We’re two days away from the UK release of Iron Man 3, so last week the press junket for the movie took place in London. There were several interviews with the cast, a press conference and the film’s premiere. However, the most exciting event that happened – for me at least – was a fanboy round table interview with director Shane Black and screenwriter Drew Pearce. Who was there? Well, none other than you’re favourite writer (that’s me by the way) and a few others from other cool magazines and sites. But, if I wasn’t invited like a normal person, how did I get there?
I won a competition. A friend of mine, Josh Wilding from Comic Book Movie was running a competition to win a place on this round table, and so were the movie magazines SFX and Starburst. I was later contacted saying I’d won, and had a great day interviewing the pair.
And stalking Robert Downey Jr.
Sadly Shane and Drew arrived a bit late for the round table so we had to cut some of the planned questions but I still managed to record a good twenty minutes. There was definitely some cool stuff revealed, including Black’s thoughts on returning to direct Iron Man 4, and whether they ever toyed with the idea of putting Fin Fang Foom in the movie (spoiler: they did). Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see the film myself but UTF went to a press screening later that evening, so look out for our review sometime in the next few days.
Check out the full transcription below:
SFX: Last year there was a little film called ‘Avengers Assemble’ out. Did you approach this as a sequel to ‘Iron Man 2’ or ‘Avengers Assemble’?
Shane: When we first started writing it we hadn’t seen Avengers yet-
Drew: I think we read a draft of Avengers but we were already well into the development of the script.
SFX:Do you have any favourite moments from the set?
Drew: Well, favourite doesn’t necessarily mean “good”… I was in and out because I’m just the co-writer but Shane was there every second of every day, so it was less brutal on me than it was on him. But these movies take a huge amount of time to shoot, production itself was 88 days of shooting and then a couple more weeks of additional photography later on. Shane also has a penchant for night shoots – he’s somewhat a creature of the night.
Shane: One of my favourite memories was… There’s a scene where Tony comes running out of a small town bar pursued by an actress called Stephanie Szostak, and as he runs out of the bar you can see there’s a telephone pole with a wire coming down diagonally in front of it to the ground. I was running for the bathroom late that night and someone shouted “hurry up!”. So I’m chugging along full speed and then suddenly-
*Shane motions with his hands himself tripping over the telephone wire and sending him flying forwards*
Shane: Legs in the air, shoulder smacking the ground.
SFX: And that’s your favourite memory? Breaking your shoulder?
Drew: We have a picture of that somewhere… I think we could put that on the DVD. Honestly there is quite a lot of mucking around as well, there’s a game of sitting next to Shane and muttering constantly. I don’t think there’s a specific moment that’s in any way publishable, but there’s lots of fun.
Shane: There were definitely bad moments too, Robert Downey breaking his ankle. He jumps from one part of the set to another and all of a sudden he’s not getting up. And at first we thought he was clowning because he was making funny faces. But it definitely felt like one of those big movies with an unrealistic schedule – we had to bump two months because of Robert’s new baby so then we had a really unrealistic schedule, and then we had to bump six more weeks-
Drew: And I was thinking ‘wow we really are down to the wire here’.
Shane: -so by the time we see this movie tomorrow or tonight maybe we’ll get to see what the effects look like.
Drew: I think it was three weeks ago that this movie got finished. And truthfully most modern blockbusters go down to the wire like that, but it was a really protracted post-schedule. I mean, Shane was in the editing suite until 2AM every night for two, three months.
Shane: Cocktails started at 9, so…
Drew: Cocktails of Red Bull. But having said that I think the weird thing is we were just up on stage there (referring to the press conference just before) and there was kind of a gang mentality to the people who had been in the two other movies before, there’s Ben(Kingsley) and Rebecca (Hall), Favreau (Jon) and Guy (Pearce), actually it’s a shame we’re not talking about him so much because he’s not here, but he’s such a nice guy and brilliant in the movie I think.
