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I AM (producing) “IRON MAN”

by  in Movie News, TV News Comment
I AM (producing) “IRON MAN”
“Iron Man” opens in US cinemas May 2

In June of 2007, CBR News visited the Southern California set of “Iron Man,” the new film based on the classic Marvel Comics superhero. In what will be seen in the Jon Favreau-directed film as Tony Stark’s workshop, filled with classic cars, computers and other assorted Iron Man accoutrements, we spoke with the cast and crew of the hotly anticipated adaptation.

We bring you the fourth and final of those interviews today with Kevin Feige, President of Production at Marvel Studios and Producer of “Iron Man,” who provided some insight into the hiring of Director Jon Favreau and high-profile actors Robert Downey, Jr. and Gwenyth Paltrow; and answered questions about divergences from the original Marvel comics, “Civil War,” and the possibility of an Avengers movie.

Why did take this long for an Iron Man movie to get made?

They all have, [the Marvel movies]. It seems that after a good ten or fifteen years, each character’s ready to go. The gestation period is very similar to what the X-Men was and what Hulk was and what Spider-Man was. It just seems that the time is right, and everyone has to wait for their at bat, and now it’s Iron Man’s turn.

Scene from “Iron Man”

Was “Iron Man” more difficult to pull together than some of the other Marvel films?

They’re all difficult. Every translation from a comic to a movie is difficult. Every film that is made is difficult. I wouldn’t say [“Iron Man”] is more difficult than any of the other ones, but frankly, and as you’re all familiar with the journey and the rights issues that were tangled up with Spider-Man for so long, and because these contracts and theses characters have been around for so long, and various people and entities and companies and corporations have had their fingers on it at some point, it takes a while. In the case of “Iron Man,” there weren’t those kind of complications. There was a first incarnation at New Line, and they attempted to put that together and didn’t quite work out. And it came back to us and we said, “You know what, we want to move forward with this and get going.”

Jon Favreau and Robert Downey Jr. were unconventional choices to direct and star, respectively, in a colorful superhero movie. What was it about these artists you felt was right for “Iron Man?”

Well, the idea of a conventional director for one of our movies, or a conventional star for one of our movies, or something that might be more in line with a comic book movie, look a the people you’d be referring to now. Is Tobey Maguire more conventional for a comic book movie like this? Us Hugh Jackman more conventional? Are Bryan Singer and Sam Raimi [conventional]? Well, they are now, because we picked them and we hired them and we turned out good product with them.

Scene from “Iron Man”

But if you go back to before that, [Bryan Singer was] the guy who’d done “The Usual Suspects,” which made very little at the box office, but it was a great film by a great filmmaker. Tobey Maguire had done “The Ice Storm” and “Cider House Rules;” some great things, but certainly never put on a costume and swung around and fought bad guys before. Hugh Jackman was singing in the West End of London when we hired him for Wolverine. We always hire, whether they’re famous or not, the people we think would best fit the role and best become the character.

And in the case of Robert Downey, Jr., that was exactly the thinking. He’s a great, great actor, and embodies that intelligence and that fun and that humor and sort of a wryness that certainly I always loved when I was reading the “Iron Man” comic. And the fact that he was so enthusiastic to come into a movie like this was also very intriguing.

And same thing with Favreau. Favreau is a great storyteller. He’s a great filmmaker. He’s a hilarious person. There’s certainly an element of fun that he brings to it, but he’s also very demanding when it comes to the story. And if something’s not working, he will stop everything until he thinks that it’s working. And that’s what good directors do. You look at his films, yes, there’s a comedic element to “Elf,” but there’s also some cool sequences in “Elf” that certainly start to elevate above what you’d expect out of a Will Ferrell comedy. “Zathura” was extremely well handled in terms of the direction for it. And he came into us very interested in this project, in this genre, and we brought him on board thinking he could give yet another unique spin on this.

Scene from “Iron Man”

These aren’t cookie-cutter products that we’re churning out, we want each of them to live and breathe on their own.

How faithful is “Iron Man” to the comic book stories and characters on which it’s based?

I think we’re being very true. I think the few images that people have seen that we’ve put out online indicate that we’re being very true to it. Iron Man, frankly, has been pretty damn cool in the comics all these years, and making him contemporary and bringing him into the modern day was really the only changes that we had to make. The high tech element of the first comic was the micro transistor, and now all these recording devices you’ve put in front of me have infinitely more technology in them than what the Iron Man suit was supposed to have had in 1964. So of course we’ve upped all the technology and things like that.

Do you think “Civil War” made comics fan look at Iron Man more negatively as a character, and do you think that will impact the film at all?

