Speaking with reporters at a Beverly Hills press conference, “Iron Man 3” stars Robert Downey Jr. (Tony Stark), Gwyneth Paltrow (Pepper Potts), Don Cheadle (James Rhodes) and Sir Ben Kingsley (the Mandarin) touched on working with director Shane Black, as well as whether or not they feel the May 3-releasing Marvel Studios film, which depicts acts of terror and Al Queda-like video tapes, may be impacted by the Boston Marathon bombings.
“I’d like to speak for all of us and say that I like entertainers to speak about entertainment,” Downey told reporters.
“If there’s any sort of allusions to what’s happening in the real world and what’s happening in the film, clearly this movie was in the can before anything transpired last week, but as Robert mentioned earlier the job of this film is to entertain,” Cheadle agreed.
Paltrow believes that, at worst, the film presents a jumping off point to discuss the issue with both adults and with children.
“We do live in an unsafe world, that’s the truth. I’m dealing with this now with my seven year old,” the actress said. “He’s grappling with the fact that the world is unsafe and there are people who do harmful things, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with presenting that idea. We can’t lie to our children that the world is perfect and everybody is happy and everybody is out there to do good. It’s just part of the bigger conversation…it’s a good, contained place to have a conversation.”
This balancing act presented the biggest challenge for the film throughout production since, as Downey explained, many involved felt the success of the sequel would be determined by who they cast as the villain.
“These movies are only ever as good as our bad guys. Once we cast Sir Ben, half our troubles went away, and then the other half had to do with him executing this very peculiar and awesome arc,” Downey said as the British actor chuckled.
Speaking to the unique role the Mandarin plays in the unfolding of the film’s events, Kingsley explained that what drew him to the role was, quite simply, the script.
“[Co-writers] Drew [Pearce] and Shane presented us with a wonderful document; whenever we do improvise, it’s minimal, maybe to sharpen one or two ideas that we were playing with,” Kingsley said. “I tried to give the Mandarin in the political broadcasts a rather unnerving sense of righteousness, make him almost paternalistic, patriarchal. That’s where the timbre of his delivery comes from. His weird iconography was to discombobulate and completely scatter any expectations of where he might be coming from.”
Downey discussed the other major challenge he faced in the film: acting alongside kids, specifically actor Ty Simpkins (Harley). “A lot of things in ‘Iron Man 3,’ we knew we were taking risks and we were out of familiar territory,” Downey said. “[Shane Black’s] idea of a superhero running into a little kid in the heartland of America, I think, wound up being a wise choice.
“[Ty’s] great, I taught him everything he knows,” the actor added as his co-stars laughed.
While Downey, Cheadle and Kingsley all praised Black, who had worked with Downey before on “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang,” they weren’t all happy with the initial decision to have the 80s and 90s action screenwriter direct their movie. Specifically, Paltrow confessed she did not want to work with Black at first.
“I was very uncomfortable with the fact that Jon [Favreau] wasn’t there directing. I thought that Jon casts the movies and he was responsible, in part, for ‘The Avengers.’ I know everyone was busy, but it was weird he was not there directing,” Paltrow explained. “But as we went on and I warmed to Shane, and his terrible outfits — he is so sharp. He is so smart and his dialogue is incredible. What we started with in this movie which we didn’t start with in the first two films was a really excellent, finished screenplay. I think it really shows in the film.”
The only thing the cast and crew found more fun than Black’s fashion sense — “I only remember him being in one terrible outfit,” Kingsley joked — was Black’s tendency to injure himself on set.
“When we would cut, he’d tend to run somewhere, because the only time someone couldn’t ask him a question was when he was in a full-out run. Once, he ran across the street, and the next thing I knew, he was sitting down on a sidewalk because there was a cable in front of where we were working and he had hit it at such a clip that he had flipped on his side and dislocated his shoulder,” Downey recalled as he, Cheadle and Kinsley cracked up.
“This is not a funny story!” Paltrow interrupted. “He had cracked ribs and he was all bloody and bruised!”
“Oh my God, it just gets better!” Cheadle wheezed.
Downey avoided confirming if they were filming a post-credit scene to tease any of the upcoming Marvel movies, jokingly explaining to a fascinated Cheadle that all the Marvel films included a “button.”
“I never sat through the end of the whole thing. As soon as Rhodey’s off the screen, I just leave,” Cheadle joked as Downey laughed.
Clarifying, in a more serious tone, that he did actually watch the entire film, Cheadle said, “It was great to see the whole movie put together because we’re on such separate tracks, I didn’t know what Gwyneth was doing for the movie. It was, ‘Oh, that’s what you’re doing!’ It would be great to have another bite of the apple to mix with these guys a little more, but we had a ball.”
Asked which suit he liked better, War Machine or Iron Patriot, Cheadle laughed. “Well, the Iron Patriot is about three kilos heavier than War Machine…!”
“You guys are wimps,” Paltrow told Cheadle and Downey.
“You never had to put it on! Your [suit] was CG!” Cheadle retorted.
After Cheadle described how he felt the relationships between Rhodey and Stark really blossom in the third film, Paltrow spoke about Pepper’s evolution from secretary and damsel in distress to CEO and Tony’s equal. “I feel really lucky to play Pepper for that reason, because very rarely do you start at such a distinctive place and end up somewhere else. One of the things I loved the most is that she stepped into her power in all areas and you do see her as a very intelligent, articulate CEO. You see her now in a more equal relationship with Tony.”
“I was always saying, God — I want to see Pepper in the suit and see what Tony gets from it and help him transcend it,” Downey added, joining in the room’s thunderous applause when Cheadle asked if they wanted to see the supporting cast — him in particular — in the next “Avengers” film.
“In the comics, [Pepper] becomes Rescue, her own person,” Paltrow added.
“And she marries Happy Hogan,” Downey interrupted.
“Aw, yeah!” Paltrow shouted, doing a little dance onstage as the room cracked up.
As for whether there are more “Iron Man” movies in store for Downey, the actor made a face, then laughed, admitting that he really doesn’t know.
“The future, as usual, is uncertain, but we never could have known who would come together for the third ‘Iron Man,'” the actor stated. “Usually, the third thing struggles to even meet the first two, let alone the first one. In all earnestness, we’re very much in flux right now, Marvel has their plans, we’re all living and growing so we’ll see what happens.”
“Iron Man 3” hits theaters May 3.