Robert Downey, Jr. is Tony Stark. Watching his charming, funny and more than a little self-centered answers during the press conference for Iron Man 2 confirmed beyond the shadow of a doubt that they found the right man for job. His partner in crime, Jon Favreau has established himself in the upper echelons of movie directors from a background dominated by comedic roles and indie films. The two of them evinced the sort of easy chemistry with each other than both Iron Man films display in force -- a chemistry matched by the remainder of the cast and crew. A transcript of their comments follows.
Question: Did you feel pressure with the sequel, since the first film was such a success?
Robert Downey, Jr.: You mean “feel” like it’s past tense? I didn’t sleep last night.
Jon Favreau: I’ve never done a sequel before, unless you count me being an under-5 on Batman Forever as an actor. For me, there wasn’t the same pressure that you’re used to feeling… 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 people were going to show up, we just wanted to make sure they had a good time, and that this was going to be as much fun or more fun than the last party. So a different kind of pressure.
Q: Did you ever dress as a superhero growing up?
RDJ: Growing up, no, but in my mid-thirties in Palm Springs right before an arrest, yes. It was a premonition. [Laughter]
Q: Were the physical challenges greater this time around?
RDJ: Physically, I feel like Don [Cheadle] and Scarlett [Johanssen] and Mickey [Rourke] actually had a heavier load this time as far as armature goes. But we just labored really hard to say “okay, we’re audience members who made the first Iron Man successful, and we’re smart, so what do we expect?” We kept putting ourselves in the audience’s seat. So for me, the mental and emotional aspects of Tony were a lot more… it’s strange to say personal, because it doesn’t necessarily relate to my life. But just the mythology of saying you’re something and then trying to be that thing.
Q: The first film was famous for what you discovered on set, for the improvisational atmosphere. Was that the case here?
JF: The story is very well fleshed out, but what has to happen in each scene… we leave a lot of room within those scenes, and try to do multiple cameras sometimes. Or we stay up late and rewrite. Justin [Theroux], he was doing multiple passes, sometime double-digit passes on scenes because we learned things from each scene that we shot. We try to shoot pretty much in order. What’s nice about having these actors 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. If they have an issue with something we’re asking the character to do for the story, we discuss it, and we figure out a way so that it could work for them as a performer.
Q: Where there other villains considered before you decided on Whiplash? What was the process of bringing that villain to the screen?
JF: I met with Mickey at this hotel, and I brought him some artwork. Whiplash in the comic book is a guy wearing tights with a big purple feather coming out of the top of his head. That wasn’t what we wanted; we were looking for a tech version of that. We were concocting a version of a Russian: thinking of Viggo [Mortensen] in Eastern Promises and the tattoos. That could be a cool in. Then with Marv [in Sin City] and The Wrestler… Mickey brought a lot of intensity to both those roles. We did some artwork, and I sat down with him to talk about things. This was before the awards thing started to happen. We had a nice little connection. I talked to people who worked with him, they said great things about him, and his talent is undeniable. So that conversation ended. Then Robert was on the road with him, because he was on the Tropic Thunder awards tour. I think he was lobbying him every time they sat together to get him to join the movie.
RDJ: I really worked him like a rib, didn’t I? It was embarrassing. I was literally begging him in public.
Q: You’re working with a lot of different actors this time. Was the dynamic different? What was it like?
RDJ: It was great. These are all folks that I’d be happy to work with in any circumstance, in any medium. So it was just swell. As for the management of it… I felt a little like the co-manager of a baseball team that just got an even better line-up in the spring. I felt a little beholden to their experience, partially responsible for their experience.
Q: How hard was it to balance Tony Stark’s story with the set-up for the Avengers movie and the overall Marvel franchise?
JF: With the other characters, the trick is to feather them in so that they don’t overwhelm the story and you don’t suffer from villainitis. By having Justin Hammer [Sam Rockwell] and Mickey Rourke’s character come together fairly early, you really have two storylines that are weaving together, not five separate storylines. The same thing with Scarlett as the Black Widow, working her way into Gwyneth [Paltrow] and Robert’s storyline. We really tried to keep narrative flows going so it didn’t get 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. I like to watch the stuff blow up, but I’m not going to do homework before I see a sequel to be up on everything. So we tried to keep that simple. And Justin Hammer… Sam Rockwell was somebody I had known and thought would work really well with Mickey. He doesn’t get intimidated by talented performers or movie stars. He’s done a great job with a lot of people.
Q: I know it’s early, but can you give a hint of what kind of extras will be on the DVD?
JF: There’s a lot of featurettes. We’re running cameras behind the scenes all the time. We don’t like to show too much of it before the movie comes out, to keep some surprises. But everything was very well documented, and we have a very interesting group of people. We’re fans of these movies, [producer] Kevin Feige and I. So we document it very well. There will be commentary this time around as well, and also deleted scenes that we thought would be really interesting for people to see. 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. [Smiles.]
Q: Robert, are you going to be the Vampire Lestat?
RDJ: Anything that’s going on, just imagine that it’s been offered to me.