the first film and build toward something that is going to manifest something that feels very consistent with the books. The Mandarin, as I said before, is a very challenging character because if we just went with what was in the books, it would seem like we “jumped the shark” to most audiences except for the core fans. And as we start to explore and unfold into what this is leading to, which is The Avengers, I think the rules are gonna have to change a bit. So that is going to open the door for other possibilities once people are on board with what we’re doing. Right now, the owe-ness is on us to satisfy the people who liked the first film. That’s a very tall order in and of itself because there is definitely more pressure and more expectation whereas, last time around, you know before Comic Con, the LA Times was saying Marvel parades out its B level heroes, who cares. And then, after showing footage we immediately became relevant, and then after the film came out, and thanks to a nice job with marketing and a strong grassroots fan base that had been building in enthusiasm and spreading to the mainstream, by the time the movie came out people came in and they liked it and they saw it again, they brought their kids and it became a hit. So there is a certain sense of relief that comes from that, and then a certain sense of obligation that comes with it, and we’re definitely feeling that.
So we’ve been told that we won’t see too much more of Samuel L. Jackson than we did at the end of one, which of the newcomers will we be seeing the most?
Favreau: You’ll be seeing, you know, we don’t want to waste anybody so we have Sam Jackson , Sam Rockwell, Scarlett… Gwyneth is in there, Don Cheadle now is in there with an important role, and then Mickey Rourke. None of those are bit players, you know what I mean, those are all people who need a nice strong character. And we’re having to service all of them in a way that it doesn’t make anybody who goes to the movie feel shortchanged if they’re a fan. And any one of those, all of them have been leads of their own films so there is a level of quality and arching to each actors performance. You know, you have to treat even a supporting role as a lead when you are the person playing that role, and they are all bringing that kind of dimension to it. I’m learning what they all do well and one of the things that I think I am confident in is that I have a really good eye for people who are good and know how to use their abilities to best service the film. And that’s been the most fun for me, and the most challenging.
Speaking of Comic-Con, you kind of raised the bar a few years ago with what you did at Comic-Con. What can fans look forward to this year?
Favreau: Well there’s two ways to play Comic-Con. One is to just show up and nod and give out a T-shirt and say, ‘We’ll see ya in a year!’. Part of our date, as it was last time, the beginning of the summer so it is before the Comic Con of 2010. So 2009 is our last opportunity to have a presence at Comic Con. Comic Con has become a very relevant venue for all films. So people will bring casts… the cast of Superbad was there, and they’re not exactly a comic book movie. So we are right there at the right place at the right time with the right type of film. And I think there has been a level of expectation from last time around, so for me, don’t show something if it’s not going to impress people. The combination of, show ’em more than they think they’re gonna see but leave ’em wanting more. So now, it is also, Comic Con comes right on the heels of our wrapping production. Fortunately, because of our cast, and the nature of our story, we are not as effects reliant on the effects of this genre so we could actually put together a nice piece that could be entertaining for that core audience without having to worry about jamming the pipeline and giving a lot of effects shots done. And there is a lot of practical stuff that we do, but I think that perhaps the most fulfilling moment of the whole last film was going. Walking into Comic-Con with people not caring and walking out with people, especially in this information age when you’d have blogs and talk backs, this was before Twitter but in real time it was up there. And the level of interest ratcheted up immediately.
It’s nice because the year out, we get this surge of enthusiasm and instant feedback from the fans that really propels us forward through the last year of essentially post-production, and it keeps us going so you are not really simply operating in a vacuum, painting a painting in a basement rather that’s going to go up in a museum. You’re getting immediate, real time feedback from your fans based on you showing them where you are in the process. And you don’t get that anywhere else but like in television. I was a guest on “Seinfeld” you got that back and forth with friends, you got that immediate interplay that kept building momentum. Comic-Con really serves at that for us and I really look forward to it, and I want to… if we show something I want it to be something special. I don’t want to show something if it’s not going to be great though.
Will Happy Hogan have more of a role?
Favreau: Yeah, a little bit more. I tried to talk to Gwyneth, I tried to explain to her that we sleep together and get married, it’s in the comics [Laughing] and she said she doesn’t really care what the comics say. I think people would burn down the theatres if Gwyneth ended up with anybody but Robert in the movie. But I did give myself a little bit more to do this time. You are in a little bit of a conundrum as a director because if I make myself super badass, everybody’s like, ‘Of course he did, he’s the director.’ [Laughing]. And also it is very difficult to try and act while you’re keeping all of this stuff in your head. Because it is a work in progress everyday that changes and adjusts to what the realities of each day shooting is and we try to keep somewhat in chronological order, you can’t always but for the most part, we try to and that always informs where things go.
Will you talk about the film’s script as a work in progress, and how involved has Justin [Theroux] been on the set? Have you guys been working on the script…?
