We chat to Iron Man 2 director Jon Favreau and stars Robert Downey Jr, Mickey Rourke, Gwyneth Paltrow, Scarlett Johansson and Don Cheadle
Now that the world knows that billionaire industrialist Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) is Iron Man, Tony seeks to underscore the benefits of the Iron Man suit by re-launching his late father’s extravagant Stark Expo, a showcase for the humanitarian innovations inspired by its technology. As the U.S. government insists that Tony turn the revolutionary weapon over to the military, Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke), a mysterious figure from the Stark family’s past, sets out to destroy Tony by revealing his own devastating weapon based on Stark’s technology. Overwhelmed on all fronts, while also facing his own personal demands, Tony must finally call on his allies – old and new – to help him confront the gathering forces that threaten to destroy him and all of mankind.
We sat down with the all star cast of heroes and villains; Robert Downey Jr, Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Mickey Rourke, Scarlett Johansson and Jon Favreau talked to us about the characters, the pressures of doing a sequel and what we can expect to see on the DVD…
Did you feel pressure doing a sequel to such a successful first film?
Downey Jr You mean feel, like it’s past tense? I didn’t sleep last night.
Favreau I’ve never done a sequel before, unless you count Batman Forever, as an actor. But, for me, there wasn’t the same pressures that you’re used to seeing, especially 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 that everybody that showed up had a good time and this was going to be as fun or more fun than the last party. It was a different kind of pressure.
Mickey, that was an electrifying performance you gave. Can you talk about the experience of doing a role like this?
Rourke I had a lot of fun. It was great. I was working with some great people. Jon is real easy to work with. Makes it fun. It was nice. I had just come off of working on a film with no budget. I didn’t even have a chair to sit in. I remember, the first day on Iron Man, I asked for a cappuccino and they said, “What kind would you like?”
Don, your character, Rhodey, was played by Terrence Howard in the first film. How did it feel to have the opportunity to play this character in the sequel?
Cheadle I felt very fortunate to get the opportunity to work in a film like this. Terrence is a friend and I’ve known him for a long time. I was one of the producers on Crash and put him in that. It was good to also see him and put anything to bed that people may have thought was a problem. It wasn’t. We’re cool. It was a lot of fun. We get to play with the best toys and the best technology. It’s doing what you liked to do as a kid, but all fleshed out.
Jon, did you consider any other villains for this? Why did you choose Whiplash?
Favreau I met with Mickey at the Four Seasons 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 wanted the tech version of that. So, we were concocting a version of the Russian, thinking of Viggo in Eastern Promises, with the tattoos. That was a cool in. Then, it was like Marv (from Sin City) and The Wrestler. Between the fanboys and the independent film community, Mickey was back with a vengeance. There’s a lot of people in the film and we didn’t have a tremendous amount of screen time, so it was about who was going to be there and make an impression, so that you feel like Tony Stark is in trouble. Mickey brought a lot of intensity to both of those roles. We did some artwork and I met with him, and we talked about everything. It was before all of the awards things started to happen. We had a nice little connection. I talked to people who had worked with him, and they said great things about him. His talent is undeniable. So, that conversation ended and then Robert was on the road with him doing the awards tour, and he was lobbying, every time they sat together, to try to get him to join the movie.
Downey Jr I really worked him like a rib. It was embarrassing. I was literally begging him, in public.
Jon, how hard was it to naturally weave in the new characters to the story?
Favreau The trick is to feather the characters in, so they donft overwhelm the story and you donft suffer from villain-itis. By having Justin Hammer and Mickey Rourkef’ characters come together fairly early, you really have two storylines that are weaving. You don’t have five separate storylines. And, it’s the same thing with Scarlett as Black Widow, working her way into Gwyneth and Robert’s story. We really tried to keep narrative flows going, so it didn’t get too convoluted because 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 go see a sequel, to be up on everything, so we tried to keep that simple. Sam Rockwell was somebody that I had known and thought would work really well with Mickey. He doesn’t get intimidated by talented performers and movie stars. He’s done a great job with a lot of people.
There’s a real Moonlighting thing going on between Tony and Pepper in this film, and the kiss was highly anticipated. How was it finally having that on-screen kiss?
Downey Jr I couldn’t get her off me. It was embarrassing.
Paltrow It was great because both my husband and his wife were right there.
Downey Jr Yeah. She told me that I didn’t know what I was doing and that it didn’t feel good, and I was like, ’First of all, we’re all friends, so what would be creepy was if I was coming off all sexy to you.’ And, by the way, I’ve done that in movies and it creeps them out. So, what am I going to creep her out for? Despite what she said on set, she still thinks about it…!
