After wowing the crowd, Favreau sat down with the press to talk about his second Iron Man outing.
Jon Favreau InterviewYou rocked the hall.
"...Boy, it was scary coming in. That’s the problem. Remember that Bugs Bunny where Daffy Duck drinks the gasoline, lights himself on fire and it blows up and everybody claps? It’s like, 'What do you do for an encore?' Last time around, we put it all out there because we had a lot to prove."
You were the underdog last year.
"We were the underdog. If you remember, the first time I showed the stuff we were sandwiched between, on I think Thursday at the Paramount panel, everybody was waiting to see Indiana Jones. On the other side was Star Trek. They kind of just stuck us in there and we knew we had to fight our way. We were the runt and we had to fight our way to get the attention. This year it’s ridiculous, but even then it was 100s of properties that were trying to fight for attention. To emerge as one that was talked about was not a fait accompli by any stretch, so we knew we had to show a lot of footage. This time, if you look at what other films with established franchises do, they tend to just come, do a little soft pedal, just show up as a sign of respect and don’t do too much, maybe give away a shirt or something. I want every time that I come here, I bring what people expect."
How did you avoid the trap of sequels adding too many villains and characters?
"Well, we had to walk a fine line. I think you’re good for number two. Two seems to be the charm because you got your origin story out of the way. You can add some complexity to it and you have room, because you don’t have to tell the origin story, to introduce the characters. When you get to number three, you can get hidebound. You’re like a beached whale sometimes because you have so much, you collapse under the weight of the complexity that you’ve created."
"We looked at the successful sequels that we liked. I’m not talking about Two Towers or films that are chapters based on novels, or Harry Potter. I’m talking about true sequels. The two that we liked the most, this was me and Kevin Feige talking, were Wrath of Khan and Empire Strikes Back. Those were the two that we said, 'They did it right. Now let’s look at what they did right.'"
"There were so many others that didn’t feel as good as the first, but for those two, what we found was that it really gave room to explore the characters and the villain plot lines were very simple but the stakes were very high. The less you get bogged down in complexity, the more you could really let the audience enjoy what they really like - which are the relationships. Two years later, I know I’m a pretty savvy audience member, I don’t remember the dynamics and the subtleties of it. It’s not as precious to me as it is to the filmmakers. So it’s putting yourself in the seat of the audience and saying, 'What do they want to see more of?' But you want to go bigger. You go from Alien to Aliens, and then you want to show them the characters that they’ve invested in and how they’ve changed and change those dynamics by introducing new characters. Don’t just add to the action, but throw the relationship into a little bit of a curve ball."
Do you have double responsibility to set up part of The Avengers too?
"Yeah, I think that’s fun. I think it’s inevitable, and The Avengers might be the thing that helps rescue us from the inevitable sequel slump that you get into, because you’re throwing everything on its ear. It might be a failed experiment or it might be something wonderful, but it allows you to add complexity in an organic way where you’re culminating with something bigger, as opposed to trying to play out and not repeat the same story over and over again."
How do you avoid overloading on villain origin stories?
"It’s very true. With Empire, what you do is you reveal layers of what the larger villain is. We’re not feeling any pressure right now to rush to the whole Mandarin sub-throughline."
But that’s still intact?
"It’s still intact. We’re consistent with it. We know where it’s going, but I think audiences are pretty sophisticated. I watched the whole first season of Lost and of Heroes not having to know everything about what was going on. But I felt there was a consistency to those worlds. So in this case, with Mickey [Rourke], we definitely did want to have an origin story because we wanted an origin story to shadow and mirror Tony, because he’s introduced this technology into the world and how does that affect the world? We’re dealing with an arms race. That’s what Iron Man has always been. The thing about an arms race is, when you stop, the world doesn’t. You have windows of opportunity to change the world in good ways while all the bad forces are paralyzed, and what happens when those other superpowers emerge. It changes your tactics. Iron Man is dealing with as much as he can based on saying, 'I am Iron Man.' And what that has meant is to keep the world at bay with that new technology and who he was and how that changes now with the emergence of Mickey."
How much pressure was on you to deliver the goods?
"I didn’t feel any pressure. Maybe I’m oblivious, but the only pressure I felt was really the people in this room and to the fans. Unfortunately, the way sequels work is they market them and sell them based on the first one. If you have a successful film, they could run it into the ground and sell your second film based on the first one. So, commercially, you have a safety net. The trick is, as a filmmaker and somebody who loves the movies that I make and the source material, I don’t want to fall into that trap. So the pressure is completely self-imposed. I want people to like this movie as much, if not better than the first one. That’s the game of chicken I’m playing. But there’s a safety net knowing people will check it out."