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Robert Downey Jr, Don Cheadle, Shane Black and Kevin Feige Talk 'Iron Man 3'

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Robert Downey Jr and Don Cheadle at the 'Iron Man 3' press conference.

Robert Downey Jr and Don Cheadle at the 'Iron Man 3' press conference.

Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/WireImage

Of course Marvel Studios and Disney brought the Iron Man 3 cast and director to the 2012 San Diego Comic Con. It's a natural fit, and Con attendees have grown to expect Iron Man's presence at the annual geekfest. Plus, Robert Downey Jr can always be counted on to entertain the crowd, and at this year's event he even gave a group of kids in Iron Man costumes a big treat by showing up and posing for a group shot.

Gathered together for a press conference, Downey Jr., Don Cheadle, director Shane Black, and Marvel Studio's Kevin Feige avoided any possible spoilers while discussing how to make an Iron Man 3 movie that doesn't simply serve to set up the next Avengers movie. They also talked about Black's vision as director (he takes over for Jon Favreau who helmed 1 & 2) and the new Iron Man suits.

Kevin Feige, Robert Downey Jr, Don Cheadle and Shane Black Iron Man 3 Press Conference

After The Avengers, what’s the pressure for Iron Man 3 to have bigger set pieces?

Kevin Feige: "We’re not aiming for bigger necessarily. We’re aiming for different and fresh and new. And Shane, the new director, do you want to talk more about that?"

Shane Black: "Yeah, fresh, different, but there is an idea about being big. To me it’s an idea about capturing and redoubling the intensity that The Avengers managed to capture, that sort of lightning in a bottle feel of really stuffing so much into a limited space. We’re trying to get as much in this as we can. Robert, you referred to it as leaving it all on the field, and I think that’s what we’re looking to do is just get a ton of thrills in the short space and make a nice little stew for you."

There are Iron Patriot photos online. How does that actually fit in?

Robert Downey Jr: "Keep a straight face, Don."

Don Cheadle: "I will."

Shane Black: "They were online. The not fun thing is that it’s online and we don’t have a lot of control over that stuff anymore. The fun thing is the reason it was online is because it’s a real practical suit and it was on the set and somebody took a picture of it. It’s an actual awesomely designed suit. And it’s a suit that Mr. Cheadle at certain points in the movie and at certain points on the set, may be not as fun."

Don Cheadle: "Not as fun on the set as it will be in the movie."

Shane Black: "The more uncomfortable for the actors, the more satisfying for the audience."

Don Cheadle: "Exactly."

Shane Black: "But the good news is, the fun thing for us by the way - just in terms of fans and the fan buzz - is just how much of all the guessing is so wrong. Completely off base. I said, 'Let’s just get some men to walk around as the most obscure Marvel film ever. Get some costume at K-mart and have that show up.' But we love the rumors. We love that. That’s fun."

Shane, you’ve written a lot of big movies, did that prepare you for directing one? What surprised you on the director’s side?

Shane Black: "What surprised me frankly was just how much generous help was available to me. It made it as easy as it could be. Jon Favreau available to give me all kinds of tips and advice. He just made it like walking off of one sort of platform onto another and gave me the transitional feel I needed. Marvel has such an effective special effects machine that they could walk into this process, hold my hand and pretty much ensure that I was free to concentrate on story, character and scale. I said, 'I want to do this.' They said, 'Here’s how you do it.' Within a week I knew. These guys were terrific. They’ve done this a lot. They do it all the time."

Robert and Shane, how did the story and success of The Avengers impact what you wanted to do in this movie? Robert, what sides of Tony Stark did you want to dig into for this one?

Robert Downey Jr: "Kind of like what’s already been said. Avengers even, I think, surprised us to a certain extent. Looking back on it you can kind of dissect why it was the right movie, the right people, the right director at the right time, and we feel the same way of this now. I feel that Rhodey and Tony had not entirely been explored as much as they might be and that in the comics was always a big part, and to me some of the heart of what was great about it. And, also, we tried to be practical in a post-Avengers world what are his challenges now, what are some limitations that might be placed on him, and what sort of threat would have him, as usual, ignore those limitations."

