ComingSoon.net/Superhero Hype! talked to Iron Man star Robert Downey Jr. on the set of the film last year:
CS/SHH!: Do you see playing Tony Stark as an unusual role for you to take on?
Robert Downey Jr.: Well, all of my friends are doing it. [laughs] When I came up, I remember the original “Superman,” [and] Brando was in it and I was like, “Wow, these things must be pretty legit.” I guess I was already fairly opinionated when I was seven-years-old. So, I’m a nerd about this stuff. There’s been this onslaught of [superhero] genre films and I felt this was different enough to accommodate whatever snobbery might be unleashed on me by my peers. It’s like my buddies, they say, “You’re doing what, man? Shaggy Dog? You broke again?”
CS/SHH!: Are people giving you flack about this?
Downey Jr.: No, no one has given me any guff about “Iron Man” and it’s funny, too, because a particular kind’ve fan likes it – really smart, highly educated entertainment lawyers saying, “Tony Stark, the Mandarin…” the tie gets loose and they start geeking out, it’s great.
CS/SHH!: Can you talk about the bruises and cuts we see on you today?
Downey Jr.: I don’t know if I can talk about it or not. It’s safe to say he’s in captivity for some time – the scene you’re seeing is he’s returning home and a lot has occurred means he figured out a way to escape. I don’t know much about these things… but you can get pretty bruised up escaping.
CS/SHH!: So the scene we’re witnessing – it’s the first time he’s been back home?
Downey Jr.: He’s been back home, he’s at a press conference and he’s talked to his partner in front of this kind’ve legacy energy device that he’s, in essence, miniaturized which is keeping him alive. But yeah, he’s back home – but back home, there’s nothing normal in this whole film, he’s just back home…did you see that pad?! There isn’t a big wait staff and he doesn’t have a gal on his arm, she’s just not around. It’s just kind’ve isolated opulence. There was this last round of “Iron Man” comics – Extremis – and those very graphic-y looking ones. I remember in pre-production, without wanting to be derivative, there’s this very specific design… that’s what I like about anything. That’s why I’m such a big fan of “The Matrix” – [you’ll say] “Not 2 and 3!” – yeah, if I love it, I love all of them. I’m like the boyfriend that needs to grow up. If I love something and it impacts me then I’m in until the wheels fall off.
CS/SHH!: If you met Tony Stark on a street corner, what would you two share with one another?
Downey Jr.: Well, first off he’d be an imposter. [laughs] So, we would probably thrown down right there. It’s funny because I think I’m old enough to have a pretty strong enough aesthetic distance and I remember the days – whether it was “Less Than Zero” or “Chaplin” – I’d throw myself into this tizzy of prep, I feel like as much as anything nowadays, it’s not that we’re phoning it in, we really care and we really prepped it into practical oblivion, I still try to have some distance. But it’s almost even more narcissistic to be talking to some department head going, “You know I don’t think he, I don’t think Tony would…” – which is essentially saying what I want to do – “do this in a scene.” But if there has ever been a character in the history of my career that I’d be happy to meld with and associate myself with. Because it’s the coolest job I’ve ever had. The history of it… and I got to meet Stan Lee. I got to take him to The Grill in Beverly Hills. I said, “What were the real origins of this?” and he says, “I kind’ve did it on a dare.” Can you make a millionaire, industrialist, womanizing, hedon, somehow through this vulnerability of his own… When you think about it, roughly 30 years ago, it was a time there was a very strong anti-establishment, anti-military industrial complex, anti-rich over 30 energy. For him it was a huge challenge. They got more female fan mail than any of their heroes combined because there was a sense of him being vulnerable and not knowing from day-to-day if this precarious device that keeps him alive and drives him – but is clearly a metaphor for something else – but sometimes it’s not a metaphor, you’ve got a small reactor in your chest is the reason your not dead, how can that not be a metaphor.
CS/SHH!: Terrence told us there was a scene they had to re-light because of your improvisation on this film, were there any other scenes they had to re-think because of your ideas?
