Much like my friend John Comerford (Editor of the amazing Iron Man online magazine Advanced Iron) did last summer, I flew out to California specifically for the opportunity to have a one on one interview with Iron Man director Jon Favreau. I’d been trying for months to wrangle an opportunity to interview the man who so far has seemed to hit all the right notes with the movie adaptation of our beloved Marvel Comics character.
As it turned out my chance came at the San Francisco WonderCon, where I was fortunate enough to be the only person granted a personal interview with “Favs.” Below you’ll find the bulk of the interview, but for the full version which includes items of special interest to Iron Man fans regarding the armor, technology and the cybernetic interface to the armor, download the latest free issue of Advanced Iron.
The interview was conducted directly following the premiere of the second Iron Man trailer and extended clips shown at WonderCon.
In addition we have some new images from the film plus a cool promotional video for the new Audi A8 that integrates both Iron Man and their latest model.
Screen Rant: Thanks so much for taking the time.
Jon Favreau: Can I tell them (Paramount/Marvel) that it went great, you think?
Did it? You think it went well? It went great.
That second trailer rocked. So that’s a longer trailer than will be shown during Lost?
On Lost it’s going to be 90 seconds. This was 2 1/2 minutes, it’s going to be in front of 10,000 B.C.
Now I have to go see 10,000 B.C.
Exactly! It went great today. There we go. Ok. Thanks for your patience. (Jon was texting someone at the start of the interview and was reading out loud what he was writing and receiving.)
Some people are concerned that there might be a little bit too much humor in the film.
Yeah, I mean there might be, there might be. I really try to capture the irreverence of Marvel – especially growing up there was always a sort of tongue in cheek quality to Marvel, but the tongue in cheek never had to do with the stakes of the action or the situation. They always took the reality of the world very seriously, but the characters had… especially Tony Stark had a little bit of an irreverence to him. And certainly Stan Lee and all those letters to the Editor… there was always a tradition of Marvel being a reaction to the other books that were very earnest. This one had a little bit more of a swagger, and I think that the tone… I’m very proud of the tone of the film. I think there’s a definite sense of reality and there’s definitely a sense of – in the clips we showed today there was definitely some humor in it and we wanted to show that side of it.
It didn’t seem overstated, in my opinion.
This is as silly as it gets. It doesn’t get sillier.
That whole 10% thing… (Referring to a very funny scene in the trailer where Stark first tests the boots at 10% of propulsive capacity)
Yeah, but by the same token, I want to build a reality where you really believe that he could earn flying the suit. My favorite part of Spiderman was the learning curve of learning what the new powers were. There was a lot of creative discussion as to how much time can you take before he’s fighting as Iron Man. I mean of course you get to see him bust out of the cave, so you get to see him fight as Iron Man in the Mark I suit, but I wanted to take the time to not have him conveniently throw on the suit and go off and save somebody from a mugging. I didn’t think that was the story. This was about a guy through trial and error figuring out how to actually achieve this and so you saw a few of the beats of it here today where he’s learning with the boots and he’s learning with the boots and the gauntlets and then he has some fantastic operating system that helps – like the difference between a B2 and the Flying Wing. The Flying Wings were very unstable but thanks to computer technology, all the aerodynamics for the B2 bomber, the Stealth Bomber, they seem to have overcome those deficiencies through technology.
I noticed something in the trailer – in the Super Bowl trailer the final scene with him shooting the tank seemed unfinished.
Yes, it was. What happens is, we show the footage to the marketing people, and they have really great marketing people at Paramount, I’ve been very happy with what they’ve cut together and Marvel’s been impressed as well. They will grab little pieces that they think help sell the movie in a trailer, but very little concern is given to how far along it is in the process and so are visual effects supervisors and our vendors have to scramble to try to get shots done much earlier than they had planned in the pipeline. But that moment of blowing up the tank was seen as a wonderful moment for the Super Bowl and for the trailer so… that was something we had just filmed weeks earlier, we had finished getting the elements for that. And so it was a mad dash to get it done. But you can see [in this new trailer] this is the next generation of the shot. And I think the fans understand that. The problem is when it’s not done yet it looks like a video game.
That’s what the question was.
Yeah… and I think some people thought that it might have been a stylistic choice. It wasn’t, it was purely a function of this is the stock that tests very well with the audiences we’re trying to reach with the Super Bowl ad, and we’re paying whatever it was… $2.7 million for 30 seconds – they want it to have impact. So we went down that path, I trust their instincts. And now there’s other early stuff of the gantry suiting him up and taking the suit off and that’s still being worked on as well. I feel it’s far enough along that I’m comfortable putting it out there. I don’t make any excuses for stuff that’s not done, it has to hold up.
It was definitely a cool shot, but people were wondering because the look was so different.
Well we knew we’d be coming out with the new trailer fairly soon after. It was either don’t use it or… a lot of times you’re planning to do it but you don’t know where it’s going to get to because it shows up. Those shots that are in this [the new trailer shown at WonderCon] were literally cut in last night. So they’re working around the clock to get these shots ready for the marketing materials. In addition we’re about to mix so we’re getting sequences that are not as far along as this stuff either. So that’s a very stressful aspect of making a movie like this: It’s not done, even though you’ve been working on it for two years, it ain’t done until the print is shipped.
