Emmanuel Itier: How do you feel doing the sequel to Iron Man after the first one was such a big hit? Is there more pressure with this one?
Jon Favreau: I’ve never done a sequel before, unless you count me being an Under Five on Batman Forever as a sequel, as an actor. But for me, there wasn’t the same pressures that you’re used to seeing, especially coming up with smaller movies, where you’re throwing a party and you don’t know if people are going to show up. Here we knew that people were going to show up. We just wanted to make sure that everyone who showed up had a good time and that this was going to be fun or more fun than the last party. So it’s a different kind of pressure.
EI: I read that there were two versions of Tony Stark’s opening scene. Can you talk about that?
JF: Yes, we had different versions of things that we tried. That was something that was a great image — a scene that’s going to be on the DVD, but we had two different versions of it, and because of the pacing and the way it revealed Tony Stark, it felt really good to flow into the drop down and reveal him for the first time on the stage. For those of you who haven’t seen the movie, it doesn’t make any sense, but oftentimes, in the editing room, we figure out what combinations of scenes…
EI: Scarlett, it seems that Tony is surprised that your and Gwyneth’s characters work together quite well in the movie. Can you talk about two women saving the world…?
Scarlett Johansson: More organized. I don’t know. I think with the brains and the muscles and the beauty and the blonde, I feel like maybe we have a greater chance, but you guys can fight for yourselves. We are, it’s true, unstoppable. I feel like if I could wield the guns and the karate chop movements, and you can be the brains behind the operation, sure. That’s your one superpower.
Don Cheadle: Precious two cents.
EI: I know there was a lot of discovery in the making of the first film. How much of this film was the same process and how much was strictly the script?
JF: The story was very well fleshed out, but what has to happen in each scene we understand. We leave a lot of room in those scenes and try to do multiple cameras sometimes, or stay up and rewrite, and Justin [Theroux] was doing multiple passes, sometimes double-digit passes on scenes because we learn things from each scene we shoot. We try to shoot pretty much in order, and what’s nice about having the actors you see up here is that they’re all very good stewards of their characters emotionally, and they’re used to being in films where you don’t have the safety net of all the high technology and the explosions. So if they have an issue with something we’re asking the character to do for the story, we discuss it and figure out a way so it can work for them as a performer and also for the movie.
EI: Don, you’re character of Rhodey was played by Terrence Howard in the first film. How did you feel when the opportunity for you to play that role in this movie came up and you got to put on a War Machine suit?
DC: I don’t know why the War Machine suit was actually made of metal and his was made of a light fiberglass material. Maybe it was just an initiation. But I felt very fortunate to get the opportunity to work in a film like this. Terrence is a friend and I’ve known him for a long time. One of the producers on Crash put him on that, so it was good to also see him and put anything to bed that people were thinking about that might have been a problem. It wasn’t. We’re cool. Look, it’s a lot of fun. We get to play with the best toys and the best technology, so it’s just doing what you like to do as a kid but all fleshed out.
EI: Jon, can you talk about casting Mickey [Rourke] in the role of Ivan Vanko/Whiplash, and why you thought he’d be the right actor?
JF: I’d met Mickey at this hotel. I brought him some artwork. Whiplash in the comic book is a guy wearing tights with a big plume, a big purple feather coming out of the top of his head, and that wasn’t what we wanted but the tech version of that. So we were concocting a version of a Russian. We were thinking of Viggo [Mortensen] in Eastern Promises, tattoos, and that it might be a cool in. So it was going to be a Russian, and then we were like Marv and The Wreslter, between those two — between the fan-boys and the independent film community, he was back with a vengeance and it was like, “My God. We’re not going to have a tremendous amount of screen time. Who is going to be able to be there and be able to make an impression where you feel like this guy is in trouble?” So Mickey brought a lot of intensity to both of those roles. We did some artwork. I sat down with him and we talked about everything, and it was before all the awards things started to happen. We had a nice little connection and I talked to people who had worked with him, and they had great things to say about him. His talent is undeniable. So that conversation ended, and then Robert [Downey, Jr.] was on the road with him because he was on the Tropic Thunder awards tour, and I think he was lobbying him every time I think they sat together, to get him to join the movie.
EI: From the first movie to the second movie, you’re working with a lot of new characters and new actors. How was the dynamic different this time from that first film?
JF: Poor Justin — we’d show up and they’d wheel him, and he’d just type and hand us pages. I’ve never met anybody with a better work ethic or somebody who could bring inspiration to each scene that he would do, because we talk a lot about how we bounce stuff around. The fact is that these guys had a really good repartee from Tropic Thunder, and he understood his voice and how to weave in and out of Robert’s creative process very effectively and to jump on board a franchise. I think it was probably the sharpest learning curve for Justin than it was for all of us. He really did a fantastic job.
EI: How hard is it to balance the Tony Stark story and also feed the franchise and the universe of Marvel? Also, you talked about how Sam Rockwell made a great Justin Hammer, so why didn’t he make the poster?
