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Robert Downey Jr Interview - 'Iron Man' Set Visit

Behind the Scenes of 'Iron Man' with the Film's Star

By Fred Topel

Robert Downey Jr Interview - 'Iron Man' Set Visit

Robert Downey Jr stars in Iron Man.

© Paramount Pictures

Apr 08 - Late last year Paramount Pictures invited a select group of online press to the set of the action-heavy comic book-inspired movie Iron Man and made the film’s stars, as well as director Jon Favreau, available for interviews. The scene being shot the day the press visited the set involved Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) returning to his Malibu home after a long period away.

Downey described what was taking place: “He’s been back home, he’s had a press conference, and he’s talked to his partner in front of this legacy energy device that he’s in essence miniaturized, which is keeping him alive, but he’s back home. But back home, there’s nothing that’s normal in this whole film, he’s just back home – did you see that pad? And he’s not just back home, but he’s home and there isn’t a big wait staff, and he doesn’t have a gal on his arm, and his assistant’s not around, so it’s a very kind of isolated opulence.”

“There was this last round of Iron Man comics, Extremis and those very kind of graphicy looking ones, and I remember in pre-production, without wanting to be derivative which is a very specific design, and that’s what I like about anything, that’s why I’m such a fan of Matrix and stuff like that. And people go, ‘Not two and three?’ And I’m like, ‘Yeah, if I love it, I love all of them.’ I’m like the boyfriend that needs to grow up because if I love something and it impacts me, then I’m in until the wheels fall off.”

Robert Downey Jr Interview

Why did you decide to take on this starring role?
“Well, I mean, all my friends are doing it. I remember the original Superman and Brando was in it. I thought, ‘Wow, these things must be getting legit.’ I was already, I guess, fairly opinionated when I was seven. I’m kind of like a nerd about this stuff and I think there’s been this onslaught, obviously, of these genre films. I hope this one is different enough to accommodate whatever snobbery might be unleashed on me by peers and friends. With my buddies, when you want to do stuff, they say, ‘You’re doing what, man? Shaggy Dog?’ No one’s given me any guff about Iron Man and it's funny, too. It's a particular type of fan likes it, really smart, highly educated entertainment lawyers like pulling me aside at parties going, ‘Dude, Tony Stark, man?’ The tie gets loose and they start just getting out.”

Can you talk about the bruises and the cuts?
“I can. He goes through a lot. I don’t know what I can talk about or not...I guess it’s safe to say that he’s in captivity for some time, and the fact that you've just seen a sequence where he’s returning home and a lot has occurred means that obviously he figured out a way to escape. I don’t know much about these sorts of things, but I know you can get pretty bruised up escaping.”

If you met Tony Stark on a street corner, what would you guys have to talk about?
“First of all, he’d be an imposter so we'd probably throw down right there. It’s so funny, because I think I’m old enough to have a pretty strong aesthetic distance. I remember the days, if it was Less than Zero or Chaplin, where I would throw myself into this tizzy of prep the roles for 16 hours. The same makeup gal doing this did Less Than Zero and she was blowing menthol in my eyes and putting latex on my lips, and I was doing pushups before the scenes and my heart was racing forever. And I feel like as much as anything nowadays, it’s not that we’re phoning it in, we really care and we really prepped it into practical oblivion, but I still try to have some distance but it’s really almost even more narcissistic to be talking to some department head going, ‘I don’t think Tony would,’ which is essentially saying what I want to do in the scene. But if there’s ever been a character in the history of my career that I would happy to meld with and associate myself with, it’s Tony Stark, because it’s the coolest job I’ve ever had.

I got to meet Stan Lee. I took him to the Grill in Beverly Hills and I asked him, ‘What was the real origin of this?’ And he said, ‘I kind of did it on a dare. Could you make a billionaire industrialist, womanizing heathen, somehow through this vulnerability of his own….’ And also you think about it, it’s interesting, roughly 30 years ago and history and da da da, but it was a time when there was a very strong anti-establishment, anti-military industrial complex, anti-rich, over 30 energy, and so for him it was just a huge challenge. They said they got more female fan mail than for all their other heroes combined because there was this sense of him being very vulnerable and not knowing from day to day whether this very precarious device that keeps him alive and drives him… But is clearly a metaphor for something else, but sometimes it’s not a metaphor. You’ve got a small token-like reactor in your chest, that’s the reason you’re not dead in the movie. How can that be a metaphor?”

What can you say about the wardrobe?
“I love Stan Winston and Shane and all the guys on his team. There are several stunt men, Oakley we call one of them and Mike Justice and these guys. Again, if Jon and I are Tony Stark, then it’s me and those fellows, my stuntman, and my stand in who wind up really being Iron Man, because it’s just such a massive undertaking. We said at the first that we wanted to do as much of it as practically as possible. I was coming into the set going, ‘Oh yeah, practical, practical.’ I was like, 'Cool.’ But it’s tough, really tough, and really great. Like that first time you try on the suit, I swear to God you could put the least mucho superhero-looking man or woman in the suit… I swear to God in 15 seconds you could believe that any of them could destroy the nemesis.”

How long did it take to get used to it?
“Well, I like to say I'm the first person who's been able to relieve themselves while wearing the suit. It was precipitous. Wouldn't it be weird if that was the rest of the interview? There was a zipper, but the zipper was still covered by a hip piece that actually had a groin attachment. Suffice to say, it was like that thing where you say, 'How did that guy escape from jail?' You go, 'Well, he was thin.' There's a lot of thin people in jail, but, 'Yeah, that guy's head was just the right size and he got out between the bars.'”

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