Iron Man: The Set Visit – Terrence Howard

ComingSoon.net/Superhero Hype! talked to Iron Man star Terrence Howard on the set of the film last year:

CS/SHH!: What attracted you to this role?

Terrence Howard:
War Machine. The whole idea of being able to play a superhero, so to speak. Being able to go up in jets because the department of defense took me up in a T-38 and an F-16. They may let me go up in a B-1. All of those ideas, that was it for me.

CS/SHH!: You’re a big comic book fan?

Howard:
It was funny, I call my father because he used to be a big “Iron Man” fanatic and he loved the War Machine aspect of it. I asked him, “When you were reading it, did you have any idea that inside your loins you’d have the one putting that on?” [laughs]

CS/SHH!: Who is your character?

Howard:
My character is one who grew up in the military and as a result went to college in the military, father was in the military, grandfather was in the military. I am truly a son of the USA. Sometimes the son wants to leave home just to venture out, but then he always makes his way back.

CS/SHH!: Kevin said you were already attached, you were already being talked to before Jon even came on board. How long ago was that?

Howard:
About a year before. I’ve got a great manager, Victoria Fredericks, who was on this a long time before. Me and Avi Arad had spoken at Mike Medevoy’s party. He smiled at me, like we were going to work together. Then about six months later, it all happened. I was shocked by it. Victoria was like, “I’ve got something I’m working on.” For a year and half she had been pursuing it, I’m very lucky.

CS/SHH!: Have you done any big action type stuff yet?

Howard:
A few things, but I can’t say anything about it. I got to shoot that M-50, man. I’ve had some fun with the Air Force. They took me out on some of their real training stuff and let me play.

CS/SHH!: Have they taken a digital model of you for some of the action pieces?

Howard:
You’re very clever. [laughs] They’ve done some stuff. Some things.

CS/SHH!: What’s been the hardest part for you so far?

Howard:
The hardest part, we get the use of – if you remember in the comic book, Rody, even though he’s by the books, so to speak, he’s a bit of a rogue in his own nature. But since we have the Department of Defense we’re working with it’s been having to pull back because of trying to appease him being so generous to us. It’s been hard to stay true to the needs of Rody in the comic book and satisfy the needs of the Department of Defense.

CS/SHH!: What can you tell us about the arc of your character?

Howard:
I think it’s pretty much a three-picture arc so we’re right in the very beginning of that. My character stares off in complete disgust of how Tony [Stark] has lived his life. But then he realizes perhaps there’s a different way to live one’s life. That’s where we are now. We’re in the debate of who’s way of life is the right way? Is it the military and that strict disciplinarian way or is it the independent and behaving as an individual?

CS/SHH!: Can you talk about working with Robert Downey Jr.

Howard:
I love him. I love him. The first film I ever saw him in was “Weird Science,” which I watched 400,000 times. So when I saw him that’s all I wanted to talk about. I mean, he had heard all of those questions before. But to find that he was a fan of mine – I told him that the reason I wanted to do this movie, especially after I found out he was doing it, was I wanted to work with him. I wanted to learn from him. I mean, he’s brilliant. Every day he re-writes his script. We’ve got great writers, but every day he’ll spend the first hour and a half making it perfect, making it better. He has this light, jovial nature that floats everywhere. And when he focuses in on something, it’s powerful. It’s magical. He’s really probably one of the best actors I’ve worked with in my life. I look forward to learning a little more from him.

CS/SHH!: What have you learned from him?

Howard:
Nothing looks so unnatural as an attempt to look natural. When you start off on the outskirts of the business way over there, you’re able to do whatever you want to do because nobody is really checking on you. But to get welcomed inside and then everyone expect so much from you, you find a way, for me personally, the last film I did, I was so busy trying to be a good actor and not to ruffle anything, I don’t think I did the service I was suppose to do to it. Because as an artist, you’re not supposed to fit. An artist is supposed to stand apart and have a different point of view. What I’ve noticed about Robert, he’s just himself. He has no other point of view except his own. He believes in it wholeheartedly and you have to win him over with convincing argument. To have that type of backbone in a business where they remove your backbone slowly and surely. After he’s been through so much, I love him for that. That’s what I’m learning from him.

CS/SHH!: We hear that is a lot of improvisation going on – what’s your take on that?

Howard:
You’ve got to thank Jon Favreau, as an actor. He’s an improvisational actor, so he brings those sensibilities to his directorial work. He trusts where his actors are going to. There’s one particular scene that just blows my mind in this movie where we’re having a press conference and Robert just decided to tell the entire press to sit down on the floor. Four hundred people. After we had lit it to shoot everyone standing. It was brilliant. Jon went with it. We re-lit and it just took the scene to a whole different place. What we’ll do is we’ll start off the morning and we’ll talk through what’s there. Then we’ll look around the room and say, “Who believes it?” And if we don’t believe it, we’ll have a conversation, “What would you say?” Sitting there we’ll have that discussion with a [recorder] sitting around and we’re all listening to our ideas. They’ll come back an hour later and will have written everything that we were able to put into it. It starts off with a structure, we’ll let the plant grow and then we’ll trim it down. It’s perfect. Robert is the king of improvisation because every single take he’ll adjust the word or phrase that just gets a little closer to home. Everyone is sitting there looking at him like he’s a mad genius.

CS/SHH!: All of the characters you’ve played are contradictions to one another – do you see this film as a contradiction to your past work or is it a natural progression for you as an actor?