Well, I think people could argue whether you could look at him negatively or not from “Civil War.” I think the way he ended up in “Civil War” was pretty cool, and he was pretty smart, and he did something that not a lot of people would be willing to do. He essentially put himself out there knowing people would look at him as a jerk, but being a jerk for what he perceived as the greater good in the comic.

Scene from “Iron Man”

The truth is, anybody that I’d have this kind of dialogue with would have to be a die-hard comic fan, and if they’re interested enough in the subtleties of his character within a certain storyline in the comic, I think they’re coming to the movie. That at least is what we’ve seen in the past.

“Civil War,” though, I think has been great. Iron Man’s been on more comic covers in the past year than he probably was for two or three years before that as a lead role. He and Cap, which I also like, for the “Captain America” movie we’ll be doing later. I like that there’s this kind of debate, that’s good. I like that people are saying, “I don’t agree with what he did” and “Well, I think he did what was necessary.” I think that’s what “Civil War” was all about.

In terms of [Iron Man] being a jerk or not a jerk, I think we’ll start to see more of traditional heroic Tony Stark in the comics, but I don’t know exactly what they’re doing. They’re their own entity. But I know even during “Civil War,” there’s always various continuities going on at the same time. It was only in “Civil War” that he did what some people might claim are questionable actions, but even then people are talking about Iron Man, and I’m very happy.

Is there the possibility of an Avengers movie?

Scene from “Iron Man”

The idea that what was preventing certain characters from crossing over in the past was the fact that they were all divvyed up in different studios, and there were big, giant gates in between them, and they couldn’t play in the same sandbox, and now that we have [the film rights to] Hulk and Thor and Cap and Iron Man and Ant Man, it certainly would indicate to me that it might be fun to see them all in the same sandbox at some point. But certainly we’re introducing them and building them in their own franchises first.

You mentioned updating Iron Man’s story for the present day. In the comics, Stark was injured in Vietnam, as those stories were created in the 1960s. For the film, why did you choose Afghanistan over Iraq to replace Vietnam?

I’m going to be called on my historical inaccuracies here, but I think in the early ’60s, America hadn’t entered Vietmam yet and there wasn’t an active war going on when Tony Stark was injured by Wong Chu in the origin story. So the story was never about him going into an active war zone, necessarily. He was entering into a conflict that was sort of brewing, much in the same way today that Afghanistan is sort of this continued conflict as opposed to an active, prolonged war. We may not even call it Afghanistan in the movie.

In the comics, Stark is depicted as an abuser of alcohol. Why was his drinking left out of this film?

Scene from “Iron Man”

Well, the story of Iron Man was never the story of an alcoholic that became a superhero. The “Demon in a Bottle” storyline is a great, classic, wonderful storyline, but it was two or three arcs out of 100 arcs over the past 45 years. It was never his defining attribute or his defining storyline. It’s something I think will be interesting down the road somewhere.

I think all of our characters dealing with their flaws, whether it’s Peter Parker or any of our characters dealing with the flaws of their character, the curse of their powers, that’s always fun to play with. And that’s always frankly what I think makes our characters stand apart, is that they do have flaws, and the do have struggles, and they are battling not just whatever evil super villain they’re up against, but they’re also dealing with issues that we all deal with in real life. And certainly that’s the case with that particular storyline for Tony Stark. But it was never our intention to play with that in the first [film]. I don’t know if we’ll play with that in the first three movies. If we’re lucky enough that the character takes off, and that people respond to him the way we hope they do, I’d love to play with that storyline sometime.

Can you talk about the casting of Gwyneth Paltrow as Virginia “Pepper” Potts?

Scene from “Iron Man”

She is amazing, and she is doing such an amazing job on this movie. She’s bringing incredible acting chops. She’s beautiful, stunning, and she’s hilarious, and the chemistry between she and Downey has been just amazing, some of the best symmetry I’ve seen in any of our films. You know, Pepper Potts and Tony Stark banter together, and does that banter spin into something else? Maybe. Or does Pepper stop it right in the tracks? Maybe. But it’s entertaining to watch that dynamic between them come together.

And she’s just very good, and she’s so into being in a movie like this, and having fun with the comics genre. She’ll be the first to admit she can’t tell you much about the comic’s history, and I was looking at a comic the other day, and she goes, “Is that a comic book?” But to her credit, she took it from me and started reading through it. So I think it’s a lot of fun for her, and she’s told me that her husband is a big fan of these things, and being in a movie that her kids can enjoy is something that’s important.

Now discuss this story in CBR’s TV/Film forum.

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