At this year’s San Diego Comic-Con International, “Iron Man” was officially unveiled, in more ways than one. From the footage shown to a crowded Hall H to the debut of Stan Winston’s Mark 1 armor at the Marvel Comics booth to the announcement that Iron Man’s director Jon Favreau would be writing an Iron Man miniseries, Iron Mania was indeed everywhere. Even the Omni hotel became part of the excitement as it hosted billionaire industrialist Tony Stark’s car for all to see.
With Iron Mania in full swing, the actor behind old shelilhead wasn’t far behind as he flew in from Hawaii, where he is currently shooting a movie, to meet the Iron Man fans. CBR News had the opportunity to sit down with Robert Downey, Jr. to talk about his experiences on the “Iron Man” set and on the convention floor to see if the buzz was really making him feel “invincible.”
When asked which Iron Man he preferred, the original or the Ultimate version, Downey Jr. said, “I’m a modernist but the origins are great. I am an equally opportunity destroyer.”
In response to be asked why he enjoyed playing Tony Stark so much, Downey joked, “What person are you talking to?” He continued to admit that, “honestly, I got geared up again. I showed up today and I put on this suit from the movie, I was kind of playing with my hair in the bathroom and Arad walks in – he’s like the whole reason that there’s this studio to do this movie, and I am just with him in this big can. I was in the handicapped bathroom [changing clothes] and he came in and was like, ‘You played good on Thursday, it’s very good’ and starts talking to me about some other movie that a friend of his is doing that I should read. I’d heard about people’s careers being enhanced/forwarded in convention room bathrooms.
“But anyways, but back to business, they just unveiled the Mark 1 suit and I was kind of overwhelmed and Favreau’s all P.T. Barnum and he’s digging it and I’m like, he’s been here for three days so he knows the drill. I was kind of struck dumb. It’s like, ‘How do you get out of this?’ ‘Just go like this [makes signing gesture] for two hours.’ ‘Ah I know how to do that.”
This was Downey’s first time at Comic-Con and, as he said, the experience left him a bit overwhelmed. “You know what it’s like,” he said, “It’s massive. It’s a true democracy, with a lot of chaos in there, too. I mean, and I get why it’s become so popular, not that it wasn’t popular before, but why it’s become so integral to marketing and approval and all that. It’s that thing, it’s like talking about surfing how do you know until you paddle out and catch that first wave what it really feels like. It’s so energetic and wild and chaotic. And I’m walking there in the Tony Stark suit with security guys pushing baby carriages out of the way so I can ‘get to my signing,’ you know? I’m like, ‘Oh god.'”
As for why he decided to play Iron Man, it was simple. “I’m not a kid anymore… externally. And if you’re going to do something like this you want do it while there is a very low embarrassment factor, age-wise. It’s also, you know, it’s Jon Favreau. That guy is a national treasure and to be able to do something like this with him and maybe have the opportunity to do it a couple more times, it’s a no-brainer.”
With comic book fans being so critical to the point of questioning the filmmaker about the eye color of Tony Stark, did Downey feel any pressure at any point? “There is always that point in any process where you feel the pressure, that’s self-centered fear. In this case, I think it was like, I just became a geek for Iron man myself and the added value is that I think I got the chops to pull it off. But they’re in pre-production and I got an office in the production offices in these huts where Howard Hughes assembled the Spruce Goose and there is a lot of energy there. I would roam around from one thing to the next and I’d talk to the art department and I’d be hanging with all these monsters of cinema and effects and storytelling and cinematography so I really soaked it up. I mean, half the time I was like swilling Creatine, working on my arms for those eleven seconds in the trailer where I’m like, ‘Grrroarr!’ I will never be that muscular again.
“We took turns complaining,” Downey said, discussing the Iron Man armor itself. “There’s two other guys and I’d come in on the day he was shooting second unit and he’d be laid out in a pool of sweat and still like half in the suit and just be like, ‘Dude, you’re on tomorrow right?’ I’d be like, ‘I’m on, dude. I’ll do the close ups and swing through the thing.’ We had like a support group, he’d come the next day he’d like hold my Iron Man hand be like, ‘man, you cool? Can I get you something?’ I was like [pained voice], ‘Maybe an Advil,’ then we would both go visit the third guy.”
With the movie finished, what was it like leaving the character of Tony Stark behind? “I wouldn’t wish this on an enemy but I went right from this and two weeks later I was shooting in Kauai with Ben Stiller and Jack Black, that is fantastic. But wrapping something up this epic and going into preproduction and make up tests and starting something so soon, well the truth be told is, it was ideal because the crash from this would have been so hard that I probably would have been, in my head, ‘Am I Tony? I’m not Tony. I gotta be Tony again.'”
Now that he had taken part in such an epic venture, would he look towards smaller movies or roles to play next? “What? There are no small movies,” Downey said. “After that trailer played the first time I was so tripped out and excited and proud just to get that reaction. I mean, you know I started off in theatre and that was kind of like putting a whole play of everything four hundred people at the top of their field can do best and putting it all in this little package and playing it for thousands of people who get it and are really critical and understand; really, really understand what makes things like that work or not. It was like, I don’t know how to say it, it was the magic bullet, suffice to say.”
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