Favreau: Justin’s been great, you know, he’s a different writer than we had last time. We were very happy with our writing teams last time as well. Justin had a really good experience with Robert, he really had a good sense of his voice and that is something that Robert and I had more brought to the first film. Because we had written the script, or had begun writing the script without Roberts attachment. From this time, Robert was involved from day one, and it’s a very different process writing… it’s not like we sat down, wrote the movie and then began casting and pre-production. Everything runs concurrently. So we’re constantly adjusting the pages, sometimes on the day, to bring out the best possible version of the scene which was resting on what was written a few weeks or months ago. Justin had not worked on a film of this genre before but he’s an actor and I’ve always – you know, myself, being an actor has given me a good ear and a good perspective on storytelling and screenwriting, and he certainly has that going for him. The Marvel guys have been really helpful, the producers, both Kevin and Jeremy have been really helpful in understanding what the parameters of this genre are and if we make a decision that seems cool, they’ll be like, oh no, that was used in that film, or that’s the villain that was in that or no, they blew up a dam in X-Men 2. They have an encyclopedic memory for those types of films and now also, thanks to J.J. [Abrams], Star Trek has become part of our genre again. And if you include Wrath of Kahn and Empire Strikes Back, there have been a lot of good “Part 2’s” in the sci-fi genre that also overlap with the superhero genre, so you want to emulate their success and what made those movies interesting and good, but you don’t want to borrow too heavily from their plotline. It’s a very picked over field.
Having Robert involved, you know, with his character, has he brought a lot of things to the table you may have not noticed otherwise?
Favreau: Yeah, he’s really a full partner creatively. He’s been involved in all the writing sessions and breaking story. He was very involved last time around, we would do a lot of writing actually on the set, or the day before and make adjustments. He has a very, very clear sense of story and a clear sense of character. And most importantly, he knows what he needs to score. So if nothing else, he knows what clubs need to be in his bag, you know, and part of my job as a director is when you have a guy as talented as he is to just give him what he thinks he needs to get it done. Of course there is really not a bad take in the guy and it’s a matter of knowing how to conjure up what he does well. He brings humor, spontaneity… something unpredictable and an emotional grounding to the character. And I think that that… he above all things is what made the first film unique. And I think our combination of how we work together and support each other’s weaknesses is what made the film have the personality that it did. And I’m really glad to be working with him again. If the film didn’t have him, it wouldn’t just be a different cast member, it would be truly, you know, one of the creative pillars of the process.
What do you know about the Hulk being in The Avengers?
Favreau: The Hulk being in the Avengers? I don’t know where they’re going with that to be honest. You should ask them about that. At some point they’re gonna have to merge and as far as the time line of that film is and how they all fit, relative to one another will become obvious I think in later films. Right now, the big thing we’re taking into consideration is our last film and how that extends into this one and what the relative time frame is between those two. And then, as far as The Hulk goes, and Thor and Captain America, that’s all gonna inform The Avengers. There are definitely a lot of conversations going on and I get little tidbits of, but my brain is kind of full with what we’re doing here.
This is interesting because when you did Iron Man one, the idea of a Marvel Universe was theoretical back then…
… now it’s real and there are other movies so you’re not sitting down with [Kenneth] Branagh talking about, you know, let’s make sure we’re on the same page…?
Favreau: That’s all done through the Marvel guys, it’s a very small team here. So if anything is relevant, and now with Thor coming out later, we’re still the rabbit in a lot of ways. We are still the first ones through. And we have a little bit of Hulk to contend with as far as keeping it consistent. It doesn’t really inform what we’re doing here. I think it is one of those things where all these beads get strung together and as long as they’re consistent in isolation once The Avengers pulls it all together it’s going to… that’s what’s going to make the larger statement.
So is Tony going to make reference to meet William Hurt in the next movies?
Favreau: No, I talked to the Marvel guys about that, because that was something that I saw in the theatre. I wasn’t really involved with that and that is something that is not relevant to our film because of the time relative to, when that happens, is outside of the reality of this film. So that is something that is going to happen but it is not something that happened before this movie.
What about War Machine, is that being looked at as a possible spin off?
Favreau: I don’t know. My only trick is to make War Machine really cool and then make Iron Man just as cool, if not cooler. Which becomes a hard challenge.
I assume War Machine’s role is as an assistant and not a substitute?
Favreau: Well you’ll see. We definitely work more by the books, there’s an interesting… you know, War Machine had a lot of different relationships with Iron Man. And we looked through all the storylines and figured out how it fits within the parameters of what we established in the first film. And we chose the aspects of those storylines that we felt served the story the best. But we definitely take into account the various relationships that they had.
You’re an actor/filmmaker, Branagh is an actor/filmmaker. You said Downey have more of a creative role. Was it by design on Marvel’s part to make their universe and their franchises more actor-centric?
Favreau: I don’t know. I think they’ve been very, very brave and I think its paid off for them as far as taking chances with who they’ve creatively partnered with. If they haven’t gone to people who… they’re confidant in their grasp of the genre and are looking more to people with inspired voices and people that are going to bring a unique take to the material as opposed to just a craftsman that could service the material. And I’ve experienced tremendous freedom. Both in casting and a lot of support in casting. And also the amount of creative freedom we’ve been allowed in the tone and the storytelling. I think Branagh’s probably, you know, from the conversations I’ve had with him, I think it was a very smart choice considering his body of work and his level of enthusiasm to tackle this type of film, which is something new. And as long as you’re a good filmmaker, and you want to be doing it, you could do a good job with the support of people who are done it before, like the Marvel crew. I think people fall short when there’s a compromise, but Branagh’s definitely enthusiastic about it. He’s excited. And I think that, to do Thor convincingly, somebody with a good classical theatre, Shakespearean background is going to bring out what’s best in the books and not play into the parts that might seem goofy. I think he’s going to elevate it. And I think as the casting unfolds, it seems that they’re making choices that support that.
Does he want Stark to pop up in it?
Favreau: I don’t know how that’s all going to fit together.