CCI XTRA: Jon Favreau - Made In "Iron"

You may know him as the reason your obnoxious friend always shouts, "Vegas, baby, Vegas!" when heading out on a road trip. Others may still know him as one of the few good casting choices in the "Daredevil" movie. Some may know him as the director of the smash Will Ferrell comedy "Elf". Any way you look at it, Jon Favreau has already left his mark on America cinemas, but now he's about to have his presence forged in iron as the director of Marvel's next comics-to-film adaptation, "Iron Man."

Even with his numerous appearances at the Marvel booth, panels and his appearances with the cast, Favreau still found time amidst the excitement of Comic-Con International in San Diego to sit down with CBR News and discuss all things Tony Stark.

An actor by trade, Favreau's last dip into the superhero genre was in his role as Foggy Nelson in "Daredevil." For "Iron Man," Favreau didn't mind sitting in the director's chair, "because I can always stick myself in the movie, which you saw," Favreau told CBR News, referring to his cameo in the film. As for the rumors about other appearances, including Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, Favreau said, "There is a lot of speculation about cameos in the movie and most of them are completely unfounded. As far as Sam Jackson, as far as I'm concerned there is only one Nick Fury and that is David Hasselhoff."

Why Iron Man? It all came back to producer Avi Arad, who Favreau had met on the set of "Daredevil." "He was talking to me about [how] they're securing the rights to their properties," Favreau explained. "I had always been curious about Captain America. As a character, I loved him. I love the idea of a guy being frozen in ice in World War II and waking up in the turn of the century and seeing who our allies are, who our enemies are, and what America is. There is room for a lot of social commentary, and humor, but as far as the action goes it is a much more challenging title.

"Iron Man, with the technology you have today, this is the first time you could make this hero, you could make a movie about this hero that stays true to the vision of the books and you could depict what the suit could do in a way that you never could before."

Fans always scrutinize any new comic book film, and Favreau admitted,"The biggest hurdle was getting the comic book audience to know that we got the right guy playing Tony Stark. That we're handling the movie with the right tone, with the right humor, with the right personality, with the right look and to get the suit right because that's the only people who know who Iron Man is right now, are the fans. Now it's about educating the rest of the public, and what 'Transformers' showed is that if you have enough visual interest on the screen there will be a curiosity about the movie.

"Iron Man, although he is a superhero and has all those wonderful aspects of the Marvel tradition of a conflicted flawed hero, but you also have the layer of technology that, with ILM, is going to bring visual interest to the suit and the choreography, and you got a little taste of it with the footage [shown at Comic-Con]. You could cut a trailer that has nothing to do with what we all love about Iron Man that would make every kid in America want to see this movie, just because of the layers of technology, the fighting and then the Marvel brand. Don't underestimate that people want to see movies like that, they know they're in for a wild ride when they see wild ride when they see a Marvel logo."

Another topic fans have been curious about is the MPAA rating the filmmakers are aiming for with "Iron Man." "It's going to be PG-13," Favreau confirmed. "That being said, my son, who just turned six, I would very comfortably bring to the film. There are PG-13 movies like 'Van Helsing' that I have to turn off when my kid's watching. Even 'Daredevil' was a little tricky to show him because it felt very violent at times, and so was the character as well.

"With ['Iron Man,'] I wanted to have something in which the action was appropriate for all audiences, but I didn't want to make it a PG family fun film because it was Tony Stark and Tony Stark likes to screw, he likes to drink, he likes to party, he likes to drive fast cars and Iron Man gets rough and tumble. It's about a guy who's ambushed in a convoy, in our case in Afghanistan. So there's a way to treat that material where it's not cleaned up too much. For me, I will enjoy watching it but I wouldn't feel irresponsible about letting my kid see it, but it's my kid, I don't know if you'll feel the same way."

Now that Tony Stark is making his feature debut on the big screen, fans begin to wonder if perhaps, someday, they might get to see an Avengers film. "I hope so," Favreau said. "I don't know how many Iron Man movies you can make before you need to see the Avengers happen [or] S.H.I.E.L.D.

"Certainly [Marvel Studios President] Kevin [Feige], he's a fan, he has an interest in it. Legally, they're getting into a position where they can do it. There are different challenges from a business standpoint about doing that because it's a different [business model]. Making 'Ocean's Eleven' is a different business model than making a movie that Brad Pitt is starring in, so if they can navigate those waters, I think, creatively, it would make a lot of sense.

"It would be a lot of fun and I hope to be the guy who gets to do it. I would love to be faced with that challenge. If this works out well and the Marvel franchises all come together then there is certainly the opportunity to do that."