Shane Black: "And truthfully, the way to go about I think doing a 3, if you’re ever in that position as I’m lucky enough to be, you’ve got to find a way that the first two aren’t done yet. You have to find a way that the story that’s emerging is still ongoing and by the time you finish 3 will have emerged as something resembling the culmination of a trilogy. In other words, how has the story not yet been completely told? I think we’re getting there. I think we’ve really found ways to make this feel organic and new based on what’s come before, and that’s what I’m happy about."

Shane and Kevin, how is Iron Man 3 going to focus on Iron Man rather than setting up the next Avengers?

Kevin Feige: "Well, I’ve already said that this is a very Tony Stark-centric film, meaning not just Tony but his world with Pepper, with Rhodey. It was important to us as part of the story for the grand plan, if you will, from Iron Man 1 to Avengers was about building that up. Frankly, the first step of the grand plan with Iron Man 3 is to prove they’re just as interesting, if not more so, by themselves as they were when they were all together in The Avengers. So Iron Man 3 by design is a very serious character study. It’s not a serious movie, but we seriously dug into exploring more of Tony, of Rhodey, of Pepper, without calling SHIELD and calling Thor and, 'I think Cap should be here in five minutes,' or any of that fun."

Robert Downey Jr: "Any questions for Captain Planet? I mean, what were you thinking?"

Don Cheadle: "I obviously wasn’t thinking."

Robert, re-teaming with Shane, what did your dynamic bring to this production?

Robert Downey Jr: "Well, I’ve known Shane for a while. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang was one of my favorite experiences. The script was practically perfect, but we improvised anyway."

Shane Black: "You improvised anyway."

Robert Downey Jr: "Even just this time around, I’ve been saying this all day, we made enough mistakes all together that we’re all really seasoned at this point. The main thing is Shane’s storytelling and the kind of emotional depth that happens without taking itself too seriously is kind of what Jon had set up. It was nice when Favreau and I and Don would be calling Shane when we had a big scene the next day. His payment once was he asked that we pick him up a piece of salmon and some fresh blueberries. So he became known as code word 'Blueberries' after that. And he’s working for about the same fee now."

How many more generations does the suit have to go through before you think it's there? Don, will we see you suit up again?

Don Cheadle: "I do suit up. There are some different iterations that War Machine goes through in this film. I don’t want to give it away, but it’s fun to see those things morph and shift. And the Iron Man suit is really spectacular in this one, I think. The innovation that’s happened with it."

Robert Downey Jr: "I liked in the comics too that there was a bit of suit envy between them."

Shane Black: "Also, what’s great is one suit is a private enterprise, the other is military. So you’ve got two Iron Men in essence, the private sector and government guy."

Robert Downey Jr: "Yeah, and for some reason I think he’s still the one they trust."

Shane Black: "By the way, I also find it really interesting that there were actually fans today who had anger that the suit was gold. I mean, of all the things in the world to get angry about, the suit."

Will we see any more of the dark side of Tony like we saw in Iron Man 2?

Robert Downey Jr: "Yeah, I think that’s the big idea. But, also interestingly enough this film has a lot of breadth to it. We realized at the beginning of Iron Man 2, Tony’s dying, wow, and then he has a party and then he’s drunk, wow. And some people are going, 'We don’t like him.' There’s a way to enjoy all of that shadowy stuff and still [have fun.] We just kept thinking about what would it really be like if this guy was in this country. Where else could he go in this country and what sorts of themes and backdrops could we explore? I think if you look at the history of the films Shane’s written and he’s directed, there’s a real desire for me - just as someone who loves movies - to a hearkening back to some of those themes in mainstream films, and they will occur in Iron Man 3."

Shane Black: "Although Tony won’t fall off the wagon."

