Who would have thought five years ago that a second-tier Marvel superhero would pave the way for a comic book movie to become the third-highest-grossing movie of all time—The Avengers? Thanks to the charm and charisma of its leading man, we now await the third installment of the Iron Man franchise and the first step in Marvel's self-titled Phase Two group of movies.
At an early roundtable discussion with Robert Downey Jr. in L.A. a few months ago, the actor, who turns 48 next month, shared his thoughts on returning to the franchise, where the character is headed post-Avengers, and if he is interested in returning for more Marvel movies.
On returning for his fourth stint as Iron Man:
I was kind of looking forward to it. Iron Man 3 was supposed to answer all the questions for the audience, cure all of my uncomfortable moments from the past of playing the character and get in every idea that fell by the wayside during the last three movies.
On reuniting with Shane Black (the duo previously worked together on Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang):
They said,"'Look, we've narrowed it down to a couple of choices." I liked both. Shane still has a special place in my heart. It turned out to be a great choice.
On how the events of The Avengers have affected Tony Stark:
I thought, "What if something like that had happened to someone like him or any of us. Wouldn't you be a little tripped out? Wouldn't you be watching your back?" Then I thought about this whole 21st century reality and the oddball zeitgeist stuff – America and terrorism, all the weirdo stuff that this great country seems to generate and co-create–so I thought he should be a little freaked out.
On what spurs the attack by The Mandarin:
The actual reason in the story is because of something particular that happens [to Stark's chauffeur buddy Happy Hogan] which makes it personal to him. Otherwise, [Tony] probably wouldn't have run his mouth.
On what Joss Whedon brought to Iron Man 3:
I think, honestly, what he brought was momentum. When you have something that is such an unprecedented smash, it means, "OK, we can relax for a minute," but it also means, "OK, we're following that." So he brought us a lot. He brought us comfort and a fair amount of performance anxiety. [laughs]
On feeling a sense of ownership of the character:
The funny thing is in playing this sort of inherent narcissist, it's like every time you kill one of Tony's egos, another one sprouts up. I've had that experience. It's actually been remarkably humbling because I always realize that you're just part of this "thing." I think the problems begin when any one person involved in anything, particularly anything successful, decides that they have ownership to it because really, this is just something that Stan Lee scratched down on a piece of paper 50 years ago.
I've always thought of myself as a company man. I like being able to show up. I like doing press. I don't want to be doing a roundtable and the press people are going, "He looks tired." I wanna show up, I wanna be there.
On whether the action sequences in Avengers raise the bar for Iron Man 3:
Iron Man 3 is simultaneously a smaller kind of storytelling but it also … I'm in every second of the action in this movie. I've never done so much action in my life. And the scope feels really big. Again, I think Marvel's expectations were, "Let's defy expectations again."
On the differences between Jon Favreau and Shane Black as directors:
Jon has an incredible sense of showmanship and Shane is kind of more introverted and when he does become ectomorphic, it's very entertaining. For instance, we were night-shooting and he just went running across this thing and caught his head on a cable and dislocated his shoulder and I sat there in the emergency vehicle and he goes, "I'll stay. We have two more shots." and I'm like, "You have to go to the hospital!"
Jon is very smooth and Shane is probably a little more like myself in that he's kind of spikey at times but also I've changed. The Jon that directed the first Iron Man and the Jon I worked with on the second one and the Jon on this one has changed. Jon and I have a nice relationship and Shane and I are still speaking. [laughs]
Iron Man 3 opens in theaters May3