CBM: I’ve actually written a few scripts myself – nothing amazing – but I did wonder whether there were a lot of restrictions because of licenses, did that affect you guys when writing it? Like the Iron Patriot?
Drew: Well, luckily we could use Iron Man, so that was a good start. We were just keeping it to the comics and doing lots of talking, obviously we’ve perceived Iron Patriot in a very different way to the comics, but we were working through all the idolism and symbols, all that kind of head-y stuff but you also want cool ways of showing that on screen as well.
Shane: Kevin Feige took the pressure off us when it came to The Avengers, to his credit and to Marvel’s credit these aren’t cookie cutter movies. We know Avengers made a lot of money but we didn’t want to just do it again. We wanted to make a standalone Iron Man film, and that freed us up to go and do that. There was another sense of… I mean on the way obviously we had to make adjustments and things had to be changed to affect the future of the Marvel universe, but to start out we weren’t really constrained, we had a pretty clean slate. From the beginning we wanted to make a film where Tony Stark gets stripped of his possessions and his technology, and is reduced to a state where has to kind of fight to survive using cobbled-together ideas and technology. That was what we had and that was all that was opposed on us, the rest was pretty much a collaboration. Marvel’s very collaborative.
Drew: Absolutely, and I think we were quite surprised at how there weren’t any mandates. I do think it was partly the timing, I mean, Cap hadn’t even come out when we first started writing so Avengers was just in script form, sot wasn’t until we were already shooting that Avengers came out and we felt some of the tidal waves of it’s huge success. But the dye was set by that time so it was more of a case of how do we make sure our movie makes sense in not only the Marvel Universe post-Avengers, but also in our own world where everyone has seen that movie.
UTF: Would you both be open to working with Marvel again on either Iron Man 4 or another film?
Shane: Well, Marvel would have to ask me because they’re famous for not working with the same people twice, and who’s to say they would ever approach me so that’s something we’ll cross when we come to it.
Starburst: Considering your past writing credits – Kiss Kiss Bang Bang – and going to a superhero movie, what drew you to write this in the first place?
Shane: Mostly was the chance to work again with Robert Downey. He called me up and said ‘Look, there’s a spot open for the next film because it doesn’t look like Favreau’s going to do this, would you like to do this?’. At the time I was toying with some ideas and I had a project with Mel Gibson that was set up but fell through – Mel’s popularity dimmed very quickly. Prior to that I’d had a couple of other things and I was developing some things, I was getting paid to write things but I wasn’t getting anything made. This was a chance to get something made. And it wasn’t like this was something being thrown at me that I would never do because I’ve always been a fan of the comic books and had bought my first Iron Man when I was 4 years old back in 1996. So already this was something I’d grown up with and I liked the first movie, then what capped it was that they didn’t want just The Avengers again because I didn’t think that was something I really wanted to do or could do, but they said I could do a film that was more of a thriller and less about sky chariots and things like that. I was very intrigued by the possibility, but mostly here was a chance to get a greenlit picture going because Marvel movies have these built-in deadlines and built-in release date that cannot be violated, so I could get on a train that would actually leave the station and that to me was a very appealing idea, to get a movie made.
SFX: If you had the capability and resources to create your own Iron Man suit, would you do it or would the pressure be too much to handle?
Drew: I’m not very good with heights, but I like flying, so I’d probably have to build it, have a see and then sell it if it wasn’t really my cup of tea. I think I’d probably have to do the terrible thing that Tony Stark does in Ultimate Iron Man which is having a few very stiff Martini’s just to get in an Iron Man suit.
Shane: The problem with Iron Man is it’s essentially an aircraft and a weapon, and that’s what I like about the modern comics, particularly the Matt Fraction run. He calls it ‘The Iron Man‘-
Drew: We actually wanted that as the title at one point, that kind of modern thing of calling things The Amazing or The Incredible, but we ended up steering away from it.
