If you think you love Jon Favreau from a distance, try sitting next to him at a roundtable. (I know how fangirlish that sounds and I don't care.) Somehow, our seating arrangements switched up, and I ended up sliding into the chair next to him just as things got going. I think I can safely say we were both startled by that arrangement. For my part, I had just come from the Comic-Con floor, and was terrified the smell had rubbed off on me. To make matters worse, he smelled like cupcakes, sunshine, and expensive cologne. (I'm not the only one to remark on that, by the way. Jordan Hoffman did too!) But he is quite lovely to sit beside, and he's the kind of guy you really want to spend hours hanging out with. I mean, look to your right and see the nerdy shirt he was sporting! I do think that's the geekiest shirt I saw all week, and at Comic-Con that's saying something.

Below you'll find some Avengers hints, the lowdown on Mickey Rourke's cockatoo, and just why they rushed the footage to San Diego.

What do you most want fans of the comic book to know?

What do I most want them to know? Well, that we hear them. We're working from the same material that they're familiar with. We're going to stick with it in certain ways, and in certain ways we're going to change it, but we're not changing it out of ignorance. We're changing it as a choice to make it interesting, and maybe make it so they don't always know what to expect. I think that fans have been punished by studios that don't care, and they assume that when you change things, you don't know what you're doing, or you don't care about them. But sometimes, you do things -- sometimes you change it, like when you're telling a joke, to throw things off a little bit, and let there be some surprises when next May rolls around. Because with the level of curiosity, it's very hard to not open every Christmas present before the release date.

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And so we try to do things that might be unexpected. I gotta tell you, all the secrets we thought we had the first time out, very few of them made it all the way to when the movie came out. I mean, that Nick Fury thing was out there on Ain't It Cool News less than a week after we did it. We shot with a skeleton crew, on a dark day, nobody knew about it, we thought we were so clever, and then everybody knew. But what we ended up doing was pulling that additional scene off of all the press prints, and we didn't put it out there until the film actually hit the theaters. What was funny was that there were people at Ain't It Cool News saying "I know it's true! Something's wrong! They did something!" And they never questioned it, and they were right. But it drove them a little crazy for awhile. It's a cat and mouse game that we play, often.

Jon, do you ever plan to give another film a chance at ComicCon? It's now 1, 2 ... it's just not fair for anyone else!

Well, last time we were fighting for a place at the dinner table. We had to Al Capone it a little bit. We were sandwiched there between, you know, Indiana Jones and Star Trek, you know what I mean? We were third class citizens. So we had to bring it with the footage. Then this time, it's like we did it -- from a marketing standpoint we didn't have to do anything here. The mainstream fans knew about us, they liked it, they would see it even if we made a piece of junk, it would do business. The franchise would be run into the ground, but this one would do well, and so, the marketing concern wasn't really first and foremost for us this year. What was more important was that these fans were the people who allowed the world to know about Iron Man, and built an audience for us through their vocal advocacy online. We wanted to come here, and show them the first look, as opposed to getting it from some tabloid tv show or running an article. We wanted to really roll out the surprises here and show people what we were really thinking, because in a lot of ways, we felt we owed it to this group of people. Ultimately, if they're not satisfied, even if the film does well, I'm going to be bummed out, because I feel they put a lot of trust in not just myself, but the cast and Marvel. We wanted to make sure that they approved of the way we were going, and hoping to get an enthusiastic response, and I think we did. But that also helps me go into the editing room now, and work alone for the next ten months, and have that momentum of going from 6,000 people cheering to a dark editing room alone with an editor. It's a very surreal experience, and to continue that process, it's very strange, but also very gratifying.



You talked a little bit on the panel about Iron Man and Iron Man 2, and you talked about the stepping stones to The Avengers, and Thor. And then there was the joke between you and Robert about whether or not you would direct The Avengers How much of that is you kidding around, and how serious is it that you might do The Avengers?

Well, when we started shooting, there was no way I could direct The Avengers. And I was like, "Really? You're planning it so that I couldn't even if we wanted to?" And then how will you make The Avengers anyway, concurrently with the films that are supposed to establish the characters that are reflective of it? You don't know -- I don't know what Iron Man 2 is yet. I'm not going to know for another eight months. You discover -- these movies are made through not just prepping them and shooting them, but by cutting them. Who is Thor? You won't know until you know what that movie is. Fortunately, they spaced out the films now, enough that they'll really have a deeper understanding, and a shot for all of these to be good films, and they're not rushing it. I think they're doing it the right way. And who they have hired for Thor so far, and are considering for other roles that I cannot share with you -- it's unfair to them! But I will say that it gets me very excited, and they're taking risks. I think that's what they said they would do when they formed their own studio. And if that turns out well, and if Cap turns out well, then I think you could have a killer Avengers. But you have to understand who they are and how they all fit together, because you're going to be changing the very fabric of the reality of the world that we created for Iron Man when you introduce a supernatural character.

So does that mean that Hulk is not part of that discussion?

Again, I'm kind of on the sidelines of this. I would like to be involved in some way. I mean, right now? I have enthusiasm. In a year? It will have been four years in this world, not just making these movies, but really hewing out the tone and the world that these Marvel films occupy. We've been trailblazing. The trick is you've got to do films you're enthusiastic about. Right now, I'm very excited about finishing this one. Launching into the next one, I don't know right now, but I've got to say, so far it's been a great ride. If there's anything I could bring to it -- I will be involved as an executive producer for sure, and I will be helping with the whole process. But to live it for two years and bring all those things together, that's going to depend on the story and where Marvel wants to go with it.

These characters are so integrated. Kevin and you had talked about going up to see what Kenneth was doing, and he'd come down to see what you were doing. Is there a possibility that -- I don't know how Marvel deals with you guys on a day to day basis, but could this be a PIXAR type thing, where everyone works together?

Maybe. Hopefully, it is that. Certainly, everybody that I've encountered there have been very easy and fun to collaborate with. Kenneth Branagh could not be more different in his skills set than I am, and also more open and gracious. So, I think it does lend itself to that environment, and it's a small enough shop. Unlike a lot of studios where the executives are more politicians than creative entities, Kevin Feige, he really knows the stuff. He loves movies, we talk the same language, and I have a tremendous amount of faith in that guy. If he's the guy that's unifying those visions, I think it can be very interesting. I certainly want to stay involved with these guys, it's only been a pleasant ride so far. Knock wood, what's going to happen in the next year, but so far so good. I really like my life now, I like the amount of creative freedom, and how unexpected and unpredictable everything is from day to day. I mean, we're on a high wire, and we could do anything, and hire anybody. You know, I want to call Sam and see if he'll do this. So I call him up. Really? Yeah, come on man, do it! And he does the scene you saw today. Hey, you wanna -- do you want to do another? Really? Yeah, we'll figure out something for you. And we sculpt scenes and change them as we learn things about the characters. Or Mickey Rourke wants a pet. All right, let's get you a -- not a chihuahua! But I'd seen a picture of him with a cockatoo that he used to own. And so he's like, how about that? That's my favorite animal, and he's like, "Maybe it could humanize this guy." That wasn't something in the script, but how do you do it? It's always like, you want the freedom that Coppola brought to The Godfather, where Marlon Brando finds the cat on the set and is playing with it in that scene. What you don't want is Brando wearing an ice bucket on his head and Mini-Me. [laughs] And that's the balancing act.