You can’t get much more of a polar opposite to Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark in Iron Man than Gwyneth Paltrow as his Girl Friday Pepper Potts, and the duo are very different in person as well, as you can tell if you read our interview with Robert here.
It’s been nearly four years since we had a chance to talk to Paltrow when she did the junket for Paramount’s Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow and this time, she proved to be just as congenial and graceful in answering all sorts of questions not only about the movie and her character but also about her personal life.
Superhero Hype!: You’ve taken a lot of time off recently, so why did you decide to make this movie?
Gwyneth Paltrow: It was a concurrence of a number of things. I had taken off a big chunk of time and I was home and happy being home. Then when my son was about six months old, I started to feel a bit of an urge to work again, but I thought, “No I can’t work until he’s a year old.” I had given my daughter all this time at home, so I wanted to do the same for him. Just about at that time when it was a year, Jon called me and he told me about the project and who was involved, he explained the characters and what it was going to be like and that the scenes were going to be good acting, fun scenes, and he was like, “It’s gonna be a good movie.” He’s like, “It’s gonna be an entertaining kind of summer movie, but it will be good, I promise you. I make good movies and it’s gonna be good.” So it was really that. It was just it all happened just at the right time, and I had always wanted to work with Robert, ever since I was little. And Jeff Bridges is, if you’re an American actor, he’s like God. He’s like The Big Lebowski and all these amazing roles, so how do you say “no” to that group of people? It’s impossible!
SHH!: This is the second sci-fi fantasy you’ve done after “Sky Captain.” Do you have any sort of affinity for the genre?
Paltrow: I think I have an affinity for working with people I think will be inspiring, and that could be any genre. If it was a horror film but it was Martin Scorscese, I would do anything. Maybe porn I would skip, but other than that, I’m open to anything.
SHH!: Is it true that your husband (Chris Martin of Coldplay) lent you his “Iron Man” comic books?
Paltrow: That is totally fabricated! I don’t know where that’s from. So many people have asked me this question, and I’m like, “Noâ€¦” I have no idea where that’s from. That’s very weird.
SHH!: Did you read the “Iron Man” comic books?
Paltrow: Growing up? Not at all, not until I took the job. That’s when I started reading them and familiarizing myself with the world of Iron Man and Tony Stark and Pepper Potts and everything.
SHH!: Did Jon suggest specific issues to read?
Paltrow: Basically, I asked Marvel to send me comics that they thought would be best, ’cause there’s a lot of books and obviously I couldn’t read 40 years worth of comics. They sent me a couple of big binders, and a lot of them were very old comics that they had Xeroxed. Some were just partial bits of comics they thought were important, and then some of the later ones, and I would read the whole thing. It was very interesting — she had a lot of different hairstyles, colors, outfits. She made quite a transition over the years.
SHH!: Your character is reminiscent of the vintage woman we celebrate today. How did you interpret who you wanted her character to be?
Paltrow: Oh thank you! Well, when Jon kind of explained to me how he saw the relationship between Pepper and Tony, he kind of described it as that sort of 1940s comedy, you know the screwball comedies, and that he really wanted that repartee. I didn’t look to one specific film for inspiration, but I think growing up, watching all those films is kind of a world that I understood and sort of pulled certain things from, and I really like the texture of their relationship. I love that time too — it’s such an innocent yet sexy time, so it was really fun to kind of recreate that.
SHH!: In playing her, did you hope that young women would be able to take something away from the way she carries herself?
Paltrow: It’s funny, because whenever I approach something, I never approach it from externally, like how will this be perceived or what can I do to affect the perception? I really do it from the inside out. Before I work everyday, I say a prayer and I say like, “I hope that in someway, whatever I do today illuminates something for someone or is inspiring or they get something out of it.” The process is not just me doing my own thing for my own sake, so I try and bring something into the world, and I do think, retrospectively looking at Pepper, that she’s a very good woman. You know, she’s very smart, she’s very levelheaded, she’s grounded, and I like the fact that there’s a sexuality that’s not blatant, you know? I think it’s lovely.
SHH!: Pepper obviously has a life outside Tony, which is something that’s missing from a lot of romantic comedies. What do you think about their relationship as compared to other romantic stuff?
Paltrow: Well, what I think is different about it is it’s complicated — they have so many dynamics. She’s his assistant and so he is her boss. He’s a very powerful, serious guy, so there’s that dynamic. But she’s also a little bit of his Jiminy Cricket in a way, and she keeps trying to pull him back to center, and there’s a bit of a mothering tenderness that she has for him where she worries about him. There’s also kind of a sexual kick to all, so that’s what I loved about it because there was so much that was kind of real and fun and it wasn’t just one note.
SHH!: With all the back and forth between you and Tony, were there any moments that you just broke-up because it got either funny or awkward?
