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Feature: Iron Man

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Star Robert Downey Jr invites us to climb into his Iron Man suit with him for his take on the metallic superhero

Whilst the majority of comic-book heroes rely on special powers to conquer evil and perform astonishing feats, a select handful have to make do with their own ingenious minds, tremendous physical prowess, courage and determination. The latest Marvel creation to cross over onto the silver screen in time for summer blockbuster season is Anthony (you can call him Tony) Stark, a brilliant scientist captured whilst working in a Middle-Eastern war zone. Instead of bending to the will of his captors, Stark cunningly constructs a revolutionary armoured suit that gives him the weaponry, strength and flight power needed to escape. Does he rest on his laurels when safely back home? Not a chance. The newly born Iron Man, played by Academy Award nominee Robert Downey Jr, has a new mission, as Downey tells us.

“[Creator] Stan Lee did it on a dare, but it was a time when there was a very strong anti-establishment, anti-military industrial complex, anti-rich, over-30 energy,” says the actor, of the cartoonist’s original intention for the character to be an anti-communist hero. “For him it was just a huge challenge. They said they got more female fan mail than for all their other heroes combined because there was this sense of him being very vulnerable. This very precarious device that keeps him alive and drives him is clearly a metaphor for something else, but sometimes it’s not a metaphor. You’ve got a small token-like reactor in your chest, that’s the reason you’re not dead in the movie, how can that be a metaphor? It’s like saying, ‘This aqualung under water, and this reed I’m breathing through…’”

The film, a genre departure from most of Downey’s previous movies, gave the actor a chance to incorporate a favourite pastime, martial arts, into his performance.

“As a martial artist you want to be as efficient and effective and use as much linear striking as possible, don’t fight force with force, there are a lot of these concepts so I’m not coming in going, ‘This is all wrong, re-light’,” he explains. “But I’ll come in and say, ‘Given the time we have, we can probably get this many shots’ and [director] Jon Favreau has been very flexible and very fun because we’re very similar. Jon and I are creating Tony and through that half the lines are his and half the ideas are mine. Then we have all these really great people at the top of their field who are either simultaneously exasperated with the fact that we are vetting an idea – I come in every day and say, ‘I’ve seen this in a movie before, no offence, but if we do this, I haven’t seen that’. And some of them are so ‘far out’ they go, ‘Will you just go put on your chest piece?’ But more often than not I feel the onus and the responsibility to not venture into this genre without an understanding that it’s actually inhabited and enjoyed. So, 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 think audiences are continually underestimated. I can go see a pretty crappy movie and love it, if it’s got a couple of things that work. I’m like a soccer coach with kids who probably shouldn’t be playing soccer.”

by Judy Sloane

Read the full interview, and from producer Kevin Boyle on the tie-in game in
Starburst #362

Photo © Paramount Pictures
Feature © Visual Imagination 2008. Not for reproduction

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Starburst #362
May 2008
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