Howard took time out of filming Paramount Pictures’ Iron Man, in which he co-stars with Oscar nominee Robert Downey Jr, Oscar winner Gwyneth Paltrow and four time Oscar nominee Jeff Bridges, to talk about the much anticipated film.
Terrence Howard Interview
Were you a fan of the comic book?
“It was funny. I called my father and I asked him, because he used to be a big Iron Man fanatic and he loved the War Machine aspect of it, and I asked him, I said, ‘When you were reading it, when you were younger, did you have any idea that inside your loins would be the one putting that on?’"
Have you done any big action stunt fights so far?
“We did a few things, but a lot of it I can't say about.”
How about the M50?
“Oh, that was great. I got to shoot that M50, man. At one point when I was up at the – no, I can't say that. I had some fun with the Air Force. The Air Force took me out on some of their real training stuff and let me play.”
What's been the hardest part?
“The hardest thing for me is we got the use of, like if you remember in the comic book, Rhodes, even though he's by the book so to speak, he's a bit of a rogue in his own nature. But since we have the Department of Defense that we're working with, it's been having to pull back because of trying to appease them being so generous to us. So that's been the hardest thing to be as true to Rhody as the comic book, and still satisfy the needs of the Department of Defense.”
What's your character arc in the first movie?
“See, I think it's pretty much a three picture arc, so we're right in the very beginning of that, of him having to consider perhaps there is a different way. Even though my character starts off in complete disgust of how Tony lives his life, then he realizes perhaps there is a different way to live one's life. So that's where we are now. We are in the debates of whose way of life is the right way. Is it the military and the strict disciplinarian way? Or is it being an independent acting and behaving individual? That's where it's at.”
Had you worked with Robert Downey Jr before? What was it like?
“No. I love him. I love him. My first film I ever saw him in was Weird Science, which I watched 400,000 times. So when I saw him, that's all I wanted to talk to him about. I mean, he had heard all those questions before but to find that he was a fan of mine… And I told him that the reason that I really wanted to do this movie, especially once I found he was doing it, was I wanted to work with him because I wanted to learn from him. I mean, he's brilliant. Every day he rewrites his script. Every single day. We've got great writers, but every day he will sit there and spend the first hour and a half making it perfect, making it better. He has this light, jovial nature about him that floats everywhere and floats everywhere. Therefore when he focuses in on something, it's powerful. It's magical. He's really probably one of the best actors I've ever worked with in my life. I look forward to learning a little more from him as we [go along].”
What have you learned from him?
“Nothing looks so unnatural as an attempt to look natural. You start off, when you're on the outskirts of the business and way over there, you're able to do whatever you want to do because nobody's really checking on you. But to get welcomed inside and then everyone expects so much from you… Like for me personally, the last film I did I was so busy trying to be the good actor and not ruffle anything, that I don't think I did the service that I was supposed to do to it because as an artist, you're not supposed to fit. An artist is supposed to stand apart and have a different point of view. What I've noticed about Robert, Robert is just himself. He has no other point of view except his own. He believes in it wholeheartedly and you've got to win him over with convincing argument. To have that type of backbone in a business where they remove your backbone slowly and surely, after he's been through so much, I love him for that. That's what I'm learning from him.”
What's your take on improvising versus scripted atmosphere?
“Well, you've got to think, Jon Favreau as an actor, he's an improvisational actor. So he brings those sensibilities to his directorial work. He trusts what the actors are going to, what they're going to do. There's one particular scene that just blows my mind in this movie where we were having a press conference and Robert just decided to tell the entire press to sit down on the floor. 400 people. After we had already lit it to shoot it with them standing. It was brilliant. Jon went with it. We relit and it just took the scene to a whole other place. I didn't know that Jeff [Bridges] didn't like improvisation because Jeff is freakin' brilliant.”
But Jon said don't get the idea we improvised the whole movie.
“No, what we'll do is we'll start off in the morning and talk through what's there. And we look around the room and say, ‘Who believes it?’ And if we don't believe it, then we'll start having the conversation: ‘What would you say?’ We have that conversation of what we would say and they have a little Dictaphone like this sitting around, another one that's like this. We're all listening too. The next thing you'll know, they'll come back an hour later and have written out everything that we were able to put into it. So it starts off with the structure, but then we let the plant grow and then we trim it down and it's perfect. It ends up being absolutely perfect. But Robert is the king of improvisation because every single take, he will adjust a word or a phrase that just gets a little more closer to home. His light just gets brighter and brighter and brighter. I mean, everyone is sitting there watching him like he is a mad genius.”