Check out our conversation with Downey below and click here for our description of the new footage and an interview with both Black and Feige.
The film, fansā first look at the Marvel Cinematic Universe since last yearās Marvelās The Avengers, pits brash-but-brilliant industrialist Tony Stark/Iron Man against an enemy whose reach knows no bounds. When Stark finds his personal world destroyed at his enemyās hands, he embarks on a harrowing quest to find those responsible. This journey, at every turn, will test his mettle. With his back against the wall, Stark is left to survive by his own devices, relying on his ingenuity and instincts to protect those closest to him. As he fights his way back, Stark discovers the answer to the question that has secretly haunted him: does the man make the suit or does the suit make the man?
Q: Did you have any trepidations about coming back to this character for what is essentially the fourth time?
Robert Downey Jr.: I was kinda looking forward to it. I donāt want to say ākinda.ā Thatās tepid. You know that thing of itās spring break or summer or winter and you have these plans? You want to go to Sedona, right? So push that peanut down the road a little bit. This is, to me, the kind of grab bag wish list of things weāve always wanted to do and havenāt had the chance. I put so much onus on āIron Man 3.ā āIron Man 3ā was supposed to answer all the questions for an audience. Cure all my uncomfortable moments in the past playing this character and get in every idea that fell by the wayside the last three movies. Then we shot the movie and I feel like thereās still a number of other things we have to do.
Q: So there will be an āIron Man 4ā?
Downey: I donāt know.
Q: What was it like working with Shane Black again and how much of a force were you pushing for his involvement?
Downey: Well, we all know each other fairly well now. Without coming to me, they said Shane was going to be in the running for this. They said they had narrowed it down to a couple of choices. I liked both their choices. Shane still ā and I say this as a testament to the fact that weāve shot the movie and have started to cut scenes together ā he still has a place in my heart. He turned out to be a great choice.
Q: Youāve mentioned in past interviews that previous āIron Manā films involved a lot of figuring out the script as the production was going on. Was this a similar approach?
Downey: Itās two-fold. As we were finding our way and trying to build towards the possibility of āAvengers,ā there was a lot of armature and things we had to deal with as far as, āWhat are we going to exactly do?ā and āWhat are we going to exactly say?ā But there was a lot of, āWhat are we doing in act three?ā āWhere are we ending all this?ā I think that, by the time Shane had teamed up Drew Pearce, the overall arc of the turns and acts and themes and all that stuff in the story remained relatively unchanged, which is amazing. They really kind of made just exactly the right size sandbox for the whole thing, but thereās some new kind of twists in it architecturally. Thatās just the way Shane writes, you know? Nothing is arbitrary. Everything has some meaning at some point later in the story or speaks to a theme. Thatās the hardest stuff to try and grab when youāre already shooting. That said, I respect him so much that I did not respect his day-to-day writing at all and I just looked at scenes at the beginning of the day as, well, they had to put a bunch of words on this or they couldnāt have a call sheet. These are called sides. I call them three-piece. Three pieces of paper with print on them. Which must be annoying to an excellent writer, but thatās just the way Iāve been conditioned. I get a good script and go, āThis is good! I mean, weāre not going to shoot it, butĀ ā
Q: Weāve seen Tony Stark go through a lot in āThe Avengers.ā How did the events of that movie wind up helping him change for this one?
Downey: Well, we had to do something, you know? I thought, āIsnāt it odd that he had this experience? And why was he suddenly just in New York for one summer?ā We know why he was there. Stark Tower. But what he was doing there was really building an architect for a third act set piece. I wanted him back home and I thought, āWhat if that happened to any of us? Wouldnāt we be a little tripped out? Youād be watching your back.ā Then I thought about this 21st century reality and kind of oddball zeitgeist of America and terrorism and all the weirdo stuff that this country seems to generate and co-create. So I thought he should be a little freaked out. We always had this idea where we wanted Tony and Rhodey to be at this place two miles away from where his house is called Neptuneās Net on the PCH. I really wanted to see them at Neptuneās Net with their suits just parked outside like motorcycles. Theyāre inside and just two guys. I didnāt even know if we could get Neptuneās Net. Thereās licensing. Itās like saying, āLetās go shoot at Spago!ā I was like, āIs it? Did you ask them?ā I wanted that kind of sensibility and so did Shane. We both wanted them just sitting on a couch with a martini. I go, āA martini? Hold on now!ā āAlright! Just sitting on the couch. Pepper comes home. There he is.ā Shane had all these iconic images and I had my own. The studio and Kevin [Feige] had an equal amount of theirs. It turned into this really surprising and entertaining and really deep and cool movie.
Q: We saw a scene where Ben Kingsley is beginning his broadcast and how much goes into set-decorating and atmosphere. The notion of a media terrorist is an interesting one as is the notion of Stark standing in for America and a terrorist striking against the biggest opponent. How has Kingsley been to play against as the Mandarin?
