This past Sunday (April 27), the cast and crew of the summer’s first comic-book blockbuster Iron Man gathered in New York’s Waldorf Astoria hotel to discuss the film with press from all over the world.  (Funnily enough, the Iron Man junket unfolded while one of next year’s sure-to-be-blockbusters—The Taking of Pelham 123 with Denzel Washington and John Travolta—filmed a big chase sequence right outside the hotel.)  Like the movie itself (look for our review later this week), the interviews were lively and fun, with Iron Man himself a.k.a. Robert Downey Jr. dominating the day.

Robert Downey Jr. on how he prepared to play Iron Man.

I called up Marvel and said: “Hey, can you send me all your Iron Man stuff?”  And they were like “It’s quite voluminous.”  But they sent it all and while I can’t tell you that I can repeat it by rote, but did read the whole [giant] thing.

Director Jon Favreau on why he wanted to make this film so badly.

Iron Man seems to be a culmination of everything I’ve written and directed.  It’s got that sort of Vegas attitude from Swingers, the comedy from Elf and all the special effects stuff from Zathura.  All of that prepared me for this film and this is one of those wonderful moments where what we’ve assembled seems to be connecting with what the public is hungering for.

Terrence Howard on why his character, Air Force officer (and the soon-to-be War Machine) Jim Rhodes is barely in the movie.

Jon called me early on and said “You took the biggest hit in the cutting room.  We needed to establish your friendship with Tony for the War Machine storyline, but we also needed time with Pepper Potts and Obadiah Stane and the development of the Iron Man suit.”  So I said “You turned me into Robin!”  And he said, “No, I turned you into Robin’s little brother.”  [Laughs]  But they told me at the beginning that they’re gearing up for War Machine in the sequel.  The interesting thing is that War Machine isn’t born until after Rhodes has put on Iron Man’s suit and has had his neuro-net corrupted.  He’s a bit more schizophrenic than Rhodes is—it’s a new glitch to the character.

Gwyneth Paltrow on the unique way the dialogue was written.

Every morning I’d come to set and was told that Robert and Jon were ready to talk about the scene.  So I’d go into Jon’s trailer and then Robert would come in his 88-liter coffee and take the script pages and literally ball them up and whip them against the wall and like, “Fuck this, this is the worst thing I’ve ever read.  We’re not doing this.”  Then we’d sit down and rewrite a lot of it.  And that’s sort of how we did the movie, although we always knew where we wanted the story to go.  Robert can’t say something he doesn’t feel.  He just can’t do it and it’s a testament to why he’s such a good actor.

Jeff Bridges backing up Paltrow’s memories.

I always thought that the script would be locked in with this multi-million dollar movies because the more prepared you are, the less money you have to spend.  Evidently, that’s not the case!  There would be many times where we’d know the basic story, but didn’t know what we were going to say.  The stamp of approval wasn’t on the page.  That was frustrating for awhile but having Jon at the helm made things work.  We’d go into his trailer in the morning and jam—throwing ideas around and role-playing.

Downey Jr. on his relationship with the writers.

We really all worked together as a team.  Sometimes they’d write me stuff and I’d say, “This is so smart and cool and perfect.”  Other times I would go to them with ideas.  It’s always a group effort.  But my thing is, we should all feel free to ball each other’s junk up and throw it against the wall.  We’re not here to serve a legal document.  That’s going to be the problem for me for the rest of my career.  I don’t care who you are or what you just won.  What you wrote in your office doesn’t fucking mean anything to me.  If its genius than let’s talk about it.  If its not, then we’ve got work to do.  And I don’t think genius and superhero script belong in the same sentence.

Howard on the off-screen restrictions placed on his performance.

I was limited in what I could do [with the character] as a result of the Department of Defense’s support of the production.  They gave us $40-$50 million worth of aid in the use of their planes and facilities.  But it was with one stipulation—that they could control my character.  So my character became very sterile for the purpose of this film.  There was an officer there the whole time and he’d come up and say, “He can’t do that.”  Hopefully in the next one, I’ll be able to abandon the whole [military] mentality, as he becomes a little more rogue in nature.

Downey Jr. and Favreau on whether we’ll see a drunken Tony Stark in Iron Man 2

Downey Jr.: I think an interesting way to address it would not be an obvious way but to mythologize it.  My idea is that its Tony’s 40th and he’s having fun and drinking way too much and its not cool anymore.  He says and does things that get him in trouble.

Favreau: I’d like to do that storyline.  If you look at that classic image of him going through a billboard hammered though, it seems like someone else already did that this summer!  Hancock [the upcoming Will Smith movie about a drunken superhero] picked over the “Demon in a Bottle” storyline pretty heavily, so I don’t know if we could really go there now.  There are so many superhero movies, you’re walking through a minefield of what’s already been done.

About that rumored Samuel L. Jackson-as-Nick Fury cameo…

Howard: I heard the same thing.  I heard he’d shot and there would be a cameo—I didn’t see it in the movie.

Favreau: My big thing is if something’s not a surprise, it’s not fun.  I want to keep surprising the audience.  So when the Internet echo chamber makes everyone so sure and smug about something…well, it’s not always the case.

Downey Jr. delivering an awesome verbal smackdown to a journalist inquiring about his cameo in the upcoming Incredible Hulk movie

You know, big companies have a way of manipulating people.  They got you, because here we are at the Iron Man roundtable and you’re talking about another property. They asked me to go do a day in a bar with somebody and I’m like is that what I’m supposed to do?  I feel like a contract player!  They knew it would put it out there and one person at every place I go, you hear the Hulk, which is also coming out this summer, while we’re talking about this.

Journalist: I’m only asking because I saw the actual footage at Comic-Con.

Great.  But here’s the thing, you’re asking because they wanted you to ask.

Journalist: No, I’m asking because I wanted to know…

Great, why did you want to know?  I’ll spend the next twenty minutes on this!

Other Journalists: No, no, no!!!

Let’s talk about the fucking truth.  Because the truth is, they made you want to know!  Damn it!  And that’s okay.  They’re smart, they’re a big company, and they know what to do.  God bless ’em.  I just think its interesting to note how we’re maneuvered…for what its worth.

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