Screenwriter Drew Pearce spent an afternoon in the CBR TV Speakeasy where he had an in-depth discussion about his career in Hollywood, including co-writing “Iron Man 3” with — and getting over his initial butterflies about working alongside — director Shane Black, and reflected on the luck he’s had in the casts who bring his writing to life (“Basically, I just work with a whole bunch of legends, and they make my shit look good!”)
Pearce spoke about returning to the Marvel Cinematic Universe for the Marvel One-Shot short “All Hail the King” (“the most overblown and grandiose Blu-ray extra in history,” according to Pearce) starring Sir Ben Kingsley that debuts on the “Thor: The Dark World” Blu-ray, how he and Black developed the character of the Mandarin from the comics to the film, the initial negative reaction fans had to the changes to the character and how they swung towards mostly positive reactions upon seeing and ruminating over the film.
On working with Shane Black on “Iron Man 3”: We kind of an arranged marriage… He was more nervous than me, because he’s been doing it longer an I suspect he’s had more crappy arranged marriages than I have! And there was a week of circling each other and trying to get a sense of each other, which was more nerve-wracking for me, because it’s far more likely that the person that nobody’s heard of will get kicked off the movie than the, you know, the director who also wrote and directed amazing movies beforehand. But, after this initial week in his — he lives in this huge, spooky, very ‘old Hollywood’ mansion, and we would sit on the same sofas, opposite each other, nothing else going on around us except really smelly dogs, just circling us, intermittently farting — in the most unpleasant way. And we would just sit and talk, and after a week, we went into Marvel [Studios] and just started talking as a team. Making a movie like “Iron Man 3” is a huge challenge. What was amazing was that Shane and I were together on in, right until, you know, right until we sat watching the movie with the first audience at the London premiere.
On developing the Mandarin for the movies: We didn’t even really consider, beyond a couple of days of conversation, any version of the traditional character. We did kick about, briefly, the “Story of My Life” Matt Fraction version that appears in the “Invincible Iron Man” annual, which is, appreciably, the darkest story that has ever appeared in “Iron Man.” It’s so brutally dark, and because of that, it didn’t feel appropriate either. We talked about the modern version, Khan kind of as a businessman, and we just — it was kind of there, in our pool of ideas. It was definitely something that we loved the idea of as, literally, the force of a foe and a title, a mantle. that’s part of how we kind of came to your own place with the Mandarin. For a while, the bad guy was Madden. We were using elements way more from “Extremis” than we did.But it just came back around and came in, because there’s something about the idea of a powerful-seeming nemesis, that actually played into the thematic idea that we wanted to do.
On the amount of freedom he had in developing and filming the “All Hail the King” one-shot: That’s a testament to Kevin Feige as a creative force… Everything I’ve done with Kevin has been the best creative experience of my career. I owe him an awful lot in my career. Even though it seems like I may have slipped a whole bunch of subversive stuff through into “All Hail the King” — Kevin’s one of the smartest people you’ll ever meet. He saw all of it, and encouraged it, as well. There were a couple of gags that I wrote that I would have taken out in the edit, for either being too on the nose or too sharp, and Kevin’s like, “No, you gotta keep that! That’s gold! What’re you doing?”
On the experience of filming a project with the star of “Ghandi” and “Schindler’s List” — and having him deliver a “wank gag” : [In “All Hail the King”], Trevor is me, and the interviewer grilling him is, and threatening him in many ways, is fandom. I like the fact that a couple of people have said that you can read it that way, and, you know, that’s fun too. You can also just take it as a bunch of dick jokes, and an amazing actor at the heart of it, if that’s also what you so choose… Essentially asking the man from “Schindler’s List” and “Ghandi” to deliver a wank gag. [And he does it perfectly] because he is a genius.
On the negative reaction some fans had to the Mandarin/Trevor Slattery reveal: I’m unbelievably proud of what we did, and also the fact that we actually snuck a surprise into a big summer movie, which is, on a logistical level alone, really hard to do, now. I was surprised at the small but vocal group’s venom about [the character change], but I think, partly, it was driven by surprise. There’s a part of me that feels like, if I think about what I’m like as a comic book fan, it’s definitely a world where I smugly tell my friends in advance, “I know everything about the Mandarin, it’s amazing, he’s going to be a brilliant — he’s going to take Tony down, it’s going to be head to head.” And then when I go to the theater, and for the first hour, I’m like, “See? He’s exactly what I told you! He’s a badass! Oh, wait — he’s just walked out of a bathroom made a joke about the fact that he’s done a shit and now he is talking like Withnail.” I could see how that surprise might be a bit of a shock. And I’m sorry that it pissed people off, but I’m also like, it’s kind of our job to push the boundaries and surprise and hopefully delight. Or make people so angry that they send me incredibly rude twitters.