Downey: For some reason or another, Iām thinking about Oliver Stone and Iām thinking about ā many years back ā doing āNatural Born Killers.ā I think that, unlike his own vehement take on demonizing the media ā and Iāll backtrack and say that Iām not sure the biggest opponent needs to be toppled ā I do think itās evocative, that kind of paranoid idea that a terrorist is manufactured to blah, blah blah. People like that. Itās why I like āManchurian Candidate.ā I like the possibility of something like that going undetected until itās up and running. I think itās scary and it occupies, I believe, a part of the American paranoid psyche. I think itās in there.
Q: Thereās a sense that Starkās pride gets in the way, taunting the Mandarin and giving out his address.
Downey: I know. Itās that problem, too, where youāre like, āWhat are you going to do about it?ā If youāre a little bit traumatized, you become a little more reactive, right?
Q: Is the taunting partially related to the fact that Stark has taken down aliens and heās just not scared of a human being?
Downey: The actual reason is because of something in particular that happens which makes it personal to him. Otherwise he probably wouldnāt have run his mouth.
Q: There was a lot of groundwork that āIron Man 2ā had to lay for āThe Avengers.ā Since āIron Man 3ā is the start of Phase Two, is there still a lot of groundwork that has to be laid out for future films or is this one more able to tell a story all its own?
Downey: Yeah, more than any of the other three that Iāve been involved in. It seems to be very uninhibited. Iām just not used to working this way. Fortunately, Shane and all the other creatives and myself banged out a story that, quote unquote āearnedā it. We had āThe Avengersā and had something where we all loved how it turned out. We thought, āLetās not get indulgent now, but letās go back to Tony and Pepper.ā It was also really, really great to have Happy come back. Jon [Favreau] was just so great. He was standing on the set and we had designed this workshop. He says, āAll I have to do is put on a suit and crack jokes. This is going to be great.ā Heās actually very integral to the story and all that stuff. But it is true, this one is Tonyās journey from A to Z, chasing the bad guy. Itās a bad guy who draws him out to places that heās never been before and I think that that was what was attractive to Shane. He said, āIād like to see him crashing in mid-America. Iād like to see him interacting with some kid who kind of doesnāt really relate to him as anything but Iron Man.
Q: You obviously have a strong grasp of Tony Stark and where youād like to see him go. Does that expand to the entirety of the cinematic Marvel Universe? Do you have insight into projects that youāre not acting in?
Downey: I think I do. I also live with a producer. Before āIron Manā came along and she was working with Joel Silver, it was kind of foreplay for us. Weād be like, (whispering) āWhatās that project? Look at the trailer!ā We find this stuff to be catnip anyway and I love spitballing on stuff. It never ceases to amaze me how little of my input they actually require.
Q: At a certain point during the production of this movie, Joss Whedon was hired as a sort of universal overseer. What did he bring to āIron Man 3ā?
Downey: I think, honestly, what he brought was momentum. Itās a twofold thing. When you have something thatās just an unprecedented smash, you can sort of relax for a second, but youāre also following that. He brought us a lot. He brought us a lot of comfort and a fair amount of performance anxiety (laughs).
Q: The Tony Stark character is very linked to you. Thatās not to say they couldnāt one day recast the roleā¦
Downey: Iām sure theyāve thought about it. I feel like I got sold to Disney for $4 billion.
Q: Does the fact that youāre so connected make you want to stay around as long as you can?
Downey: Yeah, but, quiet as itās kept, thatās how Iāve always been. The thing about playing this kind of inherent narcissist, whenever you kill one of Tonyās egos, another one just pops up. Iāve had that experience, but Iāve found the whole thing to be a very quieting journey for me. Itās been remarkably humbling. You realize youāre just kind of part of this thing. I think the problems begin when any one person involved in anything ā particularly anything successful ā decides that they have some sense of ownership to it. This is really something that Stan Lee scratched down going on 50 years now. He touched on something really, really cool with Iron Man and, strangely, Iron Man was sort of second-tier superhero who laid the groundwork for these other guys and gals. Where Iām at right now is that Iāve always thought of myself ā particularly since Iāve been married to this high-functioning Jewish girl from the Midwest ā I think of myself as being a company man. I like showing up and I like doing press. I like being able to say, āIām going to take a break because I donāt want to burn out.ā I donāt want to be doing a roundtable or a press conference and have people say, āHe looks tired!ā I want to be there. i want to communicate and kind of experience this. The funny thing is that, though I can be quick-witted, I tend to have a slow take experientially for things. These five or six years have not been enough time for me to process what has happened.
Q: It seems that you must getting towards the end of whatever contract you originally signed. Are you going to sign on for several more or will you take it one at a time?
