After months of rumor, denial, countr-rumor and excitement, the time is finally upon us: Iron Man 2 is here, the new suit is warmed up and ready to fly, and a veritable legion of bad guys stand ready to try and take it down. Buzzine's Emmanuel Itier sat down in Hollywood, CA with the Iron Man himself, Robert Downey, Jr to talk sequels, success, but competely avoids telling us what it is like to kiss Gwyneth Paltrow...
Emmanuel Itier: Has an act of God ever prevented you from being somewhere?
Robert Downey, Jr.: I’m not equipped to answer questions really about anything that happened before about five years ago. But I love that sort of stuff. I love it when we’re on set and everyone is all ready to shoot the scene, and then suddenly a cloud rolls in and it starts pissing rain and you’re like, “No we’re not…we’re not doing anything?”
EI: What about Mickey Rourke?
RDJ: I love this guy. I always have. He’s a legend, a survivor. His talent has always shown through, no matter what. I used to run into him in Beverly Hills all the time. There’s a famous pizza place called Mulberry St. Pizzeria, and he was always there with his dog.
EI: What else?
RDJ: Jon [Favreau] said the idea is we’re both shadows of each other, and I think it wouldn’t make sense for Tony not to have any enemies. In Iron Man 1, Tony’s enemy turns out to be his father’s partner, which kind of makes sense. He wants to get him out of the way. Tony is not playing ball and he’s had this spiritual awakening or whatever.
In this one, it’s kind of like “This isn’t even about you. This is about something your family did.” This is like Godfather 2 stuff, and I thought Mickey was definitely the right guy, and once Jon said he was his first choice, I basically started campaigning like a vacuum cleaner salesman. He was like, “Well, I have a lot of offers right now.” I said, “I know,” but as it turned out, we promised him, if memory serves, there was some girl there who had a Wonder Woman outfit on. I didn’t ask her to dress up…
EI: You once said if Iron Man 2 didn’t live up to your expectations, you’d don the suit, go to Marvel’s headquarters and wreak havoc…
RDJ: That is the most self-centered, arrogant thing I’ve ever heard. That must be an accurate quote.
EI: Did it live up to your expectations?
RDJ: I haven’t seen it, to tell you the truth.
EI: The first Iron Man was such a success. Of all the compliments you received, was there one which made you happiest?
RDJ: Let me think… We’d have this very improvised-sounding scene that was actually very well-rehearsed between Gwyneth [Paltrow] and I. Jon said he wanted her to reach into my chest, which was a metaphor for really letting a woman into your heart, and I said, “Alright, Mr Joseph Campbell…” And so between all of us, we shot that scene which was kind of the heart of the movie, so I guess when people say they really like the movie, I remember the day we shot that scene and the people I was working with and all of us saying we thought, with all these elements, we were trusting each other totally that an audience member would respond to this sort of collaboration.
EI: Gwyneth told us you were lying about what you said when you kissed her. Do you lie a lot?
RDJ: No. As a matter of fact, the two lies I’ve told in about the last five years happened today. I don’t want to say I’m bored because it’s a little early in the press tour to get bored. I’m not bored, but so many things are misconstrued. I tend to have an unconscious bias or a motive when I enter into a conversation with somebody or I’m not really engaging with them. Particularly in this situation. It’s nice to mix it up a little.
By the way, it’s the same thing I brought into Sherlock Holmes and that Todd Phillips really really honed on Due Date with Zach Galifianakis and me, which is just a two-character piece. For me, it’s a conglomerative thing, but I feel the movies I have loved growing up… Like, to me, Tootsie is about an actor who’s having a very specific problem and then he takes these outlandish measures to correct those problems and creates all these problems with his measures and is closer to something he had no idea he was looking for. Then he almost loses that thing. Then you have these naturalistic actors — Jessica Lange and Dustin Hoffman — on a New York street at the end, and it seemed almost like a documentary about someone saying they’d made a mistake.
I’m not saying Tootsie is my reference; I’m saying I could pick 25 movies and they’re all from a certain period of filmmaking and they’re all roughly form the ’70s, when there was a maverick element in commercial filmmaking, and because I was raised in that suit, that’s kind of where I feel I work best.
EI: You’re also a musician…
RDJ: My son has bloomed into this truly prodigious and natural musician — not because of that, but also because I’ve been focusing a lot more on these films and doing them back to back, I also felt he had kind of taken up that mantle. When we were in Florence, I took him into what I thought was a cool guitar shop, but he said, “None of these guitars have any soul.” And I was like, “Of course, right? I knew that.” So I took him to this other place and he found a 1977 Italian classical guitar, and then he went back to the hotel and started playing classical music on it.
EI: So it’s genetic?
RDJ: I think it comes from both sides of his bloodline, but truth be told, I’m still very much musically interested and I’m developing an original musical project. It’s difficult to explain, but it will probably be another 15 years before I figure it out.
EI: You’ve said before that Iron Man represents the best and worst of America. What does he represent for you?
RDJ: It’s really odd because it’s this thing I’m so centrally located in and such a part of, but I don’t really understand it. I still think, “Is this something that’s an artistic endeavour of mine? Is this part of a job? Is this me just doing something commercial?” Which is strange, seeing as how we’ve made two movies already. You’d think I’d have figured something out by now, but I like admitting that I really don’t quite know. I’m a little slow, but I kind of like that I am slow.
EI: Is it hard because you look at it from inside?
RDJ: Maybe, but I tend to look objectively, and sometimes I just look at myself as this very limited, frail human being who’s representative of this larger idea that means so many things to so many different people. By the way, it means so many different things to me, so in some way I’m just another person participating in it.
EI: You do martial arts. Could that be called a healthy addiction?
RDJ: Well, it’s not an addiction. It’s definitely healthy. It’s not an obsession. It is something I’ve dedicated myself to, so really, more than anything else, it’s an apprenticeship.
EI: When will we see you in another smaller movie?
RDJ: As we speak, there’s a bunch of construction workers building this place that’s going to be the Team Downey production company, so Susan and I are going to be doing our own stuff. So while we certainly don’t shy away from big commercial ideas, a lot of the stuff we talk about are more in the low- to mid-budget range, and only because the ideas are a little less directly accessible to a massive audience. They’re still very sellable ideas, but not on purpose.
She and I tend to think alike, and also I am very interested in following her lead. She’s a great creative producer, so I have a feeling, as these years go by, how many times can I suit up and look cute and be charming and beat people up? Sooner or later, I’m going to have to do something different. It’s so odd to me, generally speaking, that I don’t even know what to make of it. But as women go, she happens to be a woman and we really know how to get along. We really respect each other. There is such a deep respect. Plus she’s really sexy.
EI: I just read this morning about this Wizard of Oz prequel you’ve been offered. Is it true?
RDJ: Yeah, I guess it is. Something about Oz himself, right? The guy?
EI: Are you interested?
RDJ: I don’t know. Maybe.
Paramount Pictures' 'Iron Man 2' is in theaters now.