Downey Jr.: First of all, as a martial artist, you want to be as efficient, effective and use as much linear striking as possible, you don’t fight force with force. There’s a lot of these concepts that everything is like everything else for film. I’m not coming in and going, “Oh, this [scene] is all wrong, re-light…” but I’ll come in and say, “Give us the time we have, we can probably get this many shots.” And John has been very flexible and fun because we’re very similar. I don’t know how this could come across, but it’s really John and I are creating Tony, through that half the lines are his, half of the ideas are mine and then we’ve got all of these great people who are at the top of their field who are simultaneously exasperated that we’re vetting an idea. I come in every day and say, “I’ve seen this in a movie before, no offense, but if we do this, I haven’t seen that.” And some of [those ideas] are so far out, they’re like “Would you just go put on your chest piece and earn a living like everyone else?” But more often than not, I feel the responsibility to not venture into this genre without an understanding that it’s actually inhabited and enjoyed – and me being amongst these people – by apt, bright, perceptive and often times educated in the arts people. Just because it happens to have this two-dimensional aspect to it in its origins, doesn’t mean that it doesn’t go deep and it shouldn’t be an art form. I just think audiences are continually underestimated, at the same time, I love “C.H.U.D.” I can see a pretty crappy movie and love it if it’s got a couple things that work.
CS/SHH!: Can you talk about the wardrobe and getting into the suit?
Downey Jr.: Yes, I love Stan Winston. And Shane and all of the guys on his team. There are several stuntmen. Mike Justice and these guys… They’re kind’ve – again, if Jon and I are Tony Stark, then it’s me and those fellas, my stuntmen and my stand-in who wind up really being Iron Man because it’s such a massive undertaking. At first we said we wanted to do as much of it practically as possible – which I was coming in saying, “Practically, practically…” But it’s tough, but really great. I swear to God, you can put the least macho looking man or woman in the suit for fifteen seconds, you could believe they would destroy the Nemesis. It really is the long game, how do you not have a personality meltdown in hour seven when you feel like you’ve been tarred and feathered in machine parts? You’re calling up therapeutic you’ve ever had with friends, family and strangers – every book you’ve ever read. Hey, have you read “The Secret”? I’m living “The Secret.” Nonetheless, that’s the thing, I come off doing “Zodiac” before this and “Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang” – which is a movie I really love – and “A Scanner Darkly,” all of these films that are about character. You may have your finger cut off, you’re having a bad day, so I’ve really gotten used to these non-technically driven movies. And as much as we’ve been able to in this, we’ve tried to have it feel like as if Bob Altman had directed “Superman.”
CS/SHH!: How long does it take for you to get into it? Could you not drink water because…
Downey Jr.: I like to say I’m the first person who’s been able to relieve themselves while wearing the suit. It was precipitous. Wouldn’t that be great if that was the rest of the interview? [laughs] There was a zipper but the zipper was still covered by a hip piece that had a groin attached…anyway, suffice to say… It was like that thing, where you say, how did that guy escape from jail? Well, he was thin, there are a lot of thin people in jail. Yeah, but that guy’s head was just the right size and he got out between the bars. [laughs]
CS/SHH!: The chest piece you’re wearing right now – something you wear through most of the film – does it get frustrating sometimes?
Downey Jr.: Look, wearing a watch can be frustrating if you’re not in the right headspace. This has been a really grueling shoot, but a really magical shoot, because I sh*t you not, every day we’ve come in…and it reminds me of reading about Chaplin in the early days where he’d go in without an idea in his head. It’s not like we don’t have a script or one they don’t approve of. You go in and say, “How do we want to raise this to a level we want to see or addresses all of the different elements of these kinds of films.” I’m starting to think they’re a really, really high order of art because there’s so many things you have to have professionally gone through and understood and experienced to not be overwhelmed by [direction like]: “Now, in this scene, you’re going through something but actually the boot is out and you’re welding and the phone rings and you have a relationship with your shop…”
CS/SHH!: Can you describe your training process?
