[We first posted this report on April 27 and are re-posting it now in case you missed it]
In anticipation of Iron Man 2's May 7 opening, the entire cast and director Jon Favreau met the press over the weekend in Beverly Hills, Calif., and we were there.
Following is an edited transcript of the entire press conference, which featured stars Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Scarlett Johansson, Mickey Rourke and Don Cheadle, director Favreau, Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige and writer Justin Theroux.
For Robert and Jon, I wanted to ask what pressure you felt doing a sequel to the first, which was such a blockbuster?
Downey: Do you mean, like, feel like it's past tense? I didn't sleep last night. Jon?
Favreau: I've never done a sequel before, unless you count me being ... on Batman Forever as a sequel, as an actor. For me, there wasn't the same pressures that you're used to feeling, especially coming up with smaller movies ... where you're throwing a party and you don't know if people are going to show up. Here we knew people were going to show up. We just wanted to make sure everybody that showed up had a good time and this was going to be as fun or more fun than the last party. So, different kind of pressure. ...
Jon and Kevin, can you talk about the timeline for Iron Man 2 and how it fits in with Thor, Captain America and Avengers?
Favreau: I'll let Kevin field that one.
Feige: The second question, and it's about that? That's nifty. I think Jon has already revealed on his Twitter that Iron Man 2 takes place [before] or slightly concurrently with The Incredible Hulk. But other than that ... It takes place before, but if you're paying attention towards the end of the film, you'll see a little clue that tells you that it's happening before The Incredible Hulk.
Favreau: The whole idea of an easter egg is you don't talk about it. ...
Mr. Favreau, there was a snippet in the trailer where Pepper was in the plane with Tony. Was that meant to be a part of the Stark Expo scene where he's flying down from the plane?
Favreau: Yes. We had different versions of things that we tried. That was something that we tried, that was something that was a great image and a scene that's gonna be on the DVD. But we had two different versions of it, and because of the pacing and the way we reveal Tony Stark, it felt really good to flow into the drop down and reveal him for the first time on the stage. For those of you who haven't seen the movie, this doesn't make any sense. But oftentimes, in the editing room, we figure out what combinations of scenes ...
Downey: Gwyneth is just finding out that that scene was cut, Jon. You might be a little more sensitive.
Cheadle: You're in for a big surprise.
Paltrow: Nothing would surprise me.
Gwyneth and Scarlett, I think the Tony character is surprised that you guys can work together quite well later in the movie. Who do you think can work together better to save the world, you two girls or Tony and Rhodey? And why?
Paltrow: Well, if Scarlett and I were doing it, the body count would be different. Less bloody.
Johansson: More organized. We'd just stack them. I don't know, I mean, I think that we, with the brains and the muscle and the beauty and the blond, I feel like we'd have maybe a better chance, but you guys can fight for yourselves.
Paltrow: We're unstoppable.
Johansson: We are. It's true. Unstoppable. I don't know. I feel like if I could wield the guns and the karate-chop movements and you can, like, be the brains behind the operation. That's your one superpower. I will out-think you. ...
Mickey, that was an electrifying performance. Can you talk about what it was like to play that character and how much fun you had?
Rourke: I had a lot of fun.
Can you elaborate?
Rourke: I just woke up. It was great because I worked with some great people and he's, this one here [indicates Favreau], is real easy to work with, makes it fun. It was nice because I'd just come off working on a film that was no budget and I didn't have a chair to sit in. I remember the first day, I asked for a cappuccino and they said, 'What kind would you like?' ...
Justin and Jon, you guys discovered a lot on set on the first movie. How much did you discover this time, and Justin, how much of your script are we seeing on screen and how much is the group coming together and changing things?
Theroux: It's a heavily improvisational script in that everyone gets to sort of chime in. So my job as the writer was to really just stay on the dance shoes of Robert and Jon and Gwyneth and everybody and just sort of try and rewrite things on the fly. So we did have an extensive development process, obviously, sort of where we actually had a script. And then that ball just keeps rolling into production, and then once we're on set, it gets very frenetic and very fast.
