Quint goes one on one with Jon Favreau about IRON MAN at Comic-Con!!!
Published at: July 28, 2007, 2:28 a.m. CST by quint
Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with my 1:1 interview with Jon Favreau from the San Diego Comic-Con. This happened just after the big panel where he showed some footage from the movie. Click here if you haven’t read that report!.
We start off talking Indiana Jones, which immediately followed his presentation. Then get pretty well in to what he has planned for the film, specifically how the Mandarin fits in. Plus he drops a bomb about plans for a collaboration with well loved IRON MAN comic artist… well, you’ll see.
Also watch out for a couple incredible sound-o-text spots to download an MP3 where you can hear my yammering troll voice and Favreau’s masculine, confident human voice.
Quint: Did you see the INDIANA JONES thing?
Jon Favreau: I heard what happened, but I left before they revealed her.
Quint: Karen Allen looks exactly the same.
Jon Favreau: Yeah, I remember her from ANIMAL HOUSE, right? I had a crush on her then.
Quint: Well then she still looked good in SCROOGED too, which was a little more recent… Well, she found the fountain of youth and was able to figure that out, but dude, you still stole the panel. The INDY 4 thing was cool, but I still think there wasn’t any better… in terms of showmanship and response…
Jon Favreau: Yeah, I think we worked the room really well. The thing is, get on get off… Show them something. Hit them in the face, and then just get out of there. So many times when I’ve been involved in these things it always feels like… because the rooms are so big… You go up there and you try to say too much... it could be like an eternity. There are almost 7,000 people in that room and I mean you have no idea what it’s like on stage there. It’s a very overwhelming room and I remember I was there for ZATHURA and nobody cared and just that feeling being on stage and everybody’s waiting for the next thing and then last year we were in a smaller room for the MARVEL panel and that was kind of fun, but having come to two of these, now my third, you sort of know what the room wants, what it expects. I had been reading online what people were looking for, what they are curious about and so we went to great pains to do something really cool today, but that didn’t take away from what we are doing on Saturday.
Quint: Yeah, so there’s more on Saturday?
Jon Favreau: There’s not more footage, but there’s more…
Quint: Well, you’re going to have more people…
Jon Favreau: There’s a Q and A. There’s more information, you know, that’s our… we have to fill a big slot.
Quint: Here you just wanted to get the juices flowing…
Jon Favreau: We wanted to rock the room. We wanted to get a good buzz going and also there’s been so much curiosity and we haven’t shown any teasers or anything, because it’s a comic book movie and because it’s the first MARVEL movie we really wanted to sort of reward the COMIC-CON fans with the first look at anything and by the way that was a thing that’s never going to be shown anywhere else. That was just cut for COMIC-CON. That’s for people who want to know “Is Robert Downey [Jr.] Tony Stark?” “Did we handle it…?” “Are we staying true to the books?” You know? “Are we going to be a kiddy movie or are we going to go for it?” We wanted to show the fans that they aren’t being forgotten with the first MARVEL STUDIOS production.
Quint: And with as much practical effects as you did, it made it possible, I’d imagine, to be able to do that.
Jon Favreau: Yeah, we did a mad scramble to get a couple shots going with ILM and they’ve been very cooperative, but if we were relying completely on the CG we wouldn’t have had anything; it would have been a little PowerPoint show and tell. Here we could actually begin to tell a story, because all that stuff… that’s all in camera…
Quint: Well the Mark-1… that’s what people were flipping over too and just watching him… that shot of the dude trying to get the headshot and it ricocheting back off…
Jon Favreau: Yeah. There’s humor in it, but it still takes the source material very very seriously and then Robert’s going to be coming down on Saturday and it’ll be great to get that dialogue going and he so loves the fans and loves the property and so by getting some cast down here it’ll even up the ante a little bit on what we are able to deliver.
Quint: Well we need to hit some points here. I’ve heard rumors that Mandarin doesn’t really play that big of a part in this first one.
Jon Favreau: Yeah and this is what we sort of did, we looked at the source material and we found the guy that is… because villains has always been, I think, the soft spot in the IRON MAN mythology.
Quint: He doesn’t have his rogue’s gallery, like SPIDER-MAN.
Jon Favreau: Yeah, you don’t have… and in action movies, it’s always the villains that define the movie. Usually it’s the villain that steals the show.
Jon Favreau: And certainly in the SPIDERMAN films the villains were as exciting as the hero and they have the freedom to do anything and so they are always more dynamic. As an actor, you always want to play the bad guy and with IRON MAN we just laid out and the one guy who was the main dude that has to be his nemesis, if he has one, was The Mandarin, but the Mandarin was always an interesting character, because he wasn’t the guy who was going to square off toe-to-toe with him and trade punches. You also have a weird thing where he has magic/technology that he uses with his rings and it was very difficult to find an approach to stay true to the books, but also do something satisfying and something that didn’t seem completely ridiculous, because a lot of that stuff doesn’t hold up well if you just lift it right out of the books.
