Why we're conflicted King's Speech director turned down Iron Man 3

Contributed by
Dec 14, 2012, 4:51 PM EST

While it wasn't a complete surprise to learn that one of this year's Oscar nominees for Best Director turned down Iron Man 3, we still can't help but wonder how it might have turned out if he'd said yes.

According to 24 Frames, British director Tom Hooper was offered the chance to direct 2013's Iron Man 3 after Jon Favreau bowed out of the franchise last year. Hooper was relatively unknown in the United States until the massive success of The King's Speech, the historical World War II-era drama that has earned 12 Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor (it's expected to go head to head in all those categories with The Social Network).

Marvel Studios, perhaps employing the same unconventional thinking that got Favreau on board for the first two Iron Man entries and Kenneth Branagh behind the camera for Thor, probably saw a chance to get an Oscar nominee or winner locked down for their tentpole series and offered Hooper the job. But he passed, and Iron Man 3 is now in the capable hands of Lethal Weapon writer and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang director Shane Black.

Approaching Hooper was a bold move on Marvel's part, but would it have worked out? On one hand, as a veteran of historical dramas both on film and television, Hooper seems to be a director who focuses extensively on character and detail. He might have helped Robert Downey Jr. bring more layers to the already complex character of Tony Stark while giving the Iron Man saga a larger modern-world context.

On the other hand, The King's Speech, for all its excellent period detail and characterization, often feels like a filmed stage play. The occasional use of strange camera angles doesn't disguise the fact that the movie consists mostly of two or three people standing around talking. We already had a lot (some say too much) of that in Iron Man 2, at the expense of a tight script and more action.

Could Hooper have handled the kind of explosive, spectacular action sequences and tons of special effects that are standard issue for a comic-book-based blockbuster like Iron Man? Nothing on his resume says so, but that doesn't mean he couldn't learn. Another question: Could he have handled the explosive, spectacular special effect known as Robert Downey Jr., a man known for being wildly and unpredictably creative on the set?

We'll never know, unless Marvel circles around to him again in a few years for Iron Man 4 or The Avengers 2. Do you think Hooper could have done a good job? And is Marvel's unorthodox approach to directors for its movies a smart strategy or one that could come crashing down on the studio?