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I AM (flirting with) IRON MAN: Gwyneth Paltrow

by  in Movie News, TV News Comment
I AM (flirting with) IRON MAN: Gwyneth Paltrow
“Iron Man” opens worldwide this week

With “Iron Man” arriving in theatres this week, the writers, actors, and director responsible for Marvel’s latest big-screen adventure met with members of the press last weekend for a series of roundtable interviews in which CBR took part. We published earlier our latest interview with director Jon Favreau, followed by another conversation with star Robert Downey, Jr., and we bring you now a chat with Gwyneth Paltrow, who plays Pepper Potts in the movie.

The session began with a question about whether Paltrow’s husband, Coldplay singer Chris Martin, had given her Iron Man comics to prepare for the role, as has been rumored. “That’s totally fabricated,” the actress confirmed. “I know don’t know where that’s from. So many people have asked me this question, and I’m like, noooo, I have no idea where that’s from.”

Paltrow said she had not read Iron Man comics before taking the role. “I asked Marvel to send me comics that they thought would best — because there’s a lot of books, and obviously I couldn’t read forty years worth of comics,” she explained. “They sent me a couple of big binders, and a lot of them were very old comics that they had Xeroxed, a lot of them partial bits of comics that they thought were important, and then some of the later ones that I would read the whole thing. It was very interesting — Pepper had a lot of different hair styles [and] colors, outfits — she made quite a transition over the years.”

Asked about Pepper’s “classic” aesthetic and how that informed Paltrow’s role as a character who had been around since the 1960s, the actress agreed the “Iron Man” romance has ties to older films. “When Jon [Favreau] explained to me how he saw the relationship between Pepper and Tony, he described it as that sort of 1940s comedy, the screwball comedies, and that he really wanted that kind of reparteee. So I didn’t look to one specific film for inspiration but I think growing up watching all those films it was a world that I understood and sort of pulled different things from. And I really like the texture of their relationship. And I love that time, too, it’s such an innocent yet sexy time, so it was really fun to recreate that.”

Scene from “Iron Man”

She continued by discussing the complex nature of Pepper’s relationship with Tony. “What I think is different about it is that it’s complicated. They have so many dynamics. She’s his assistant, and so he is her boss. And he’s a very powerful, serious guy. So there’s that dynamic. But then she’s also his Jimminy Cricket in a way, and she keeps trying to sort of pull him back to center. And there’s also a bit of mothering tenderness she has for him where she’s worried about him. And then there’s also a kind of sexual kick to it all. That’s what I loved about it, because there was so much that was kind of real. And fun, and it wasn’t just one note.”

As to Pepper Potts’ other love interest in the comics, Paltrow said she is aware the source material has her character married to Happy Hogan, played in the film by director Jon Favreau. “I don’t know if that’s something [Favreau will] want to develop at a later point in another movie or not,” she said. “You never know — we’ll see. If he wants to make out with me, maybe he will.”

Scene from “Iron Man”

Paltrow confirmed she will be involved in any sequels should “Iron Man” be successful enough to warrant them. “When we signed on for 1, we signed on for 2 and 3. They like to kind of scoop you up for the whole thing all at once,” the actress said. “I would be totally thrilled if there was another one, basically because my work experience was such fun and the people involved were so talented. It’s not sort of your run of the mill superhero movie, in a way — the talent is so incredible. And everyone’s so nice, too. Sometimes you work with people who are talented but they’re tricky people. These guys were so nice to be around and I just had such a good time. So if it doesn’t bomb, I’ll do another one.”

This is not to say, though, that after “Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow” and now “Iron Man,” Paltrow will commit to a career of genre films. She chooses her projects based on the other talent involved. “I have an affinity for working with people that I think will be inspiring, and that can be any genre,” she said. “If it was a horror film, but it was by Martin Scorcese — I would do anything. Maybe porn I would skip. But other than that I’m kind of open to anything.” Paltrow later said she would like to do a musical, but that there is not one in particular that she knows by heart.

Scene from “Iron Man”

Noting she has slowed down her acting career since becoming a mother, Paltrow said the opportunity to join the cast of “Iron Man” happened at just the right time. “I was home, and I was very happy being home, and then when my son was about six months old I began to feel the urge to start work again. But I thought, no, I can’t work until he’s a year, because I’d given my daughter all this time at home so I wanted to do the same for him. Then, just about the time it was a year, Jon called me and told me about the project and who was involved, and explained the characters and what it was going to be like — and the scenes were going to be good acting, fun scenes. And he said that it’s going to be a good movie. It’s going to be entertaining, kind of summer movie, but it will be good, ‘I promise you. I make good movies and it’s going to be good.’ So it was really that, it just all happened at the right time. And I had always wanted to work with Robert, ever since I was little. And Jeff Bridges is like, if you’re an American actor he’s like God. How do say no to that group of people? It’s impossible.”

Asked if there is anyone who helps keep her life together the way Pepper does for Tony, Paltrow said she is able to handle things on her own. “I try to be very organized, I’m a Libra so if things go off balance they go really off balance, so I try to maintain balance and for me that’s like knowing where everything is, what everyone’s doing, having all the doctors’ numbers,” she said. “I think that’s just women, though, isn’t it? We’re the brains of the house, the multitaskers.”

Paltrow was then asked which of her movies she would show to her own children. “Probably ‘Emma’ and ‘Sky Captain’ they could see. But I don’t choose movies because of them,” the actress said. “When I work, that’s the part of my life that’s for me. I give to them all day every day, and when I work that’s time to kind of recharge as an artist and feel inspired and do something that’s interesting, so that I feel nourished as a woman, as an artist, as a person, and then I can bring that back home.

Scene from “Iron Man”

“It’s really interesting to be a mother and to watch imaginations develop, and to see kind of innately what your kids gravitate towards. My son will be an ‘Iron Man’ fan, I’m sure, he’s chopping everything down with swords and running around like a maniac. He’s very testosterone-fuelled, so I’m sure he’s going to be into comics. My daughter is very imaginative, and she likes to sit for hours, and she creates her own worlds, and she loves to be read stories and she absorbs everything. So I’m sure she’ll be more into fairy tales and novels and that sort of thing.”

Paltrow also said that while Pepper Potts is a strong female character, this was not necessarily a factor in accepting the role or how she decided to play it. “It’s funny, because whenever I approach something I never approach from, externally, how will this be perceived or what can I do to affect the perception. I really do it from the inside out. Before I work every day, I say a little prayer, and I hope that in some way whatever I do today illuminates something for someone or is inspiring, or they get something out of it, so it’s not just, the process isn’t just me doing my own thing for my own sake. I try and bring something into the world. I do think, retrospectively, looking at Pepper, that she’s a very good woman. She’s very smart, she’s very level headed, very grounded. And I like the fact that there’s a sexuality that’s not blatant. I think it’s lovely.”

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

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