Quint: Yeah, you’re trying to place it in the real world…
Jon Favreau: Exactly, so how do you place The Mandarin in a real world without making him some weird cartoonish caricature and how do you… so what was the essence of The Mandarin and the essence of The Mandarin was always that he was the mastermind. He was always sort of the Sauron of it and as we approached the material, we also didn’t want to have it be just the thing where we make a movie and if it does well, we scramble and figure out what the next one is. We said, “well OK, what’s the whole… how do we track this story over the course of a few movies, if we get so lucky…” with the hopes that if it stands alone, it does stand alone and you have great stuff, but then as you sort of peel it back further, it’s like THE HOBBIT and LORD OF THE RINGS. You look at THE HOBBIT, it’s a great, great book and my favorite of all of the LORD OF THE RINGS series, but you want to learn more as you get deeper into it and so one sort of plays as a fable and an origin story and then you want to play everything out, so it’s there, but you ain’t going to see The Mandarin shooting lightning bolts out of a magic ring at Iron Man in this movie, so… The fans will recognize it and the people who don’t know about it… it’s not going to be a prominent thing for them…
Quint: Kind of Zod them in a little bit…
Jon Favreau: But, it will be… he still is sort of… I would call him the nemesis.
Quint: Are you still down for it, if this one does as well as everybody thinks it will, to come back and just get the next couple going?
Jon Favreau: I’ve got to tell you I’ve never had an experience this good, because MARVEL is… they are the people who control the purse strings on this thing, it’s their money. They are fans. They know the value of the source material. It’s not like they have to lobby with a Hollywood studio for what’s in the books and having people from different departments of the movie studio saying it’s irrelevant. They want to make the best possible movie they can and they want to give the fans a fair shake and show the fans what to expect with the studio and you can see it in the casting and you can see it with… as you begin to see little bits and pieces of the movie from either images that are released or things that you see from spy footage… you begin to get a sense of the way they’re making these movies and this is a make or break year for them and I think between our movie and THE HULK, they want to show the fans that this is… that there will be a continuation of quality and that there’s going to be a lot of excitement and from the perspective of a director, there’s Kevin Feige basically… there’s Avi [Arad] who is a producer now and Jeremy Latcham, who is a creative exec on this thing and that’s the whole team.
They are there on the set and we go through the process with the actors of what story are we telling and whatever the best idea wins and it never feels like there’s a studio head who’s got a half a dozen films that they’re trying to divide their attention between who are handing out mandates. This is a creative process and they have been involved on a lot of really really good movies working for other people. There’s a tremendous amount of freedom as a filmmaker. It really feels like I’m making a very big independent movie and the actors are great. They have been nothing but pros and… wonderful performances really make your job easy as a director and then MARVEL knows how to work the effects right and now as that’s coming together working with our primary vendor is ILM.
They’re coming off of a very hot year between PIRATES and TRANSFORMERS… sort of have that resource I think has been a really… They started off as a leader in the industry, then a lot of other big houses came up and gave them a run for their money and I think that they’re really breaking that now and emerging as head and shoulders above the rest.
The creative team that they have on this… we have Hal, who did animation for PIRATES and we have Ben Snow, who was working the visual effects for KING KONG at Weta… you know, the best people in the industry and I have John Nelson who did GLADIATOR and a number of Ridley Scott movies supervising the visual effects for us and I just have a dream team, so watching those effects fall into the film and having great actors makes my job so fun.
Quint: So you’re going for that photo-real look… not so stylized, but obviously fitting the suit, because you have a good working practical suit…
Jon Favreau: That’s right, so we have Matty Libatique, who I’ve always loved his work and have always wanted to collaborate with him since I saw his work in TIGERLAND and REQUIEM (FOR A DREAM) and he was real excited and he is a real artist. The trick is you want to make it gritty. You want to make it real and grounded, but you also want to make it a big escapist adventure for people who just want to see a popcorn movie, too, so you can’t get bogged down in the style of it and make it feel too indie, but you also don’t want to make it just all gloss and you don’t want to make it a big glossy kid’s movie either. I think we have found a really nice… we have been able to straddle those two concerns.
Quint: I love the focus on character in what you brought, because I can see the temptation easily to have just brought the cave sequence with you.
