Behind The Scenes Iron Man

New York’s intense street dancing underground comes alive in eye-popping Digital 3D as a tight-knit group of street dancers team up with Moose and find themselves pitted against the world’s best hip-hop dancers in a high-stakes showdown that will change their lives forever.

Bringing his indie sensibilities to a big-budget Marvel adaptation has worked wonders for Jon Favreau. On paper, Jon Favreau might seem like an odd choice to direct Marvel’s first in-house adaptation, Iron Man. Having made his name by writing, and starring in, Swingers, Favreau made his feature film directorial debut with Made, the 2001 sequel to that 1996 hit. Two years later, and he was helming perhaps the finest Christmas movie of all-time, Elf, delivering the goods – if not the box-office – once again with the sci-fi kiddie adventure yarn Zathura: A Space Adventure in 2005.

During all this, Favreau continued to flex his thespian muscles, in the likes of Friends, Daredevil and, alongside his good buddy, Vince Vaughn, The Break-Up. When it came to directing his first bona-fide Hollywood blockbuster, Favreau felt he was more than ready. And, with Iron Man, he certainly delivers the thrills and the spills, but also a surprising amount of laughs. All the result, no doubt, of working closely with his chosen leading man, Robert Downey Jr., Favreau having to knock heads with Marvel over the once-troubled actor’s suitability. And reliability.

When met up with Favreau at London’s Claridges hotel, the glowing reviews were already beginning to fill his inbox.It was back in 1963, in Tales Of Suspense #39, that Iron Man made his debut, and Hollywood has long struggled to get him onto the big screen.

Did you find it easy to sleep once you’d taken on Marvel’s first in-house production?

Oh, I sleep like a baby when it comes to that stuff, because it’s not my money. But it is my career. So, the thing that I lost sleep over was, if we made this film, and it was a piece of crap, if it made money, they would be successful, but it could really bruise my ego. Ultimately, I think it hurts a filmmaker’s career if they make films that aren’t good, even if they’re successful at the box-office. I’ve been spoilt in the past in that the films that I’ve made have all been well received, although the last one I made, Zathura, bombed pretty hard. As I was talking to Robert, I asked him, ‘What do you actually want to do with your career?’, and he said, ‘I would like to make good movies that people actually get to see’. And that becomes compelling after a while. So, the pressure wasn’t so much trying to make a movie that lived up to the genre, because the genre, honestly, has a lot of bad movies in it. There’s a lot of bad superhero movies rattling around out there, and only a handful of good ones. The challenge for us was to make a good movie that wasn’t just a retread of some other superhero film. And by casting Robert, I think half my job was done.

Downey is fantastic here, and he lifts proceedings well beyond normal expectations in pretty much the same way that Johnny Depp took Pirates to a whole new level. You and Downey had offices side-by-side in pre-production – very much a collaborative effort?

Yeah. It’s an interesting rhythm of collaboration, because he comes onboard, there’s a honeymoon. There’s no script. People don’t know this about superhero movies; there’s no script to them until you’re just about to shoot. They generally don’t come together until then. Even bigger ones than this. This is the first one of, hopefully, a franchise, but once you get into 2s and 3s, and they’re making money, they start throwing writers at it, and they get scared, and it’s not until you’re on the set, honestly, that it all comes together. Fortunately, my background is in improvisation, and I’m a writer. He’s a writer, he’s an improvisor, so, we were able to see eye-to-eye creatively on a lot of stuff, but most of that creative process took place on set, in the trailer, in-between takes, staying late, talking about the next day’s work, calling Gwyneth in. So, there was very much a sense of a collaborative think-thank.

He was training beforehand, working on his muscles, because he knew he had to be hammering in that mask, and he wanted to look good. This is the first time that he’s been asked to play the lead who’s supposed to be romantically appealing. He’s usually the character actor – the sidekick, the friend. Charlie Chaplin. This is a very big jump for him, and he was training a lot. He does Kung Fu pretty adamantly too, and he was getting ready for the role while I was getting ready for the movie.

Your battle cry during production was ‘Plausibility’ – was that tough, given that you’re dealing with a billionaire playboy munitions mogul who can fly in his personally-constructed hi-tech suit of armour?

Well, the idea of plausibility was where we landed because – and there was actually a sign over my door which said ‘Plausibility’ – it was just more that, it doesn’t have to be real, it just has to be plausible. You have to adhere to the rules that you lay out, and that means, if you set something up, don’t change the rules. Just because it’s a superhero movie and therefore you can do anything you can, doesn’t mean you should. It’s bad storytelling. And then when it came to the special effects, I’ve always been really sceptical about CGI. I always wanted everything to look real, and operate as though it were real, and for everything to make sense. Because I feel that if the CGI are too over-the-top and too crazy, you always lose your connection to the lead. And I always felt that the strongest suit in this was Robert, and his portrayal of Tony Stark, and the transition of that character. And I didn’t want to feel like, ‘Here’s the Robert Downey Jr. movie’, and then you cut away to Power Rangers. Two different movies. You wanted it to feel integrated and connected, and let the effects serve the story and the emotion.

Early info on this film had the likes of Hilary Swank and Sam Jackson in the cast. DVD extras now, or was it all in imdb’s imagination?

There’s a lot of misinformation out there…

Your doing?

No, I didn’t put anything out there. I tried to stop them, but imdb are like Wikipedia; the stuff just grows and grows of its own accord. I had my own MySpace site, where I would answer people’s questions. But I wouldn’t answer every question, because I wanted there to be some surprises in the movie. You have to play a game of cat and mouse with the fans; there are certain things I showed them – like the suit, sequences, casting – but there still had to be a lot of surprises. I debuted a lot of the footage at ComicCon a year ago. I didn’t want it to peak, and for people to know everything about the movie, between the spies and the stuff we released, because, otherwise, why go and see the film. So, when it came to those supporting cameo things, I left it up in the air. I never want the audience to know too much. I want to have some tricks up my sleeve, some surprises, for the good of the audience. And, hopefully, there will still be some surprises left when people go see the movie.

Words : Paul Byrne

Iron Man Opens In Ireland This Week!