Exclusive: Jon Favreau on Iron Man

He’s already turned Will Ferrell into an Elf and adapted Chris Van Allsburg’s Zathura: A Space Adventure, but director Jon Favreau’s latest challenge is to turn Tony Stark into Iron Man in one of the first superhero movies from the new Marvel Studios.

Who would have thought that the writer and co-star of Swingers would be helming a movie based on arguably, one of Marvel Comics’ coolest (and richest) characters?

When Superhero Hype! learned Favreau would be appearing at the San Diego Comic-Con, we just had to have a chat with him and to find out his plans and thoughts on Shellhead. (As mentioned elsewhere, Favreau would later announce at the Marvel panel that the Mandarin would be Iron Man’s villain in the movie.)

Superhero Hype!: Nice meeting you after linking to your MySpace page almost every other week.

Jon Favreau: I’ve seen that. I look at your site.

SHH!: So why did you decide to do an Iron Man movie?

Favreau: Avi [Arad] and I had been talking about working together for a while, since we met on “Daredevil”–I played Foggy–and I sort of became a director and we always got on very well. I don’t know if you’ve spent any time with Avi, but he’s really a salesman at heart. He just has a very big personality and he really makes you feel like you’re good friends with him, and there are a lot of people who feel like they’re good friends with him. He has a tremendous…he connects with people in a way you feel special. I don’t know if that comes from his background in toys and sales, he just has this personality that is bigger than life so every time I’d see him he’d always grab me and we would talk for twenty minutes and I’d always ask him about “Captain America,” this was long before Marvel broke off and became its own studio, so that was the one I was interested in, because I thought there were a lot of comedic possibilities with a guy who got frozen and then turned around and now is fighting for America. “Iron Man” has always been the flipside of “Captain America,” representing maybe more pragmatic, darker aspects of America. When we first talked about the notion of doing “Iron Man,” I felt excited because it lends itself, very easily, to the technology that is available today. Where as an organic superhero, you know anybody who is a guy in tights is a little scary in CGI, but a robot-based guy is really a marriage made in heaven, so I’m exploring what the technology has to offer. To me, with the political climate what it is now, it’s such a complex character and these times are so complex, mirroring in a lot of ways, his inception in the 60’s when on the cusp of Vietnam, it was just as unpopular to have an arms manufacturer as your hero. I really wanted to explore that so it’s very exciting to me in that way. It’s also exciting because it’s Marvel’s first movie on its own.

[A little girl runs around the table where we’re sitting and then stares up at Jon.]

SHH!: Is she yours?

Favreau: This is my daughter. She likes “Captain America” more than “Iron Man.” My son likes “Iron Man” more than “Captain America.” I think he’s better looking, that’s why. My son’s turning 5, but they’re both experts now.

SHH!: Do you have a favorite “Iron Man” run?

Favreau: Visually… the good news about “Iron Man” is that there’s no run that is sacred in literary terms. He’s had his ups and downs. The quality on the book has been spotty over the last forty years.

SHH!: A lot of people like the Michelinie, Romita Jr, and Bob Layton run…

Favreau: He sort of had that, but I feel like the fans are more concerned about the character and about the look, which is really freeing as a director. People ask about “Demon in a Bottle” or they ask about the “Armor Wars” but really what they’re most concerned about is “What Tony Stark are you dealing with?” and “What suit are you dealing with?” Cinematically, I was very much drawn to the Adi Granov stuff, and he actually met me through the MySpace page.

SHH!: Oh, the recent “Iron Man” artist?

Favreau: Yeah, very recent. He said, “Hey, all the artwork you’re putting up on your page is stuff I’ve done.” I knew who he was, and I considered at some point approaching him, but he sort of made the introduction formally over MySpace. We sniffed each other out over a few emails, figured out we were the real people, so I reached out to him and asked Marvel if it was okay that I bring him on, so he’s been doing development work. Actually, the teaser image we brought to Comic Con (see right) is something we worked on together.

SHH!: I’m really impressed with this MySpace thing you’ve done, what do you do with all the data or research you get from it?

Favreau: I skim some of it. Honestly, at this point if I read 5 percent of it that’s a lot. But it’s more a place for people to reach out to each other and share ideas, post fan art, which I like to put up there. More than anything, it’s an opportunity for me to answer questions or answer rumors that are out there. It becomes very frustrating when you’re reading all the film-related pages, they all pickup each other’s stories, quotes and Blogs and you have false information out there. The next thing you know, on IMDb they’re listing the wrong cast and that’s a bummer. So it’s nice to go out there and say, “Hey, nobody’s attached. This guy’s not working on it yet. This guy expressed interest.” So it’s nice to be able to dispel rumors and it’s also a nice place to put information out first, so people can come right to the horse’s mouth and they aren’t relying on rumor-based stuff, and I’m pretty upfront about it. If there is stuff I can’t talk about it, I’ll deny it and say, “Look, at this point it’s not appropriate for me to announce.”

SHH!: Speaking of casting, I was talking to Matthew Libatique, one of my favorite cinematographers, last night, and he said that he was going to be shooting this.

Favreau: I’ve been looking to work with him for some time. You know what really got him the gig? He said, “When I came to meet you I thought I was just coming to your office and then I read ‘Marvel Studios’ on the placard.” He was walking into Marvel for the first time, and he said he got a rush out of it and that’s exactly how I feel. There are a lot of people in the industry, whether it’s actors or crew that look at a comic book movie and they sort of roll their eyes at it, and then there’s a whole other segment of the population in Hollywood who just get goose bumps, they’re so excited by it, and I want to be surrounded by people who see it as a dream come true, as opposed to a compromise. I think that there’s a whole group of filmmakers who sort of have geeky roots that have come into their own and are now doing tremendous work.

SHH!: And they’re all here at Comic-Con this weekend…

Favreau: That’s right, here they are.

SHH!: So you’re starting filming in February? Is that still the plan?

Favreau: Yes.

SHH!: Where do the various Iron Man cartoons fit in with your plans? There were so many of them, it seems.

Favreau: Oh, you mean like… (starts singing) “Tony Stark makes you feel, he’s the cool exec with the heart of steel… ” I don’t know. They did some interesting stuff in the “Ultimate Avengers” that’s kind of cool to look at. I know they have a new animated straight-to-video thing coming out. It’s all interesting and cool. There’s a pendulum that these superheroes have, where they become too powerful and then they sort of come back to basics. Over the lifetime of these guys, there are different versions, and I think you want to keep it as simple as possible, so it’s not such a big buy in the movie. It’s not the Marvel Universe, where there are lots of superheroes. Tony Stark comes up with propulsion technology, and that’s the thing that allows him to build the suit and that’s the thing that has changed the normal world into a world that has a superhero. Grounding it as much as we could into the politics and realities of today is going to make the movie, I think, more relevant and more emotionally accessible than a movie where superheroes are flying all over the place and it’s fantasyland.

SHH!: Maybe an Avengers movie will happen now that Marvel Studios is bringing all of those characters back to the screen.

Favreau: Yeah, I think you could work your way toward that, but I don’t think you could start off that way.

SHH!: What do you think about the plans to release the next James Bond movie after “Casino Royale” on the same date that Marvel staked out for “Iron Man”?

Favreau: Is that true? I don’t know, man, it’s a long way away. A lot changes. We’re gonna make a great movie I think. By the time we’re done with this, they’re going to have their hands full.

Iron Man is scheduled to open everywhere on May 2, 2008. James Bond, be afraid.

Source: Edward Douglas