Howard:
A great director said to me once, “Limitation brings about genius.” And those other characters I’ve had, like in “Crash” I had an emotional breakdown. When you have an emotional breakdown, anything goes. “Hustle & Flow” the character lived completely outside of society’s laws and in “Get Rich or Die Tryin’,” it was a character that had decided to hate the world because of what happened to him in his youth. For me to be limited by what the Department of Defense sets out, and the military guidelines they set out for individuals, to learn that discepline, in the long run will make me a much better actor. Even in this film, I sit back and wait and wait for moments I can get active and when they let me out, I’m so thrilled. But I find myself walking in this disciplined manner, from spending a month on a military base. I’m about to ask them to make me an honorary colonel. [laughs]

CS/SHH!: Did you base any parts of your character, then, on anybody you worked with on the base?

Howard:
General Thomas. He’s so insightful. He’s the Head of Command at Dulles Air Force Base and Black General – I’ve never heard of “Black General” before in my life and I was happy to meet him. But he’s so insightful, so sweet and very direct about accomplishing… the first thing he told me, because when I shook his hand, he slapped my hand away and he said, “You fly a $200 million aircraft, act like one.” So I shook his hand and tried to break it. [laughs]

CS/SHH!: How much physical training did you go through?

Howard:
Robert and his competitive ass almost tore my shoulder trying to keep up with him. Because I’m forty or fifty pounds heavier than him. So, I’m in there lifting and I pushed up about 225 and knocked it out ten times. Robert wanted to go about 235, and he did it. So I’m going to push it up to about 245. I took him out running and gave him some nice cramps. He couldn’t walk after a couple of days.

CS/SHH!: Is this the best shape you’ve ever been in?

Howard:
Oh, yeah…I got titties. [laughs] I don’t need my girlfriend no more.

CS/SHH!: Jon really got into shape, it looks like…

Howard:
Jon is great. I watched him drop 70 pounds in the process of shooting this thing. He’s been eating 900 calories a day. That’s it, and directing this movie. He’s completely slimmed down. And he’s still on it. I think him and Vince [Vaughn], you know, you get a little money, you get a little comfortable…you can have it. Look at what I’m eating! But the running six miles a day allows me to eat the salt and sugar I want.

CS/SHH!: How about working with Gwyneth… have you had any scenes with her yet?

Howard:
Oh, we’ve had a couple of scenes. But Gwyneth is hard to work with because she’s so beautiful and you try not to flirt with her. But you’re hoping somewhere in your heart, I’m hoping she likes me. [laughs] I’m hoping she likes me and she’ll leave Coldplay to be with me. I’ve got two more pictures to work with her on this, so let him mess up.

CS/SHH!: I’d love to hear your thoughts on working with Jeff Bridges…

Howard:
Jeff surprised me because he is so good at improvisation, he’s so comfortable. He just flows. He reminds me of Nick Nolte in that sense. They’ve always been competing giants anyway. But, he’s like that and one of the first times we got together, we went into his trailer and smoked cigars. Drank some Vodka and played guitar for four hours after wrap. And, he’s a brilliant musician and great songwriter. Jeff is beautiful and he gave me hints on how to play my character, which I loved. Gwyneth has given me points, same with Robert. We all do that and everyone is completely secure.

CS/SHH!: Do we see the birth of War Machine in this film?

Howard:
You read the comic book? If you read the comic book then you kind’ve know what happens. But you’ll still have to wait ’cause ya’ll ain’t taking away my next two movies.

CS/SHH!: You said your dad was a huge Iron Man fan, did you get him onto set?

Howard:
No, I just had my mom out here. My dad, he wanted me to buy him a boat, so I told him to go build my house. When he finishes my house, then he’ll get his boat and then he can come out here. My mom loved it because she always thought Robert Downey Jr. reminded her of my brother. She went up to him and hugged him like he was her son.

CS/SHH!: The Academy doesn’t really recognize performances in superhero films – do you think we’ll get to a point where they will give recognition to great comic book adaptations?

Howard:
If you look at the stuff Robert does in this movie…at the end of every take someone is applauding him. He’s brilliant. So if anybody ever gets an Academy Award nomination for a comic book, I think Robert might be one.

CS/SHH!: Jon says he monitors the internet to see what people are saying about the film. Do you do that, too?

Howard:
Yeah, and what I keep seeing the most, what they’re waiting for – will “Iron Man” follow the full course that the character did? Because you’ve got to remember, when the comic book came out, to have a character that was an alcoholic and all those troubles, that was a big thing in the ’70s, so is that here? Will you see that in this movie? And I’m glad they’re concerned and I can’t wait for them to see the movie and find out. This may end up being one of Marvel’s best movies, they were able to stay true because they’re doing it themselves.

CS/SHH!: What’s the coolest thing you’ve done action-wise?

Howard:
One day, when we were up in Lone Pine, the 14 freeway was blocked because there was all of this wind coming down. So they blocked it off and I’ve gotta be on set and it’s 20 miles away. I know we got a Department of Defense working with us, there was a base nearby. So, I’m not going to make it to work for the next two hours. I called the Air Force and asked them to send a helicopter for me. They sent it. I got to arrive on set with this huge helicopter and we got to land on a sand dune. That was the coolest thing. I saluted as they flew off.

<< Return to the Set Visit

Iron Man opens in theaters on May 2.

Source: Ryan Rotten