Downey Jr.: There’s this museum in Miami and I’ve got this little keychain that looks like Iron Man, and this is like six months I knew about this thing, for the last five years I’ve been doing some martial arts. When I got this part, I’m not like 28 or some guy Daniel Craig who’s already got like meat packed on his shoulders and they just kind’ve swelled them up. You’ve seen me in all of the movies, I’m not mister buff guy and now I’m in the over 40 crew. So it is literally been this excruciating process of working out so hard and so often just to not look like a little pot belly pig. You know, it’s yoga and eating right and supplements and sleeping right and all of the other obvious stuff that’s probably more important in working out. You’ve just got to get your head right. You see all of these people who get spun out. And you see people who have no challenges outside they’re Hollywood problems, and they regularly have meltdowns on set so they turn into a b*tch or they say and do things because they’re under pressure. Or because they think they’re something they’re not. It’s a trip to be number one on the call sheet in doing a movie like this and it’s always an inside game and I forget that occasionally. We did a photo shoot in here the other day and it wound up going great, but you look at this picture [in the comics] of Tony Stark and it looks like Tom Cruise except more handsome and more buff in this suit and his hair is blowing in the wind, and they’re like, can we get a shot like that? There’s just a been a lot of outside issues. You’re tired and I’m not particularly tall and I’m surrounded by giants. There are all these elements…I want to believe that this guy is the guy.
CS/SHH!: Are you finding yourself inspired by real-life playboys like Dean Martin, guys like that, for your take on Tony Stark?
Downey Jr.: Well, this may sound a little weird but I’m not drawing on other things for him. I consider him to be a real entity, for the most part, that works for me. And if you have the stimuli that I do day by day, I say that with whatever computer arts 101 I’ve learned, again having that aesthetic distance so you know what you’re doing. I mean, there’s no sense in getting too wrapped up in it. I come into work and there are hundreds of people around. Without abusing the influence I have, it’s like things are made very easy and available to me. I see $100 thousand cars and things, all of this stuff that regardless of how much dough I’ve made over the years, I’ve never lived a day, four seconds like this guy lives every day. So it is this amazing experience to see what it would be like if you had unimaginable resources and these changes of heart. And then you decide to pool those resources into something that’s very fetishistic and obsessive, but obsessive in a way that you have to figure out what the morale psychology is of that. So I think it has a been a very human journey. To continue not answering your question, I tend to go more into mythology, the real basis of mythology and what men and women are capable of making themselves God-like, of clearing themselves of these earthly things and locking into a purpose of some divine idea. Whether it seems dark at the time or not, you can see through perception and you have this heroic experience. I can say that about single mothers, I can say that about a variety of different folks growing up.
CS/SHH!: Given the nature of the character in this comic and you’re…
Downey Jr.: Yeah, give me all the f**kin’ preambles, just cut to it.
CS/SHH!: How much does your own history play into shaping Stark?
Downey Jr.: I think when someone has had a fundamental change and they’re not just trying to backpedal, like, “I’m going rehab again, everything’s fine but I’m still clubbing tonight.” Whatever, or friends and peers of who are at their own stages of evolution. By the time you’ve seen the light, by the time you get out of dodge and start doing the right thing, you don’t relate to the person that historically people still say. It’s like that thing, the guy who says, “If you Google me, all you’ll see is that I was accused of raping those two kids on the boat,” Why am I Googling you anyway? “My life has been ruined!” That’s a really good headspace. What is attractive is Tony Stark, he’s been known to gone bonkers and be so irresponsible he’s too hammered to put on the suit. I was like, really? I thought all of these times when it seemed in the atmosphere when there’s another one of these… you’re a superhero and there’s the weakness thing. I’m like Green Hornet! No… Or maybe I’ll play a bad guy in one of these. Oh, great, the bad guy. But the fact that Tony is so conflicted in certain points – in the later years, Demon in the Bottle, there’s so much stuff going on in this movie as it is, we decided to not do the Perindelo thing too. But I get it, it’s why it’s ideally suited for me, and I’m ideally suited for it.
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Iron Man opens in theaters on May 2.
Source: Ryan Rotten