As fans following the development of Iron Man 3 with a close eye since the beginning, even dating back to the Q&A at Marvel's Comic-Con panel where it was first hinted, Pepper has a very important role to play, beyond getting into a more serious relationship with Stark and running his company. Feige already went on record saying this is Pepper's movie and as the toys and leaked armored descriptions revealed, Pepper will suit up in her own armor in Iron Man 3. Paltrow is not shy about expressing how important that was for her character arc:
"There were talks of Pepper getting in the suit at the end of Iron Man 2, but Marvel wasn't ready to do it yet. I think in the comic books she does eventually get into the suit and she has her own suit, and I know Robert was really interested in having Pepper do more in this movie, and it was also a factor in me coming back and getting to do things that were a little bit more fun and different and a little bit more adventurous. It would've still been nice, but it would've been very much the same thing just to be buttoned-up Pepper, and in this movie there’s a whole different experience of her."
There you have it. If you missed our own unofficial Iron Man 3 armor guide, Pepper will wear a live-action incarnation of the RESCUE armor. For details on what it may look like, click here. And for details on what may be Pepper's first experience wearing the armor, read our preview from checking out 20 minutes of footage at the studio.
Wearing the suit on set wasn't an issue for Paltrow, much like the latest versions are much lighter and easier for Robert Downey Jr. to put on as well. She does admit to increasing her regular workout for the film's final act, which Feige describes as the biggest action sequence Marvel Studios has done to date.
"I'm a person who works out anyway, but I felt like for this movie that I needed to be in excellent shape. So a couple of weeks before I came back, I really hit it super hard and I tried to watch what I ate, which I’m not so good at doing. But I was very focused because I really wanted the whole end sequence to be unexpected and I thought if people saw me like that, fighting and in really good shape, that it would be an extra bonus for the movie to have.
As for the primary antagonist for Iron Man 3, a character who's been a long time coming, updating Mandarin for the Marvel cinematic universe and making him Tony Stark's greatest threat yet was something we can attribute to Shane Black's creativity:
"Then Shane Black had an idea of making him somebody whose background is unknown; we don't know where he's from at first, but he seems to be some kind of military officer that has gone off the reservation. He is starting to pull all of this iconography and symbolism from other cultures to his own ends to use them as symbols to pervert the symbol of the United States. He utilizes the moniker of the Mandarin and robes with dragons on them and uses South American sort of guerrilla tactics to create this aura of fear of his terror organization. The Mandarin is sort of a very frightening, modern-day terrorist who has taken terror motifs from all over the world to use to his own ends. It was a very cool and relevant and scary idea. And the best thing about the Mandarin, always in the comics, has been how relentless he was against Tony.
When you see this film, something has happened in act one and the Mandarin is deemed responsible. On national television, Tony says, 'I'm gonna come after you, Mandarin. I’m gonna find you.' And within a day, the Mandarin has decimated Tony’s house. Obadiah Stane didn't do that, Whiplash didn't do that, Loki didn't do that. The Mandarin does it in the first act of Iron Man 3. That is very, very serious and very big."
During the Iron Man 3 panel at Comic-Con, one of the scenes presented was carried by Jon Favreau, who returns as Happy Hogan after directing Iron Man 1 & 2. He's still involved, and by all accounts was instrumental, not only as a supporting actor but as a producer with creative input and advice for Shane Black.
"Jon was very, very gracious in the way that he helped Shane [Black]. Shane would ask him a question about either working with Robert [Downey Jr.] or setting up the character, or getting the best out of any of the cast that had been in the prior movies and even technical things.
It was really a very special thing to have Jon on set and his part in this movie is in a way what activates Tony into his adventure in this movie. The heart at the core of this movie is not only Pepper, it is not only the little boy Harley, but it is Happy Hogan. Jon steals, I think, almost every scene he’s in Iron Man 3. It’s hilarious and he really gave his all. "
Details and spoilers aside, the best news is that we don't know what we think we do. For fans who think they've figured out the plot of Iron Man 3 from the trailers, leaks and toys, Feige credits writer-director Shane Black for a story that will continue to surprise viewers along an unexpected journey.
"It delves into Tony Stark's character in a great, quirky, unexpected way and one of the signatures of a Shane Black film, which Iron Man 3 has in spades, is that when you think the movie is going to go left, it suddenly goes right. That was fun to do. It’s scary sometimes but fun to do. You can probably only do it on a part three, where the audience has expectations. The audience thinks they know the way you’re going to go with something and then you totally turn it on its head and spin it. It was exciting and it was a way to not fall into the 'threequelitis' trap. "
"I can honestly say that they should expect to be continually surprised. This is intentionally a mislead into a redirect into a turnaround into a bait-and-switch into a red herring. But I think that in some ways that this is the most emotionally satisfying and the most technically and action-wise and superhero-wise entertaining of the three. It's fun."
Iron Man 3 is directed by Shane Black based off of his and Drew Pearce’s screenplay, and stars Robert Downey Jr., Ben Kingsley, Don Cheadle, Gwyneth Paltrow, Guy Pearce, Stephanie Szostak, Jon Favreau, Rebecca Hall, William Sadler, James Badge Dale and the voice of Paul Bettany.
Iron Man 3 releases May 3, 2013, Thor: The Dark World on November 8, 2013, Captain America: The Winter Soldier on April 4, 2014, Guardians of the Galaxy on August 1, 2014, The Avengers 2 on May 1, 2015 and Ant-Man on November 6, 2015.
Follow Rob on Twitter @rob_keyes if you're going to see IM3 on opening day!
Rescue Armor art from cover of Invincible Iron Man #29 (Women of Marvel Variant)