Favreau: The story is very well fleshed out, the actual story; what has to happen in each scene we understand. We leave a lot of room within those scenes and try to do multiple cameras sometimes or stay up and rewrite. And Justin was doing multiple passes, sometimes double-digit passes on scenes, because we learned things from each scene that we shoot. We try to shoot pretty much in order. And what's nice about having the actors you see up here is they're all very good stewards of their characters emotionally and they're used to being in films where you don't have the safety net of all the high technology and the explosions. And so, if they have an issue with something we're asking the character to do for the story, we discuss it and we figure out a way so that it can work for them as a performer and also for the movie.
Don Cheadle, your character was played by Terrence Howard in the first movie. How did you feel when the opportunity arose to play the role in this movie, and how cool was it for you to put on the War Machine suit?
Cheadle: Well, I don't know why the War Machine suit is actually made of metal and his [indicates Downey] was made of light fiberglass material. (Laughs.) Maybe it was just an initiation. But, you know, I felt very fortunate to be given the opportunity to work in a film like this. Terrence is a friend, and I've known him for a long time. I was one of the producers on Crash, put him in that, so it was good to also kind of see him and put anything to bed that people may have been thinking was a problem. It wasn't. We're cool. Look, it's a lot of fun. We get to play with the best toys and the best technology. It's just kind of doing what you liked to do as a kid, but all fleshed out. A lot of fun.
Downey: The reason Don's suit was heavier is that it's almost impossible to get that mirror-like look of a polished metal with CGI. I would not wish it on an enemy. ...
For the three gentlemen on the end, you've got a rogue's gallery with Iron Man, but it's not as well known as something like Batman or Spider-Man. Were there other villains considered? And talk about the decision to go with Whiplash and Mickey's casting.
Favreau: I met with Mickey at this hotel. Remember? I brought him some artwork and we thought, Whiplash in the comic book is a guy wearing tights with a big plume, big purple feather coming out of the top of his head. That wasn't what we wanted. But what's the tech version of that? ... And so we were thinking of, we were concocting a version of a Russian, thinking of Viggo [Mortensen] in Eastern Promises and the tattoos. That could be a cool in. So it's going to be a Russian, and then we're like, Marv [from Sin City] and The Wrestler, between those two, between the fan boys and the independent film community, he was back with a vengeance. It was like, "My God, there's a lot of people, we're not going to have a tremendous amount of screen time. Who's going to be able to be there, make an impression and you feel like this guy's in trouble?"
So Mickey brought a lot of intensity to both those roles. We did some artwork, and then I met with him, sat down with him, and we talked about everything. It was before all the awards started to happen. We had a nice little connection, and I talked to people that worked with him, and they said great things about him. His talent is undeniable. And so, that started, that conversation ended, and then Robert was on the road with him doing the tour, because he was on the Tropic Thunder awards tour, and he, I think, was lobbying every time they sat together to try to get him to join the movie.
Downey: I really worked you like a rib, didn't I? It was embarrassing. I was literally begging you in public. ...
Rourke: We had a great time. We had a lot of fun. I think we were, we were doing this improvisation where I said, 'Bring me some vodka. This wine is s--t.' And I just moved the wine over, and [Sam Rockwell] took his glass and said, 'Yeah, this is s--t.' (Laughs.) He was fun to work with.
Downey: Mickey, I think we've waited long enough. Can we please talk about the parrot already? (Laughs.) I don't know why the parrot is not on the poster personally.
Rourke: He's home.
Favreau: Yeah, he bought one after. It's the one that's in the movie. ...
For the two of you [Robert and Gwyneth], there's a real Moonlighting thing going on between the two of you, the banter between you is great. But the kiss was, of course, very highly anticipated. How was it shooting that scene?
Downey: I couldn't get her off me. It was embarrassing.
Paltrow: It was great, because both my husband and his wife were right there.
Downey: She said to me that I didn't know what I was doing, like it didn't feel good. And I'm like, you know what? First of all, we're all friends. So what would be creepy would be if I was coming off all sexy to you while we're shooting. ... By the way, I've done that in movies, and it creeps them out. So what am I going to creep you out for? ... Despite what she said on set, she still thinks about it. [Laughs.] ...
And finally, Scarlett was fantastic as Black Widow. There was talk of a spinoff movie. Is that still a possibility?
Favreau: Hell yes.
Feige: Yes. Absolutely.
Jon, we heard about a few of the scenes that might wind up on the DVD. What other cool extras do you have planned?