Jon’s cameo from the first movie definitely got more fleshed out, this time around…
Downey Jr Let’s talk about Happy Hogan. There’s three Happy Hogans in the movie. There’s the Jon Favreau that’s actually in excellent shape. He was boxing everyday, in pre-production, and made it into the ring for the scene where he gets his ass handed to him by Scarlett. That was originally a longer scene and maybe he was just too emasculated to let it be in the movie because she laid the boots to him quite severely. Then, about midway through, he was struggling with the meta-fast, and occasionally binging on pizza and then saying, “This is crazy. I have to get back in the gym.” By the time we were doing re-shoots, they were framing him out of shots!
Jon, is it true that you considered Sam Rockwell, who plays Justin Hammer in this film, for Tony Stark in the first film?
Favreau Well, we were putting lists together, long before I even met with Robert. I thought that he would’ve been a fun and non-traditional, other way to go. We were listing a lot of younger actors that didn’t have a lot of experience and were a little bit more traditionally what you’d think for a superhero role. Then, when I met Robert, we pretty much clicked and I knew that he was the guy. But, Justin Hammer wishes that he was Tony Stark, and Sam really embraced that aspect of the character. I think it’s really fun for that, and he had a ball with it.
What are some of the cool extras that you’re planning on for the DVD and Blu-ray?
Favreau Well, there’s a lot of featurettes. We were running cameras behind the scenes, all the time. We don’t like to really show too much of it before the movie comes out to keep some surprises, but everything was very well documented. As you can see, we have a very interesting group of people, so between the interviews, you get a really good sense of that work. We’re fans of these movies. Kevin and I are always swapping books and things about the movies that we grew up loving, and that’ll be documented very well. There will be pretty extensive featurettes and then commentary this time around. Also, there will be deleted scenes that we thought would be interesting for people to see. So 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. We did overkill on this one.
Scarlett and Gwyneth, both of your characters are suave and smart in this film. You’re not just sex symbols. Was that the appeal?
Johansson Well, I’ve never really seen a film of this genre where the female characters’ sex appeal came second. Of course, they’re sexy characters. When you have a sexy secretary or a girl swinging around by her ankles in a cat suit, that’s innately sexy. But, the fact is that these characters are intelligent, ambitious, motivated and calculated, to some degree. To be just a pawn in this story of a whole bunch of men fighting it out and rolling around and getting down and dirty, and there you are, a vision in a tight cat-suit, would be a boring thing to me.
I think that Jon really made that very clear, in the beginning, that as far as Black Widow, or Natalie, was concerned, she was mysterious and nuanced and something to peel back the layers to. He wanted there to be something there. I think that’s why this film is so much more dynamic for me, as an audience member. I’ve never really been a huge fan of this genre, and I think that’s because it was always sort of one-note and very explosive. I think because Gwyneth and I are able to be the brains behind the operation, in some aspect, there’s a happy medium there that adds to the charm and charisma of the finished product.
Paltrow I agree with Scarlett. I think it’s actually a very smart decision to have women who are capable and intelligent because it appeals to women. It’s not only a film for 15-year-old boys. It’s a film that can relate to a lot of people, on a lot of levels, and a lot of my girlfriends like it because of the romance. It doesn’t look gratuitous. It looks like there are interesting women in the movie. My character is quick and articulate, so when you take your kid, if you’re a mom, it’s really fun for you to watch as well. It’s nice to see women who are aspirational, smart and sexy, all at the same time.
Cheadle I think that 15-year-old boys are into that, too.
Johansson It’s oddly old-fashioned, in the best sense of the word. These characters are like those fabulous femme fatales of the Golden Age of Hollywood. More Bette Davis than Jane Mansfield, which I think is so much more dynamic to watch.
Do you have an interior monologue for Pepper, or ideas beyond the dialogue, to justify her being so supportive of Tony?
Paltrow The inner monologue of Pepper is that she’s trying to hold it all together. She tries not to be reactive and she tries to steer him in the right direction, like the great woman behind the man. I think that’s what runs through her mind.
Robert, can you talk about the physical and emotional challenges of this film?
Downey Jr I think we just labored really hard and said, ’Okay, we’re audience members who made the first Iron Man successful. It’s smart, which is why we were drawn to it. So, what do we expect? ’We kept putting ourselves in the audience’s seat. For me, the mental and emotional development and aspects of Tony were a lot more. Also, this whole idea of Howard Stark, and the legacy and the shadow of that legacy that we were always talking about, showed how Mickey and I were two sides of the same coin. One was able to escape that captivity, and one saw his father die in the ruins of improper recognition, and having to reckon with that. Really, all of the characters, including Black Widow/Natalie, in certain places, bring me back to an extended family that Ifve always had. Rhodey is there saying, ’Hey, you’ve always had me on your wing, so why won’t you really let me help you?’ Obviously, the Pepper thing is really about love.
Iron Man 2 opens in the UK on April 30, and in the USA on May 7.