Downey: I donāt know. I honestly get uncomfortable with leverage. I was annoyed for awhile about having a contract where, in success, not very much changes for you. But then I got to thinking, āWhat was I really doing before I got āIron Manā?ā Then I think, āDonāt lead with that, Robert! Youāre a big prime mover!ā I go, āYeah, yeah, yeah.ā I get that. I can talk about that for two hours. But Iām a big believer in being really straight and saying, āOkay, letās really look at this.ā I not going to pretend Iām over it and whatever. Obviously, itās better to have a contract run out than it is to have one go on indefinitely. But I guess thatās why contracts have limits on them. Letās just say that me, the agents and the lawyers are having a bit of a ball right now. I donāt like this whole ā and I think itās a particularly Western thing. Well, maybe not anymore, because weāre being outpaced by the east business-wise ā of āWeāve got him! Letās screw him to the floor!ā Is that what gets you off? Making people feel bad? It shouldnāt be, āMan, they really put the screws to us, brother.ā Itās like, āWerenāt we excited about the future a couple of years ago. Now weāre just laying the boots to each other. Itās just so digesting. Iām an artist!
Q: In the āIron Manā movies, you are, naturally, the lead. In āThe Avengers,ā however, youāve got those other guys co-starring. Do you miss having them around?
Downey: I donāt have to be the lead in āIron Manā if thatās going to make everyone comfortable. But hell is other people (laughs). Somebody said that and sometimes I think, āWhat if that guyās right? All I do is hang out with other people! And Iām another person to them?ā
Q: Is working with other actors still working with other actors when youāre doing a massively scaled project?
Downey: Yeah, itās entirely the same thing. They come and say, āRobert, we have this projectā ā and the next movie Iām doing is as much of a departure from a genre movie as you can imagine ā but I think that people underestimate that everything really is just like everything else. Weāre talking about the story and weāre talking about the themes. Itās the same things, itās just the red carpet thatās shorter.
Q: Is it ever really shorter for the movies youāre in?
Downey: Thank you. You know, itās so weird. Or not weird. I live for it. Itās just part of the job that I think Iām strangely suited for. I like hell. I like other people. I like being out. I like going, āOh, youāre here! Iām in town promoting this.ā Particularly if I like it. Itās been a good run with Marvel and now Disney.
Q: āThe Avengersā is now one of the most successful movies of all time. How did that raise the bar as far as action sequences for āIron Man 3ā?
Downey: Again, thereās people who are, strangely, smarter than me making these decisions, Iām told. The funny thing is, āIron Man 3ā is simultaneously a much smaller storytelling style, but it also feels just personally ā because Iām not on the mountaintop with Thor and Loki in Cleveland ā I mean New York ā with Cap and Black Widow and Hawkeye and all that. Iām in every second of every action scene in this movie. Iāve never done so much action in my life. The scope feels really, really big. Again, I think Marvelās intention is to defy expectations again. Letās not just start with this thing that starts and gets to a big bang at 11. It wouldnāt be nice counterprogramming for āThe Avengers.ā
Q: āIron Manā is very grounded in reality but, over the course of the films, theyāve moved to a very different world. How has playing Tony against that been?
Downey: The nice thing is that it is fairly compartmentalized and, I think, pretty seamlessly so. If thereās one person that I would think of just in the third person who could have the world be one way and then wake up in the morning and be another way, it would be him. He lives in this cocoon of his own world anyway. All he really cares about is Pepper and his Dummy. He doesnāt care about any of his material stuff except some robots, this girl and his one friend. I think he became friendly with Bruce [Banner] maybe a little more than the others, but itās like he went and did a big action movie and then came back and lives in Kansas or something.
Q: Can you compare working with Jon Favreau to Shane Black?
Downey: Theyāre very similar. You also canāt really work with one without reaching out the other. Jon and I reached out to Shane on several occasions and Shane definitely would refer back to Jon on a lot of stuff. Jon has an incredible sense of showmanship and Shane is much more kind of introverted. When he does become ectomorphic, itās very entertaining. For instance, we were night shooting and he just went running across this thing. He caught his head on something and dislocated his shoulder. He just sat there and we were like, āWell, back into the emergency vehicle.ā He was like, āJust two more shots! Iāll stay, Iāll stay!ā I said, āYou have to go to the hospital.ā Jon is very smooth and Shane is a little more like myself and a bit spiky at times. But Iāve also changed. Thereās the Jon that directed the first āIron Manā and the Jon that directed the second one and the Jon that has done all the things heās done. What Iām really happy about is that, as things have changed, that Shane has stepped in and run with this obviously fantastic opportunity. Iām just so comforted that nobody has suffered for all of it, including the franchises and the movies themselves. Jon and I have offices across the street from one another. Shane and I are still speaking. Itās a nice relationship, you know? Again, i think itās a testament to Kevin and the real central people at Marvel. Theyāre very, very thoughtful about their choices.