Jon Favreau: interview

’Iron Man‘ helmer Jon Favreau is a writer, director and actor who found fame in the mid-1990s with his silver-tongued buddy romance, ’Swingers‘ (1996), which he wrote and co-starred in alongside a young Vince Vaughn. After numerous supporting roles in film (’Daredevil‘) and television (’Friends‘), he moved to directing, helming the Christmas smash ’Elf‘ (2003) and family fantasy ’Zathura‘ (2005). ’Iron Man‘ is his fourth film

When you got the gig to direct ‘Iron Man’, what research did you do?
‘Marvel sent me all the source material, so I went through that. I jumped on Wikipedia and had a look at what they had to say. I looked up the history of the film project before it came back to Marvel – and all the people who had tried and failed to bring it to the screen. Then I started to think about who the hell was going to be Tony Stark.’

Did you have a vision of the movie in your head?

‘Christopher Nolan’s “Batman Begins” set the bar very high for the superhero movie, as it showed that you could get a great cast for these movies and take a real filmmaker’s perspective. There were some other superhero movies, the titles of which I don’t want to mention, that were making a lot of money and which I thought were trash. I didn’t want to end up making one of those types of movies, I wanted to make a movie like Christopher’s.’

Tony Stark is an odd candidate for a superhero.

‘Even in the quirky Marvel pantheon, he stands as an outsider. When I ended up casting Robert Downey Jr in the role, I thought I could go pretty far in that direction because Robert is so charming. Since Iron Man goes through this character transformation, he starts off more unsavoury than many would like, but he transforms into this rather selfless guy.’

You’ve been involved in a lot of online activity – chat rooms, messageboards – for this film. Do you mind this side of the process?
‘Everybody working on a superhero movie is under intense scrutiny, but I like being part of the game. I rolled up my sleeves and got involved. There’s a lot of immaturity in some of the people posting ideas, but a great deal of them are very thoughtful and it’s obvious they care deeply. We get a lot of ideas from them.’

There are shades here of your earlier comic writing for films like ‘Swingers’, especially in the scenes between Terrence Howard and Robert Downey Jr.
‘Yeah, it was always my hope to gravitate towards the same dynamic as those films. Marvel gave me tremendous freedom to rewrite stuff, to hire writers and to improvise on set. There was no corporate chain-of-command: there were a few people from Marvel on set who were as enthusiastic as us.’

When you read the comics again, how did you gauge the tone of the project?

‘People look at Marvel movies as epic in scope, but if you look back at the comics, you realise that Marvel heroes were often a reaction to the square-jawed DC characters like Superman, who were flawless and beyond reproach. Stan Lee came up with a series of books starting with “The Fantastic Four”, in which you’ve got young people arguing and trying to get by in New York City. They’re quirky and human. I wanted to capture that.’

What’s next?
‘Well, I got a lot of things going on. I’m writing a script for Vince Vaughn, acting in a couple of films and then, hopefully, this movie will do business and they’ll start talking about ‘Iron Man 2’, because we’re behind schedule if we’re going to get it out for 2010.’

‘Iron Man’ opens on May 2.
For a podcast with Jon Favreau, trailers, a gallery of photos and a feature on superhero movies, go to www.timeout.com/ironman.

Author: Interview: David Jenkins





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