Speaking of marketing, I posted an image of the new poster on Screen Rant and people are loving it.
Really? Oh that’s great. It did work really well, I’m very proud of it. I’m proud of it too because… for the fans there are homages in the film to the various designs of the armor from the Mark I… although the Mark II sort of occupies the space that the gold suit would have, but there was a Silver Centurion suit. What we really liked about the Mark II was the sense that it was like this hand-fabricated prototype like in The Aviator. You can see that he has built this and then it turns into the gold and red, which you see in the trailer as well, it’s just kind of fun. And that’s just all.. it’s just really kick-ass. But the silver suit had come from, we had looked at production art, and it was some black and white production art and the suit really had a different personality and i really felt it bridged the gap [between the Mark I and the Mark III]. Not that you have to believe that all the technology’s real in this movie, but it should at least be plausible. And by taking the audience step by step through the process once you’ve earned that plausibility I think they’re ready to enjoy it on a level that they wouldn’t have if the guy just stepped out of a phone booth wearing the suit.
It seems that a lot of the film is dedicated to the building of the suits.
It is, and the transformation of the character also, and one serves as a metaphor for the other. That’s good mythic storytelling and in an origin story you have that at your disposal. In future episodes it becomes more serialized and you have to struggle to maintain a relevance of arc for the character, as Spider-Man 3 demonstrated – he hit a low point in his life, Peter Parker. What has to be manufactured in future episodes is germane and in a lot of ways an encumbrance to the first one. Often times origin stories feel like two movies, but I think I’ve integrated it well, I’m very proud of how it came out.
Have you narrowed down the movie’s run time?
Yeah, it’s going to be under two, about two hours. On or about two.
What about the Avengers movie?
The truth of the matter is that Marvel wants to do it. There are challenges that come with it. I think you have to launch at least one episode of Captain America, you have to do one Iron Man, you have to do one Hulk, they have an Ant-Man in the works, Thor theoretically. I guess you could leapfrog a “first” of certain ones. What it really offers is the ability to add more interest to a franchise that might be flagging because you have explored what you can with a single character, and here’s an organic way to help propel the story forward and cross pollinate. I’m sure it becomes a difficult business model down the road because those players all become expensive. Everything becomes more expensive – I can’t imagine what it would cost to pull the cast of Spider-Man with the cast of X-Men, you know, with the cast of Dark Knight together. I’m sure it gets expensive, so I don’t know what they have in mind but that’s the plan.
I think people are looking forward to an Avengers movie far more than a Justice League movie.
I think that’s because when you completely re-cast to overcome the issues I’m talking about, I understand why they were going to do it. Unless you do it as a young JLA or you justify it in some way, to just reboot it while another franchise is up and running is something the fans are going to question. But I don’t know how feasible it is to do a superhero alliance film with all the original people and filmmakers, but we want to figure out a way to do it with Avengers. And I think the people who come on board, are kind of excited about the idea as they sign on for each individual franchise.
Is your head going to explode from the responsibility of helming the first Marvel-financed film?
I like it actually, because as a director you’re completely pot-committed, you’re all in with every movie you make. Your whole career is dictated by how your last movie came out. With studios they can withstand a few bombs, usually, as long as they have a few hits. They tend to press their bets on the movies that they think are going to be sure things. And I’ve been left out in the cold in the past and sometimes I’ve gotten lucky like with Elf. With this one it HAS to be successful for Marvel so it’s nice to know that people who are making the movie and who are your partners have as much to lose and to gain as you do. So I actually feel very comfortable and comforted by that, at least on the Marvel front. And so far Paramount has had very good instincts and I love the materials they’re coming up with and they seem to be a good partner as well. I think they have a lot to prove to Marvel because this is a budding partnership. There’s a lot of movies to come if this works out well for both of them.
Why did they come to you instead of someone like a Michael Bay to direct Iron Man?
I don’t know… you know, it’s funny – I think Michael Bay surprised people with Transformers, he certainly surprised me, I really enjoyed that film more than I had films of his in the past. He ended up putting together a good cast and getting a good voice and a good tone to that film. You knew the action would be good just from his body of work. In the case of this I think they just trusted that they could make the action work. I figured that they wanted storytellers that could give it a personality. Because the people that I work with like Kevin Feige and Avi [Arad] and all of the people that have done many of these movies before, they understand the process and the pipeline of making a big action that’s successful and it’s very collaborative. We all look over storyboards together, pre-vis together, we all deal with the vendors together – it’s not a one man band. But when it comes to scenes between Gwyneth and Robert and the humor and the tone it really does come down to the director having a voice, and it’s a lot easier to get the action right if you have a good story than to get a good story when you have good action set pieces. So I think that they were very smart and I think that they’re very happy with it. But I know that’s sort of what they’re pushing for all their new franchises, they really want their brand to be associated with classy projects.
And now, check out this new video that combines a promo for the new Audi A8 with Iron Man:
For an additional video and more images head on over to Audi’s Iron Man site.
Iron Man opens on May 2, 2008.