Marvel has made a habit of sprinkling their films with Easter eggs, giving nods to other properties, or even planting seeds that will one day blossom into crossover events. With Iron Man 3, the Easter eggs are a bit more varied – in fact, many are so subtly delivered, they go totally unnoticed by even devoted fans.
Ever your trusted servants, we have spent long hours dissecting the many nods found in director Shane Black’s installment of the Iron Man series, bringing you only the best allusions and winks to fans.
Not all our examples of Iron Man 3 Easter Eggs & Trivia are spoiling major events, but those not wanting the film to be spoiled at all – read at your own risk.
In the flashback to New Year’s Eve 1999 that kicks off the film’s events, there’s no missing the rather…unique style of Tony’s bodyguard Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau). With nearly shoulder length hair, a black suit and bolo tie, younger viewers may miss the reference altogether.
The get-up is of course a reference to Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction (1994) – no, not Nick Fury’s younger days, but rather Vincent Vega (John Travolta).
According to co-writer Drew Pearce, the first gag in the script featured Favreau watching a UFC fight on television – a reference to his role as billionaire-turned-ultimate-fighter ‘Pete’ on Friends – but Favreau came up with the Pulp nod instead.
Comic book fans were sent reeling when legendary Chinese actor Wang Xuequi was cast as ‘Dr. Wu,’ but beyond a brief appearance at the start and end of the film, his role was minimal.
However, there is an odd explanation for the character’s name – and no, it doesn’t come from the pages of Marvel comics. It actually comes from the Steely Dan single “Dr. Wu.”
That’s where Drew Pearce says he got the name, since the band is one of his favorites. The actual Dr. Wu was a real-life Chinese immigrant and acupuncturist who helped one of the band members overcome a chemical dependency; not unlike his role for Stark, when you think about it.
Much was made of Robert Downey Jr. and Shane Black’s history together, having previously worked on Black’s directorial debut Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005). Although one is a hardboiled noir detective story/comedy and the other a superhero movie, they do share more than just a leading man.
One of Val Kilmer’s more memorable lines from Kiss Kiss centered around a “talking monkey from the future,” who despite his gifts and time-traveling abilities, is described as “ugly sucker…only says ‘ficus.'”
The first act of IM3 shows a brief jargon-filled conversation between Tony Stark and Dr. Maya Hansen (Rebecca Hall), in which it is revealed that her work as a botanist has resulted in a super-charged what? “Ficus.”
Every cult writer/director has a few signature touches or trademarks: for Tarantino, it’s rapid-fire dialogue; for Whedon, it’s his (barefoot) heroines; and for Shane Black, it’s a Christmas setting.
A quick glance at Black’s resume doesn’t bring holiday cheer or warm fires to mind, but Lethal Weapon, The Last Boy Scout, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, and even The Long Kiss Goodnight all use Christmas for a backdrop.
Black wastes no time in showing the trend is alive and well in IM3, with Tony’s opening ‘suit-up’ set to a Christmas tune. Could comic book fans finally have the perfect movie for the holidays?
Another ‘blink and you miss it’ Easter egg comes in the midst of Happy Hogan’s tirade through the halls of Stark Enterprises headquarters, enforcing the new security badge protocol.
As Pepper attempts to talk him down, Favreau looks out of frame, and calls to “Bambi” with a tap of his badge. Comic fans know that just outside of the frame sits Mrs. Bambi Arbogast, Tony’s longtime secretary (and some would say actual bodyguard).
Ironically, given Mrs. Arbogast’s temperament we’d assume she’d be the one demanding increased security protocols, but it’s a sly reference nonetheless.
It was no secret that for Iron Man 3, writers Drew Pearce and Shane Black would be turning to several comic book storylines for villains and themes, the most significant being the “Extremis” arc written by Warren Ellis.
At the end of the day, the writers took many liberties with the core plot, casting off techno-organic synthesis for heat powers and super-strength, but an acknowledgement of the source does make its way onto the screen.
The events of the film hinge largely on the role of President Ellis (William Sadler) – a head nod to Warren Ellis.
Another crowd-pleasing moment comes in a throwaway line from Tony, telling a young bespectacled boy that he “loved him in A Christmas Story.”
The boy’s resemblance to that film’s protagonist ‘Ralphie’ is close enough to warrant a laugh, but those who know the talent that first made Iron Man a big screen success know this joke was a long time coming.
