A Little Vega in Bern
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.
Doctor in the Building
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.
Ugly Sucker, Only Says 'Ficus'
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."
Black ChristmasEvery 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.