Favreau: Well, we have, there's a lot of featurettes. We were running cameras behind the scenes all the time. We don't like to really show too much of it before the movie comes out, to keep some surprises. But everything was very well documented, as you can see, a very interesting group of people. And so, between the interviews, you get a really good sense of ... We're fans of these movies, Kevin and I are always swapping back and forth books and things about the movies that we grew up loving. And so we document it very well, and so there's going to be pretty extensive featurettes and then commentary this time around, and then also deleted scenes that we thought would be interesting for people to see. So it's more a movie-fan set of extras, people who really want to immerse themselves. If you don't, it's going to be boring. If you don't like that kind of thing, it's going to be ... We did overkill on this one.
Gwyneth and Scarlett, can you tell us more about your specific roles in this movie and how, in this movie, you have strong, intelligent women? You aren't just sex symbols.
Johansson: Well, I think that I've never really seen a film of this genre where the female characters were, that they're kind of, that their sex appeal kind of came second. I mean, of course they're sexy characters. When you have a sexy secretary or a girl swinging around by her ankles in a catsuit, that's innately sexy, but these characters are ... They're intelligent, they're ambitious, they're motivated and calculated in some, to some degree. It leaves ... I probably would have, to be just a pawn in a story of a whole bunch of men just fighting it out and, you know, rolling around and getting down and dirty, and there you are to be sort of the vision in a tight catsuit is sort of a boring thing to me. I think that Jon made that really clear in the beginning, that he felt, as far as Black Widow or Natalie was concerned, that she was, you know, mysterious and nuanced and something to kind of peel back the layers to, that there was something there. He wanted that. I think that's why this film is so much more dynamic to me as an audience member. I've never been a huge fan of this genre, really. I think because it was always sort of one-note and very explosive. I think this, because Gwyneth and I are able to be the brains behind the operation in some aspect, there's kind of a happy medium there. It kind of adds to the charm, the charisma, of the finished project.
Paltrow: Oh. I agree with Scarlett. (Laughs.) I think it's a very smart decision, actually, to have women that are capable and intelligent, because it appeals to women. So it's not only a film for 15-year-old boys, it's a film that can relate to a lot people on a lot of levels. Like, a lot of my girlfriends like it because of the romance or Scarlett, the trailer, it's appealing. "Oh, who is she?" It doesn't look like, it doesn't look gratuitous. It looks like there are interesting women in the movie. Certainly from the first one, too. My character is quick, and she's articulate. It makes it so that, when you take your kid, if you're a mom, it's really fun for you to watch as well. It's really fun to see women who are kind of aspirational and smart, sexy all at the same time.
Cheadle: I think 15-year-old boys are going to like that too.
Johansson: It's awfully kind of old-fashioned, actually, in the best sense of the word. These characters are like those fabulous femme fatales of the golden age of Hollywood. That Bette Davis, more than the Jayne Mansfield, you know, which I think is so much more dynamic to watch. ...
Mr. Downey, I'm wondering about the physical challenges and perhaps the emotional and intellectual of this as well and what the boundaries of that were for you. ...
Downey: ... We just labored really hard to say, "OK, we're audience members who made the first Iron Man successful, and we're smart, which is kind of why we were drawn to it, so what do we expect?" We kept putting ourselves into audience seats. So, for me, the mental and emotional aspects and development of Tony were, to me, it's strange to say personal, because it's not necessarily relating to my life, so to speak, but just the mythology of saying you're something and being that thing are something entirely different.
And also this whole idea of Howard Stark and the legacy and the shadow of that legacy that we were always talking about, Mickey and I, about being kind of two sides of the same coin. One who was kind of able to escape that captivity and one who saw his father die in the ruins of improper recognition and having to reckon with that. So really all of the characters, you know, Black Widow/Natalie is bringing me back to an extended family I've always had, and Mickey, as Anton, is telling me that all is not well and people have vendettas for reasons I might not understand but I need to understand. And Rhodey is there saying, "Hey, you've always had me there on your wing, so why won't you really let me help you?" And obviously the Pepper thing is really about love. ...
(At this point, the Iron Man poster backdrop falls off its support frame, and Downey, Feige and Theroux begin clowning around with it until the press conference ends.)