‘Ralphie’ was actually played by Peter Billingsley, longtime friend and producer to Jon Favreau. Besides appearing in Iron Man as a Stark Enterprises scientist, Billingsley also produced Iron Man, The Break-Up, Zathura and Made.
The ‘used’ former soldier who turns into a human bomb outside the TCL Chinese Theatre may not come into direct contact with Tony Stark, but leaves a permanent mark on Happy Hogan. Yet his history with Iron Man goes all the way back to the comics.
The events of the movie later reveal the soldier to be ‘Jack Taggart’ – who comic book fans will recognize as Jack Taggert a.k.a. ‘Firepower,’ an attempt at a super soldier solution, sporting his own hulking suit of Stark armor.
He doesn’t quite reach the same villainous heights in the film, but the inclusion of yet another Iron Man nemesis is a welcome nod to fans.
It may be less of an Easter egg since Ellen Brandt (Stephanie Szostak) actually provides her name in the film, but given that much of her character’s comic book source material is ignored, we’d say it’s worth a mention.
In the comics, Brandt was not an Extremis-fueled soldier, but the wife of Ted Sallis, a brilliant scientist who becomes Man-Thing. Although Sallis’ efforts are related to the super-soldier serum that spawned Captain America, it’s hard to imagine a major plan for the future would be introduced so subtly.
Of course, comic book fans also know exactly how she got those scars on her face, even if casual moviegoers never learn the mystery…
Happy Hogan may be a gruff and tough bodyguard, but that doesn’t mean he can’t appreciate a solid piece of scripted drama; a fact made clear by his favorite TV show (even in intensive care), Downton Abbey.
The inclusion of one of today’s most acclaimed and pervasive programs is a joke in itself, but Favreau took to Twitter to make sure all knew that the exact scene shown was “carefully selected.”
Fans of Downton will recognize that both Happy Hogan and Tom Branson (Allen Leech), the character seen in the brief clip, are chauffeurs who courted women ‘above their station.’
Cinephiles have come to expect a few quips and odd references from Tony Stark – not the least of which was his ‘Point Break’ comment regarding Thor’s flowing blond locks – but for Iron Man 3, he goes even farther into obscurity.
The film in question is Westworld (1973), centering on an amusement park of androids that revolts against its guests. Specifically, Stark notes the similarities between Savin (James Badge Dale) – the character he refers to as ‘Westworld’ – and Yul Brynner, the star of Crichton’s film.
The film was also parodied in the “Itchy & Scratchy Land” episode of The Simpsons, but we love Stark’s nod just as much.
When the movie’s central villain, the Mandarin (Ben Kingsley), is shown to actually be Trevor Slattery, a bumbling, drunken British actor, audience reactions to the twist were quite varied.
To defend his decision of casting Slattery for the role of America’s next terrorist, Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce) cites the actor’s past roles, claiming his performance of Shakespeare’s “King Lear” was hailed as “the toast of Croydon, wherever that is.”
An odd assessment, but given writer Drew Pearce’s upbringing in East Grinstead, UK – just 20 miles from Croydon – the reference makes perfect sense; and killed with English audiences.
It’s surprising to say, but one of Iron Man 3‘s biggest laughs comes not from Tony Stark, but one of the villain’s henchmen. When Tony wipes out much of the Mandarin’s forces with just a boot and gauntlet, he eventually comes to the last man.
Instead of taking him out (stereotypically seen in most action movies) or waiting for the thug to surrender (slightly less stereotypical), the hired gun explains that “I don’t even like working here, they are so weird.”
The line is actually delivered by the same person who thought it up: stunt master Eric Oram. Apparently, all that time with Downey Jr. on the set of Sherlock Holmes improved his timing.
Iron Man 3‘s third act plays host to one of the largest battle scenes, thanks to Tony Stark’s Iron Legion. But the staging of the planned presidential assassination is one of the biggest nods to Marvel fans.
Killian’s plan is to kill the president as retribution for turning a blind eye to the ‘Roxxon Norco’ oil spill. In the Marvel Comics universe, Roxxon isn’t just an oil company, but the largest conglomerate in the world.
The villainous company has created characters like Grasshopper, Killer Shrike, and the Dogs of War; not to mention orchestrating the deaths of Tony’s parents.
Those are all the nods and Easter eggs we’ve been able to spot – but be sure to provide some of your own. We’ll do our best to keep them updated when confirmation arrives (like what that scrap-metal artwork in Tony’s basement really is), but so far, there’s plenty to keep Internet sleuths busy.
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Iron Man 3 is in theaters now.
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