Jon Favreau: And I had even cut together an even longer piece and MARVEL was like, especially Avi, was like “if you show too much too soon… you’ve got a whole year to go… you got to do enough just to show them and get them excited and reward them, but you don’t want to blow it all, because you’ve got an hour and a half movie coming out… or a two hour movie… whatever it works out to be in a year. You don’t want to peak too early. You want to keep it exciting…”
Quint: I noticed the little production art above the computer.
Jon Favreau: Yeah.
Quint: That looked like the Iron Monger to me…
Jon Favreau: I like to lay a few breadcrumbs for people out there for people and you know, there’s enough stuff that was found out by the fans that you want to keep… I want to be the type of filmmaker that whenever something comes out it’s not just a boiler plate marketing press release. I want to create a dialogue, which I feel like I have with the fans. I pay attention to what they say and they pay attention to what I say and we both share a love and respect for the material, so I just want to be a filmmaker that acts the way fans do. I want to be a filmmaker that as a fan, I want filmmakers to act.
Jon Favreau: And so I get to sort of see it from both sides, you know? After I get offstage doing my presentation, I want to see what Indy’s doing. You know what I mean? I’m excited to be there, I’ve got the best seat in the house.
Quint: Yeah and it must have been surreal, because you went off to the side to get a quick photo taken as the INDIANA JONES music starts playing and you’re like…
Jon Favreau: I know, I know, I’m in a whirlwind. I tell you, it’s a different world now, because I’ve never been involved with a movie that has had this sort of excitement beforehand. ELF was something that sort of snuck in under the radar and then when it opened it did business. It became a hit, but it wasn’t a hit before it came out.
Jon Favreau: And ZATHURA never quite got a leg up… never fought it’s way through the market place. When I did panel here, it was to a half-filled house that was waiting for the next panel after me. So whereas a lot of people get frustrated by how many leaks happen or how much speculation there is, I welcome it. I think it’s all part of the dance and I’m excited by it.
Quint: Well, you also kind of set the tone though, because by using so many practicals that look fantastic there, you don’t have to go “but they don’t understand, because half of it’s not there… or this is only the placeholder for the CG or something…”
Jon Favreau: Right. Yeah, no… If you look at TRANSFORMERS, it really didn’t build up a buzz until that ILM animation started coming out in the trailers leading up in the few weeks before the movie came out. I don’t even think they did much in COMIC-CON the year before, because so much of it was done on the computers and then when it peaked and it hit, it was a movie that you just had to go out and see and it was a fun ride. It really was… I think it delivered on what people want when they see a movie like that.
With us, though, we have a different case to try. There was nobody who was like “are they going to stay true to the cartoon” in TRANSFORMERS… “Are they going to stay true to the toys?” With IRON MAN, its like “How is not just Jon, not just the cast, but how is MARVEL going to handle things now that they have nobody to point the finger at?” “It’s their responsibility and how are they going to treat us as people who have… some of us spending forty years reading this stuff?”
Quint: You have also already gotten us primed. There’s a reason why that house was packed. TREK had a lot to do with it, of course, and INDY, but I think the reason people will be walking away talking about IRON MAN is because you’ve have that build since the last CON with that first image. The first art came out and everything that has come out, from the snuck footage to every interview, people know that you’re going for a certain respectability and going for a certain look for the thing and so I think that they were already primed, so if you had brought that and everybody was cold they would have been big, but I think the reason why people exploded when the repulsors on the hand sent them into mach overdrive or whatever… They blew up bigger than anything because they were so ready to be knocked out by some footage.
Jon Favreau: I think so and this is also… as big as IRON MAN is in the comic book community, there’s still a lot of educating that needs to be done to the general population, because most people when you say IRON MAN, they think of the Black Sabbath song, they don’t think of this guy and that’s why COMIC-CON is such an important place to sort of make our case. As we sort of joke with the MARVEL guys, “we’re playing to our base,” and we cut a trailer that was very different than how we would cut it for general population to educate them on who Iron Man is. This wasn’t “who is Iron Man?” This one is “how are we handling Iron Man” and “what version are we doing of Iron Man?” as there are 40 years of books and there was this certain…
Jon Favreau: Even Stan Lee says there was a certain precariousness to who Tony Stark was as a character. I mean here you were right there at the time of Vietnam with a weapons designer, he admits that’s about as tough of a challenge as you could give yourself and I don’t know if politically the world is very different… we find ourselves as a country at war and a weapons manufacturer is a guy that you have to really do some deft storytelling and make some interesting choices to make it exciting and somebody that you root for and understand and see the movie threw their eyes. I think Robert Downey playing him the way he does and the way we handle the story is going to make it work, but IRON MAN is a tricky, and always has been, a tricky hero even in the Civil War books that are out. He’s lost a lot of fans, because he’s always been a guy who has sort of marched to a different drummer and how do you stay true to that while still making a movie that’s relatable and make a character that you’ll want to root for?