JF: With the characters, the trick is to feather them in so they don’t overload the story and you don’t suffer from villain-itis, so by having Justin Hammer and Mickey Rourke’s character come together fairly early, you really have two story-lines that are weaving. You don’t have five separate story-lines, and the same thing with Scarlett as Black Widow working her way into Gwyneth’s and Robert’s story. So we really try to keep narrative flows going so it didn’t get too convoluted. I lose track of that stuff, especially in sequels, as the franchises get more complex. I don’t always remember what happened in the last movie. Not for nothing — I like to watch the stuff blow up, but I’m not going to do homework before I go see a sequel to be up on everything. So we tried to keep that simple. Sam Rockwell was someone I had known and thought would work really well with Mickey. He’s not intimidated by talented performers and movie stars. He’s done a great job with a lot of people.
EI: I noticed Robert’s wife’s name was in the credits as a producer when she wasn’t on the last film…
JF: We get asked this question a lot. Susan [Downey] is a great producer. It’s not like she came onboard and became a producer because we’re making Iron Man — quite the contrary. We were funneling toward a start date and we had a lot of ideas spread out, and we had bulletin boards, and Justin was there and Robert was there, and Kevin and myself and Jeremy Latcham with index cards trying to figure out how to make the workflow through. She has tremendous organizational ability and she understands Robert’s creative process, understands the first movie, and lived through it with us. So Susan, who had a very strong background both in development and in physical production, was able to come and just help. It’s just like one of those shows where they’re going to organize all of their closets for you and you throw out the clothes that you don’t need anymore, but it takes somebody to go, “You’re never going to wear that again! You’re never going to fit in that,” and they throw it away or give it away or figure it out.
EI: The fact that Sam Rockwell isn’t on the poster and he’s not here — was there a falling out with you guys?
JF: No. I hope to be working with him again. He’s doing a play right now. He’s awesome. He’s going to be at the premiere and you can ask him yourself then. Ever since our first collaboration when he was the gender unspecific concierge in Made, I knew he was an inspiring and inspired dude. I wish he could be here selfishly because he’s a fun and funny guy. He really always was a fountainhead of ideas and great stuff. I wish he could’ve been here. Unfortunately, there’s no fire where that smoke is.
EI: Did you consider him for Tony Stark for the first one?
JF: We were putting lists together long before I even met with Robert. I thought he would’ve been a fun and nontraditional other way to go because we were listing a lot of younger actors that didn’t have a lot of experience and were a little bit more traditionally what you’d think for a superhero role. Then, when I met Robert, we pretty much clicked and I knew that was the guy, but as Justin Hammer, you see a cool, goofy image of what… Justin Hammer wishes he was Tony Stark, and he really embraced that aspect of the character. I think it’s really fun for that, and he has a ball with it.
EI: There was talk, at one point, about a spin-off movie for Black Widow…
JF: I would love to see that. Hell yes.
EI: What are some of the cool extras you’re planning on for the DVD and Blu-ray?
JF: There are a lot of featurettes. We were running cameras behind the scenes all the time. We don’t like to really show too much of it before the movie comes out to keep some surprises, but everything was very well-documented. As you can see, we have a very interesting group of people, so between the interviews, you get a really good sense of that work. We’re fans of these movies. Kevin [Feige] and I are always swapping back and forth books and things about the movies that we grew up loving, and that’ll be documented very well. There will be pretty extensive featurettes and then commentary this time around. Also deleted scenes that we thought would be interesting for people to see. So it’s more a movie fan set of extras for people who really want to immerse themselves. If you don’t, it’s going to be boring. We did overkill on this one.
EI: Scarlett, your and Gwyneth’s characters are suave and smart in this film. You’re not just sex symbols. Can you talk about that?
SJ: I’ve never really seen a film of this genre where the female characters’ sex appeal came second. Of course they’re sexy characters and you have a sexy secretary or a girl swinging around by her ankles in a cat suit — that’s innately sexy. But the fact is that these characters are intelligent, ambitious, motivated and calculated to some degree — to be just a pawn in this story of a whole bunch of men fighting it out and rolling around and getting down and dirty, and there you are to be the sort of vision in a tight cat-suit would be a boring thing to me. I think Jon really made that very clear in the beginning — that he felt, as far as Black Widow was concerned, or Natalie was concerned, she was mysterious and nuanced, and something to peel back the layers of. There was something there — he wanted that. I think that’s why this film is so much more dynamic for me as an audience member. I’ve never been a huge fan of this genre really, and I think that’s because it was always sort of one note and very explosive. I think because Gwyneth and I are able to sort of be the brains behind the operation in some aspect, there’s kind of a happy medium there that adds to the charm and charisma of the finished product.
DC: I think 15-year-old boys are into that too.
SJ: It’s oddly kind of old fashioned, actually, in the best sense of the word. These characters are like those fabulous femme fatales of the golden age of Hollywood — Bette Davis more than the Jane Mansfield, which I think is so much more dynamic to watch.
'Iron Man 2' is in theaters now from Marvel/Paramount Pictures.