Shane: I like the notion of being able to pilot an aircraft at the same time… But there is something about invulnerability. I read a story once about a guy who you couldn’t touch, he had a little micro-thin impermeable layer around himself. He could just walk down the street anywhere and if a guy came up and tried to stab you it wouldn’t work.
Drew: I think one of the things inherent in why Iron Man is so popular and in some ways is more popular than the other Marvel Cinematic Universe characters is partly Robert, but I also think there’s a wish fulfilment in the idea of Iron Man. If you’re a kid and you’re watching an Iron Man movie then a part of you thinks “I don’t have to be a God and I haven’t been injected with super-serum, but-
*I point to myself as the kid Drew is talking about, and Shane offers me a cigarette*
Drew: -there’s a part of you that thinks ‘I could get in that suit’ and fly around. It catches that literal dream, the flying dream.
CBM: Because Fin Fang Foom has been hinted at in the other films, did you have any thoughts of putting Fin Fang Foom into it?
Drew: I think we toyed around with it at some points.
Shane: Well, the chest is Fin Fang Foom (referring to Mandarin).
Drew: And on the inside of his cape-
Shane: But that’s not really in the movie, it’s more in the trailer.
Drew: It isn’t!?
UTF: As an aspiring writer/director myself, what would you two advise? Do you have any tips?
Shane: Well, I think you’ve got the definition of aspiring down.
Drew: A very wise friend of mine once said that there’s only one thing that makes you a writer, and that’s the act of writing. So you already are a writer, but I think the best advice is to finish it. Nothing’s really ever good the first time you write it, it’s always about how you re-write it. So I think that to get to the end is the most important thing.
Shane: Typically when I write something I… Well, there’s three acts to most scripts but I can’t make it through 30 or 35 pages without tidying it up a bit. So people can write an entire script and at the end go ‘Aha! It’s shit.’
Drew: I get to the end of Act One and I fix it.
Shane: If you go off on the wrong tangent when you’re writing then you could end up finishing the wrong script.
Drew: Billy Wilder said that if you’ve got problems with your third act then it’s because you’ve got problems with your first act.
Shane: Write 30 pages, then fix it, or at least get a sense of what’s wrong with it or where it might lead or if it’s the write length. If it’s a little long but it seems to be going in the right direction then keep going, but do get to the end. Just take your time and let yourself become obsessed, that’s what writers do. They become obsessive and irritable and difficult and problematic and you’ve got plenty of time to become a real bitch, so just do it.
Starburst: Considering how dark Tony Stark’s character is in the Marvel Universe is there anything that you wanted to put in the film but were told by the studio ‘this won’t play for kids’?
Shane: The drinking. Even if you look at the websites of the mommy bloggers they say, you know, ‘watch out, mom’s! Tony drinks in this movie!’ It’s amazing. There’s one or two scenes in this movie where he picks up a drink and it’ll be in those blogs.
Drew: It’s funny because it’s only a glass of wine in this one, isn’t it?
Shane: Yeah, so they’ll say ‘watch out because he drinks’. It’s pretty amazing because it used to be you drank all the time in movies.
Drew: In our first draft Tony was a bit more rock’n’roll.
Shane: I think we were just told by the studio that we should probably paint Tony Stark as being kind of an industrialist and a crazy guy, or even a bad guy at some points, but the Demon in a Bottle stuff of him being an alcoholic wouldn’t really fly. I don’t blame that.
Drew: It’s also kind of a ‘pick your battles’ thing; alcoholism is a massive problem but it’s also not the best villain for a movie.
Shane: If you’re gonna do alcoholism and the Mandarin, then you would really have to make the whole movie about it-
Drew: Otherwise you’ll be giving it the short drift.
Shane: But I wouldn’t be surprised if at some point someone wanted to make a movie and they’d run out of directions for the character, then they’ve still got Demon in a Bottle.
And there you have it! Special thanks to Josh, all the cool kid PR guys who helped make it happen, and of course Mr. Black and Mr. Pearce themselves! What did you think? Share your thoughts below!