Another heated debate with movie fans is that of CG versus practical props. On "Iron Man," Favreau employed both. "There is a lot of CG, but I think that to do CG effectively you have to play a game with the audience where you show them something real then you show them something fake and the fake stuff should look real and the real stuff should look CG. Stan Winston's design was something where we could work with a craftsman. If you saw the Mark One suit [at the Marvel booth] you will see a lot of details in it that keep ILM honest and vice-versa. I think you lose the audience emotionally if they don't buy the transition between the two."

With Favreau's career behind the camera taking off, "Swingers" fans are certainly wondering when they'll see him star in front of the cameras again. "I like acting a lot and I always manage to do something with Vince Vaughn and hope to do some comedy work with him, but we'll see how 'Iron Man' goes. The jury is out on this movie till it comes out, and it's a two-year process to make these types of movies, so hopefully between now and, if I'm so lucky to make another Iron Man movie, hopefully I will get to do some acting and maybe some other movies as an actor"

As to whether Favreau's role in "Daredevil" taught him anything he's taken on to "Iron Man," the actor-director had some interesting thoughts. "As an actor, I didn't really learn a lot because I was so on the periphery has a supporting character sort of a comedic sidekick," Favreau said. "As a director, I learned not to shoot more movie than you intend to put on the screen. You waste a lot of time and money so really get the story right before you go into production.

"I also learned that if you make a movie, make it something that you don't have to be a comic book fan to appreciate. I think in 'Daredevil,' a lot of effort is put into keeping it true to the books and I think, tonally, it just it never broke to the next level of success. It was certainly a successful film but I think it could've done better if the audience was broader for it."

So, does that mean no lengthy extended Director's Cut for "Iron Man?" "No, the longest cut of everything was a little less than three hours, which isn't that long for a first cu. It will be below two hours by the time it comes out, so I have a lot of decisions to make."

In case you missed the news, Jon Favreau will also be writing a new Iron Man miniseries for Marvel, with Adi Granov providing artwork. "Adi Granov and I started working together in designing the suit for the movie. I wanted him as involved as I could to be to stay true to that vision. I thought his vision of the hero was wonderful and then he hit me up he said, 'have you ever thought about writing a book?' I said, 'I don't know that much about that process.' He said, 'I'll help you with it,' and we've been very collaborative. It's going to be 'Iron Man: Viva Las Vegas.' Tony's going to fight Fing Fang Foom on the Vegas strip."

"Iron Man: Viva Las Vegas" will take place in the Marvel Universe, as Favreau found the "movie universe" too restrictive. "I wanted to have him changing with an attaché case and I wanted to be able to draw on the Marvel Universe," Favreau said.

Other cast members have noted that the "Iron Man" screenplay was sometimes being written on-set, which Favreau said included dialogue changes. "We learned things about the characters as we went. We refined the story on the set but this is part of the process in Marvel movies. They do that a lot where it's more about the story, and for me there has always been a component of improvisation in movies that I've worked on, so I was lucky to have actors that could handle it, like [Robert Downey, Jr.]"

Iron Man fans know Tony Stark has gone through numerous versions of his armor, and are no doubt curious as to how many Iron Man suits will appear in the film. "We showed two suits so far," Favreau said. "We showed the Mark 1 and the Mark 3, so put it all together. You got to save something. We have to have some surprises."

As for the warm reception the Iron Man movie had received at Comic-Con, Favreau said, "It was awesome because you don't know you could die on the vine [at Comic-Con]. If they decide you're 'Catwoman,' you're done. Comic-Con can drive a stake through the heart of a property like this where it's not like Superman or Batman or Spider-Man where everyone knows it in our culture. This is something where there's going to be an education process. By showing it to the fans first, they are going to decide whether they like the movie or not based on what we show them. From here we can build out.

"In this film, the challenge was satisfying the fans of the books. In another movie it's reinventing a franchise that's been done before. Each movie has its own challenge and in our case this was the place to show the footage for the first time and I think the gamble paid off. People seem to respond to it.  From what I've read online, from what I felt in the room, and now Paramount, who's distributing the film, is like, 'We've got to get a trailer together!' They were the same people that were like, 'We shouldn't show a trailer yet' when 'Transformers' was coming out. Like, 'It's too early now.' When they saw the fan response here, it's changing the way they approach things, so Comic-Con is a very valuable way of putting your finger on the pulse of pop culture and pop culture is being driven by fanboys right now. So, lucky for us 'Iron Man' is a title that they like. Hopefully it will slowly roll out to the general population leading up to May 2."


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