This isn’t where a hero is born, it’s where a hero is forged from the best parts money can buy. And by the looks of it, there is no shortage of supplies here. In Marina Del Rey, California, detritus of scrap metal and screen-used vehicles encircle the dusty lot and hangar where Marvel is overseeing its long overdue adaptation of Iron Man, directed by Jon Favreau (Zathura) and a strong summertime box office contender when Paramount Pictures releases the film in theaters nationwide. Read up on the film in our preview piece here.
ComingSoon.net/Superhero Hype! crawls alongside this graveyard of corrugated steel and spare parts. Ahead: The remnants of a Huey helicopter sans blades. To the right rests a bus – charred, abandoned and looking as if some sort of divine, colossal chainsaw came down and tore this mother in half. The front is completely missing. Word on the street is that less than a hundred yards away, the accompanying hangar on this plot of land is being occupied by a Mr. James Cameron and some film called Avatar (that’s sarcasm, if you ain’t readin’ that right). Two potential blockbusters bunking together on one lot may account for the high-level security that greeted us at the front gate moments earlier.
The two hangars were formerly occupied by Howard Hughes, we’re told upon meeting up with unit publicist. He whisks us through the entrance of the Iron Man production office with a smile knowing full well he could have directed us around this bungalow to our final destination. Such a maneuver, however, would deprive us of the fleeting glimpses of pre-production art – from Tony Stark’s highly lauded Mark III suit – and on-set photography, echoing famous Iron Man poses from the comic book, adorning the walls. Those working here either glance sideways at or ignore the troupe of reporters being herded through the maze with expressions of awe on their faces.
Out the back door we go and into the hangar passing a few twelve or fifteen-foot long F-14 models and missile shells – “Stark Industries” branded on their side – stockpiled on the floor. We wind through a labyrinthine construct of wooden set walls and film equipment; somewhere the muffled din of the crew prepares for the day’s shooting schedule. Our final destination? A faux cement womb also known as Tony Stark’s workshop.
“This is the beginnings of what will be the Hall of Armor, below [Stark’s] house.” Favreau explains to us. Right now, save for a few pieces of machinery, this enviable garage for one of the richest men on the planet (played by Robert Downey Jr.) is barren. A practical house was built elsewhere overlooking the Pacific Ocean in the scenic local of Point Dume, Malibu where Charlton Heston once learned a grim truth at the end of Planet of the Apes. For the film, this workshop will be loaded with choice female-baiting vehicles like, “a 32 Ford Roadster all the way through to a Tesla Electric Car and a Shelba Cobra, we have everything here,” beams Favreau.
The Swingers alum, now 41, is looking fit and healthy, it should be noted – a return to form and devoid of that “teddy bear” quality he has carried for a few years. He turns our gaze to the back of the room and the equipment. “Over there we have the remnants of everything you need for fabrication and design, you can build anything in here. This area was more of a living area, so this is where he would seclude himself. We suggest all of the innovations and inventions that come of Stark’s mind start alone here. He’s got his office in Stark Industries but this is where most of his work happens at four in the morning.”
Having been introduced to some of the key players on the film, CS/SHH! is freed of Stark’s workshop and allowed to sit in on the scene being burned to celluloid. On the surface, it appears to be a moderately simple sequence: Downey, as Tony Stark, returns home – architectural hedonism – entering his living room, greeted by a bass-y, robotic voice (imagine Pierce Brosnan’s part in that “Simpsons” episode). On the table sits a pot of orchids, gift bags garishly screaming product names like “Dolce & Gabbana” and “Chanel” on their sides. Guitars rest easily on a rack. In another section of the room, a waterfall starts up. A warm blaze crackles to life in the fireplace. And to really slam home Stark’s palpable wealth: The view. Of course, for the purposes of this film, the view of the Pacific Ocean seen through this house’s massive windows is created with a painted backdrop sprinkled with LED lights signifying other residences in Santa Monica (to the left) and Malibu (to the right).
Stark is told he has an overwhelming amount of messages waiting for him. Downey loosens his tie and strolls to a section of the picture window calling up a computerized view screen with the touch of his hand which will later be added with CGI. Favreau, tucked into one of the set’s hallways out of sight, called “Cut!”
The shot is reset and we move on, driven into a dark mock-up of the Middle Eastern cavern Stark is imprisoned in at the beginning of the film. It’s a highly detailed, large affair… and full of glorious foam as to not get hurt. Wrapping our day, we venture beneath Stark Industries itself, a structure of cement, piping and other equipment that keeps the lifeblood of this building pumping. That said, we can’t help but notice the giant hole in the wall rimmed with a blackish smoke stain around it. A second glance around the sub-level yields other hints of a possible battle that may have happened here. Blast marks. Busted gears. Is that a blueprint of possible nemesis Iron Monger sitting on the table?
“You’re not supposed to see that,” a publicist mumbles hurrying us out to our vehicle.
Naturally. We may have been granted access to Stark’s private abode today, however, there is still much to learn and discover about the man behind the iron mask when the film opens on May 2nd.