Quint: Well, I don’t think I have too much more.
Jon Favreau: Cool, well always, you’ve been there on the little movies and it’s nice to have you here on one that looks like everything’s sort of working out well and it’s growing and… You’ve been good to me… There’s also a little thing on Amazon, where I did a little five minute DINNER FOR TWO thing with Robert Downey…
Quint: I posted that.
Jon Favreau: Oh you did? Oh that’s right, I did see that you did that. That was great that you mentioned that, because…
Quint: I’m a big fan of DINNER FOR FIVE, but still a lot of people don’t know about it. I hope some people came to it because of that article.
Jon Favreau: That’s great, because it’s one of those things that, you know, we’re really proud of it, there’s forty-nine episodes. It wasn’t available to everybody, because it was only available on IFC and not everybody gets IFC. So it’s great now on Amazon to be able to have it available to people to check out.
Quint: Do you think you would go back to that to do some sort of special?
Jon Favreau: We’ve been talking about it. We’ve been talking about doing something with the cast. It’s a hard thing logistically to do, because you need a lot of time to edit it. It’s not just something you do in the press junket, but we’re trying to figure out a way to do it. I would love to do a DINNER WITH FIVE, with Gwyneth [Paltrow], Robert, Jeff Bridges and Terrence [Howard]. That would be a dream DINNER FOR FIVE and Peter Billingsly is an exec. producer on this movie and he’s the guy who ran that whole show with me, so we could pull it together and we’ve been talking to Paramount about it, so we would love to do some sort of special leading into the release of the film.
Quint: That’d be cool. There was a lot of response off of just that “conversation for two,” no dinner involved with no cigars.
Jon Favreau: For sure and then I’m about to do a panel after this too… it’s in 45 minutes and I just don’t want the people in the panel to know this, but you could put it up like while I’m in the panel… I don’t think you’ll write this fast anyways…
Quint: No no…
Jon Favreau: Me and Adi Granov got to know each other during… he actually contacted me through the myspace page and he says “you know all the stuff on your myspace page is my stuff” and I was like “oh my God, we’re using your designs as a springboard into what we want to do and we brought him in to work with Phil Saunders and then later with the team from Stan Winston, who designed the actual practical suit and we flew him out and we did a signing last year at COMIC-CON… Adi and I got to know each other and we started talking and he and I are going to do a four issue run, where I’m going to write it and he’s going to do all of the artwork. I’ve already written two of them and that’ll be out leading up to the movie.
Quint: Are these directly involved with the movie or are they like after or before?
Jon Favreau: It’s the same suit design. I wanted to have the freedom, because part of the difficulty in the movie is that you have to do something that plays to a general audience, not just to the comic book audience, so it limits you.
So in a comic book, you get to do whatever you want, so I sort of draw on the old book mythology a lot more and I made the bad guy Fing Fang Foom, because that was sort of like everybody… all the fans were like “oh man, the bad guy should be Fing Fang Foom,” and there’s no way in the first movie you could do that, but in a comic book with Adi drawing of course you want it to be a giant fucking dragon, you know what I mean?
Quint: Yeah, yeah.
Jon Favreau: And what’s cool too is that Fing Fang Foom is like… such a weird villain, and it turns out that he’s been around since before Iron Man actually. He predates Iron Man by a couple of years, because he was part of the old Stan Lee horror and mystery series of books that it was even… I think it was even before it was called Marvel. When did it turn to Marvel? Was it…
Quint: Sixty…four…? (I was wrong, it was 1961)
Jon Favreau: This was before Fantastic Four I think, so it was a lot… me and Adi had a lot of fun, because he was like “it’s so easy to write comics compared to movies,” you know, you just write out panel ideas and they can do anything you want and so he and I would just laugh on the phone and I’d email him ideas and he’d go back to me and send back sketches, so it was just a really fun way to collaborate. It’s of course, a lot more work for him, than for me, but he’s going to be coming out here and we’re going to do an announcement…
Quint: That’s awesome.
Jon Favreau: Which is fun too, because here… you know COMIC-CON started off to be about comics and now its… the movies are stealing a lot of the thunder, it’s good to go back and give a little to the comic book fans too, so there you go… there’s another little scoop. Alright man, you’ve always been great and I appreciate it.
And there it is. Favreau’s a good guy and I’m glad that he’s really knocking it out of the park. I’m so psyched to see this thing. I’m working with Paramount to arrange some sort of edit bay visit… and I might have some exclusive Iron Man goodies for you by Monday morning. Keep looking back for those. Okay, time for sleep!