Two years may have passed since Iron Man first moved from the printed page to the silver screen, but in the new movie, only six months have passed. This small detail is but one of the many things in Iron Man 2 that audiences may not know, remember, or be aware of as they enter the highly-anticipated sequel. As such, and assisted by the cast and crew of the film, whom we spoke to at a press conference last week in Beverly Hills, Calif., Cinematical has thoughtfully assembled a list of instructions for the use and hopeful enjoyment of Iron Man 2.
1. Make sure you know exactly where – and when – to start putting this story together.
Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige demurred to Iron Man 2 director Jon Favreau when asked where the film fits in the timeline of other Marvel movies."I think Jon has already revealed on his Twitter that Iron Man 2 takes place after or slightly concurrently with The Incredible Hulk," Feige said.
"No, before," Favreau corrected.
"What did I say?"
"No, it's definitely before," Feige said definitively. "It takes place before, and if you pay attention towards the end of the film, you'll see a little clue that tells you that it happened before The Incredible Hulk."
2. Sometimes making all of the pieces fit together requires moments of spontaneity, and occasionally, revision.
"It's a heavily improvisational set and everyone gets to sort of chime in," said screenwriter Justin Theroux. "My job I think as the writer was to really just stay on the dance shoes of Robert [Downey Jr.] and Jon [Favreau] and Gwyneth [Paltrow] and everybody and just sort of try and rewrite things on the fly. So we did have an extensive development process, obviously, where we had a script, and then that ball just keeps rolling into production, and once we're on set it gets very frenetic very fast."
Favreau indicated that the machinery (no pun intended) of a movie of this size required the cast and crew to stay on their toes and collaborate frequently and closely. "The story is very well fleshed-out," Favreau said, "but what has to happen in each scene, we leave a lot of room within those scenes and try to do multiple cameras sometimes, or stay up and rewrite. Justin, he was doing multiple passes, sometimes double-digit passes on scenes, because we learned things from each scene that we shoot. We tried 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 of the high technology and the explosions. 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."
3. Replacement parts are a regrettable necessity, but they can be integrated smoothly into the assembly process.
Following the success of the first film, fans were nonplussed to discover that Terrence Howard was dropped from the cast and replaced by Don Cheadle. But Cheadle indicated that he not only felt welcomed into the sequel's ensemble, but squared the decision with Howard beforehand. "I felt very fortunate to get the opportunity to work on a film like this," Cheadle said humbly. "Terrence is a friend and I've known him for a long time. I was one of the producers of Crash, I 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 about that was a problem. It wasn't. We're cool. And look, it was a lot of fun. We get to play with the best toys and the best technology, so it just kind of doing what you like to do as a kid, but all fleshed out. It was a lot of fun."
4. Every great machine requires an effective fulcrum in order to create a good back-and-forth chemistry.
Favreau described the process of convincing Mickey Rourke to play Ivan Vanko, an inventor who has it in for Tony Stark. "I met with Mickey at this hotel and I brought him some artwork," he remembered. "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, and that wasn't what we wanted. But, what's the tech version of that? So we were thinking of, we were concocting a version of a Russian, thinking of Viggo [Mortensen] in Eastern Promises and the tattoos, and that could be a cool 'in.' So it was going to be a Russian, and then where like Marv [in Sin City] and The Wrestler, between those two, between the fan boys and the independent film community, he was back with a vengeance."
According to the director, Rourke was right for the role because he communicated a real sense of danger as Vanko. "It was like, my God, we're not going to have a tremendous amount of screen time, [so] who's going to be able to be there, make an impression, you feel like this guy [Downey]'s in trouble?" he said. "Mickey brought a lot of intensity to both of those roles. We did some artwork and I met with him, sat down with him, and we talked about everything. It was before all of the awards things started to happen, we had a nice little connection. I talked to people who 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 get him to join the movie.
5. Despite all of the moving parts, the best way to make things work is to simplify.
When asked how he managed to juggle so many new characters in addition to the great ones that stuck around from the original Iron Man, Favreau said, "[with] the characters, the trick is to feather them in so they don't overwhelm the story and you don't suffer from villainitis. So by having Justin Hammer and Mickey Rourke's characters come together fairly early, you really have two storylines that are weaving; you don't have five separate storylines. It's the same thing with Scarlett [Johansson] as Black Widow, working her way into Gwyneth and Robert's story. So we really tried to keep narrative flows going so that we didn't get too convoluted, because I lose track of that stuff."
Favreau admitted he often get confused trying to keep up with the myriad mythologies of superhero movies, so he wanted everything in Iron Man 2 to develop naturally and dovetail nicely. "Especially in sequels as the franchises get more complex, I don't always remember what happened in the last movie," he confessed. "Not for nothing, I like to watch the stuff blow up, but I'm not going to do homework before I see a sequel to be up on everything. So we tried to keep that simple."
6. Make sure there's a great support system behind the scenes.
Robert Downey Jr.'s wife Susan was one of the film's producers. Favreau revealed that more than just, say, corralling Downey's creativity, Susan helped coordinate the many departments that collaborated to bring the sequel to life. "Susan is a great producer," Favreau said. "It's not like she came on board and became a producer because we're making Iron Man. Quite the contrary. We were funneling towards a start date and we had a lot of ideas spread out. We had bulletin boards and Justin was there and Robert was there and Kevin and myself and Jeremy Latchem with index cards trying to figure out how to make the work flow through. She had tremendous organizational ability and she understands Robert's creative process and understands the first movie and lived through it with us. So Susan who had a very strong background both in development and physical production was able to come in and just help."
Downey admitted that even she couldn't always keep him in line. "On a certain level they might have thought she was going to come in and tame me or put me in check or whatever, but I was completely out of my mind."
7. Make sure to check in for additional hardware updates and add-ons in the future.
Favreau indicated that the forthcoming DVD and Blu-ray will come with a wealth of extra content and behind-the-scenes footage. "There's a lot of featurettes," he acknowledged. "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."
"Kevin and I are always swapping back and forth books and things about the movies that we grew up loving so we document it very well," Favreau continued. "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 extra, 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."