Paltrow: No, we sort of stayed right in it. A lot of it was improvisation so it was all kind of part of the thing we were creating and he is hilarious, so luckily I was able to not ruin it.
SHH!: Pepper keeps Tony’s life together. Do you have someone like that in your life? Are you that organized in real life?
Paltrow: I try to be very organized. I like things to be organized. I’m a Libra, so if things go off balance, they go really off balance, so I try and maintain balance, and for me, that’s like knowing where everything is, what everyone’s doing, having all the doctors’ numbers. I think that’s just women though, isn’t it? We’re like the brain of the house, the multitaskers.
SHH!: Do you remember doing any scenes that didn’t make it to the theatrical release?
Paltrow: I haven’t seen it yet, so I have no idea. I think now at this point I’m just gonna wait and see it at the big Hollywood premiere so I can see it with an audience and everything.
SHH!: Have you had any discussions about appearing in sequels to this?
Paltrow: Well, when we signed on for 1, we signed on for 2 and 3. They like to kind of scoop you up for the whole thing all at once. I would be totally thrilled if there was another one, basically because my work experience was such fun and the people involved were so talented. It’s not your run-of-the-mill superhero movie in a way — the talent is so incredible, and everyone’s so nice too! Sometimes you work with people who are talented, but they’re tricky people. These guys were so nice to be around, and I just had the best time. So if it doesn’t bomb, then we’ll do another one!
SHH!: Jon appears in the movie as SPOILER!!!!!, who plays a major character in your life. Was that deliberate?
Paltrow: I don’t know if that’s something they want to develop at a later point or another movie or not. We’ll see! If he wants to make out with me, maybe he will.
SHH!: Most Marvel Comics took place in New York, but the movie takes place in LA. Which city do you prefer to make movies in?
Paltrow: You know, I think LA is a very easy city to work in, to shoot in because it’s like what the whole town was built around, whereas New York, they could give a F. You know what I mean? It’s like, you’re like crying on the street in the scene and someone’s honking a horn and running you over or whatever. But I love working in New York because there’s an energy here, but in terms of the facility, L.A. is probably easier.
SHH!: Does being a mother affect what roles you choose and do you look for movies that your kids will be able to see?
Paltrow: Well, probably Emma before that becauseâ€¦ Well, “Sky Captain” they could see, but no, I don’t choose movies because of them. When I work, that’s the part of my life that’s for me because I give to them all day every day, and when I work, that’s my time to kind of recharge as an artist and feel inspired and do something that’s interesting and so that I feel nourished as a woman, as an artist, as a person, and then I can bring that back home.
SHH!: That’s a healthy attitude. What kind of stories do you want your kids to hold on to? They say comic books stay with peopleâ€¦
Paltrow: That’s true! You know, it’s really interesting to be a mother and to watch imaginations develop and to see kind of innately what your kids gravitate towards. My son will be an “Iron Man” fan, I’m sure. He’s chopping everything down with swords and running around like a maniac. He’s very testosterone-fueled, so I’m sure he’s gonna be into comics and be into that whole world. My daughter is very imaginative and she likes to sit for hours and she creates her own worlds. She loves to be read stories and she adores everything, so I’m sure she’ll be more into fairy tales and novels and kind of kind of thing.
SHH!: Do you have any other movies in the works?
Paltrow: I just finished a movie in November here with James Gray who is a really great New York filmmaker and Joaquin Phoenix. (“Two Lovers”) It’s kind of a dramatic romance, and I think they just told me it got into Cannes, which is gonna be a miracle considering he’s still cutting it as we speak. So that’s what I have coming out next, and then I’m thinking about working in the fall.
SHH!: Now that you’ve done a superhero movie, what would you like to do that you haven’t done?
Paltrow: I’d like to do a musical on stage. I think that would be really fun.
SHH!: Have you figured out which one you want to do and learned all the songs from it?
Paltrow: No, not yet, but maybe if there were something, I would learn. But I don’t do it like — what am I, a game guy in my apartment learning all the steps in front of the mirror?
SHH!: If you could have a superhero power, what would you choose?
Paltrow: Well, I’ve been asked this question a lot as you can imagine, so I’ve actually really thought about this. At first I was thinking, “Oh it might be cool to be invisible,” because if you’re me, then you feel like you can’t observe as much as you want to because you’re being observed more. Then I thought if you’re invisible, that’s kind of shady, like it’s kind of unethical. It’s weird — like, you’re spying on people. So then I thought that wasn’t so good. And then I thought it would be good to be able to start a fire because I’m always looking for matches to light candles and I can never find them because I’m so afraid my kids will find them, and then I hide them from them and myself, so I can never remember where. But then I thought, well, that’s only kind of one specific power and where is that really gonna get you? So then I decided flying would be the best one.
Iron Man opens in North American theaters tonight at 8pm! Be sure to stay after the credits!
Source: Edward Douglas