Robert Downey Jr: "Actually, you haven’t seen my rewrites. 'Rhodey picks him up at Betty Ford, scene 2.'"

Don Cheadle: "That’s in? That made it in? Great."

Shane, can you talk about filming in China and how it factors into the story?

Shane Black: "It’s weird because we’re not really going to China. Can I say that?"

Don Cheadle: "You just did."

Robert Downey Jr: "This is why I love Shane. He says it and then turns to Kevin and asks if he can say it."

Kevin Feige: "You remember in Iron Man 2 there’s a great sequence at the Monaco race track. Whiplash comes out and cuts his car in half. Many, many crew members went to Monaco. The first unit didn’t. Robert didn’t. It’s a similar sort of Hollywood movie magic that will be occurring in this case."

Shane Black: "Yeah, basically we’re setting aspects of the film in China but we won’t be filming there. Don’t tell anybody."

Kevin Feige: "First unit won’t be filming."

Don Cheadle: "That stays in this room."

How do you ensure the lore of this film or any film doesn’t step on the toes of other Marvel projects?

Kevin Feige: "You mean the storyline of Iron Man 3? No, Iron Man 3 is the beginning of the next phase so it will set the tone in a lot of ways. Certainly Tony’s journey and things could spin forward, but it’s as self-contained a story as we’ve done since Iron Man 1."

How important is romance to the story of Iron Man 3?

Shane Black: "I think essentially the remarkable thing that Jon Favreau managed to do when he forged these kinds of movies is he established a precedent of espionage high-tech kind of Top Gun style thrills coupled with romantic comedy in a strange way. It’s always sort of a mainstay of these movies, so that’s part of my favorite thing about it too. The romance is definitely a part of it. Obviously we’ve got Gwyneth [Paltrow] coming back and time’s passed. In Avengers, Gwyneth and Tony are together and doing great and living together."

Robert Downey Jr: "Kevin said there’s never been a movie like this where your lead guy is in a relationship with a girl he’s going home to who’s kind of like Gwyneth Paltrow telling him what to do. However, Rhodey is single. What are you going to do about that?"

Don Cheadle: "Is this a dating service?"

How do you keep it fresh for the audience without feeling overloaded by Marvel films?

Kevin Feige: "Well, I’ve been at Marvel for 12 years now and we’ve had concern going back to when X-Men came out and two years later Spider-Man came out, and one year there were three. The trick, the formula if there is one, is just try to make great movies. Try to make them all great, all different, all fresh, and what you’ll see in Iron Man 3 that Shane is bringing to this is some very unique compliments and very unique directions that were taken with the character and franchise. Same thing with Thor. Same thing with Cap. As long as they all feel fresh and you don’t start falling into some formulaic mold, I hope."

Shane Black: "I will say based on that too, what Kevin is basically telling you is that we’re allowed to take some risks and I think that’s very notable. I think it’s very admirable in a superhero movie to be able to take a few risks. That’s why I wanted to do this."

What made you know Shane was the right choice?

Kevin Feige: "Well, he’s a great storyteller. He’s a great storyteller, he had a great relationship with Robert, and his movie was one of the things that Jon and I kept going back to when we were casting Tony Stark many years ago. So it made a lot of sense to us, and we knew Joss [Whedon] hadn’t done a movie as big as Avengers before we hired him to do Avengers. As Shane’s already said, we’re confident in the infrastructure we can provide filmmakers, whether they’ve dealt with something on that scale or not."

Shane Black: "Oh, just say it. I work for DVD copies."

Don Cheadle: "You were cheap, kid."

Shane Black: "I was cheap."

Robert, how does it feel to be a hero in all the movies?

Robert Downey Jr: "Well, I think I speak for any of us who get to live in this world and there was just one of these photo things, a bunch of kids showed up as Iron Man. There was a couple War Machines there. There’s something about it that you just go, 'Oh, what a great opportunity.' So, it’s an odd thing. I take it as seriously as Shakespeare."

* * * * *

Iron Man 3 hits theaters on May 3, 2013.

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