Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with my phoner with Jon Favreau regarding his latest flick IRON CHEF 2, about a superhero with a spatula… No wait, I meant IRON MIKE 2 where the boxing champ dons a suit of armor and bites off the ears of the bad guys… What? Hold on a second, guys. What? I’m in the middle of my introdu… Oh… OH!
Sorry about that, I talked to him about IRON MAN 2, that’s right.
Jon Favreau is right up there with Bruce Campbell as being the guy I’ve interviewed the most in my time here at AICN. I love talking to the guy, usually agree with his outlook (although we have a bit of a disagreement on 3-D in the below interview) and generally feel that he’s a genuine movie lover and good guy that just fell into a geek’s dream… Oh, and has proven himself to be a talented director. That, too.
You’ll see the interview is fairly conversational and we start off by talking quite a bit about COWBOYS AND ALIENS and JOHN CARTER OF MARS, which he was attached to for a while before Paramount lost the rights.
To me the most interesting things we talk about involve the importance of the fun Marvel in-jokes in the first film, things that were just throw-away references or gags that suddenly have become important pieces in the cannon of Marvel Studios.
Keep an ear out for some Amazing Sound-O-Text, but most of all have fun! Enjoy the Favs!
Quint: How are you doing, man?
Jon Favreau: It’s going very good.
Quint: Is this your big press day in LA?
Jon Favreau: It’s four days of press and it’s the big premiere day, which is odd because it’s not coming out in the States for another week and a half. But here we are. We’ve got the band back together again. Everybody is doing their little Round Robbins and we are getting it going.
Quint: Nice. Well, I’ll have you know that, ironically, I was called to the set of JOHN CARTER OF MARS tomorrow, but that would have had me miss the Austin Fan Screening and I had them move the visit so I could see the movie.
Jon Favreau: Oh? Good for you. Good man! (laughs)
Quint: Now you know where my priorities are.
Jon Favreau: Very good. It’s going to be very exciting. There’s a lot of cross over, so I’ve been hearing good things about that. You have the same technical people who have worked on that working on this, so I’m hearing good stuff. I think that franchise is in good hands. I can’t wait to see it.
I’m glad I didn’t have to solve all of those problems! Let those guys beat their heads against the wall on that one. That’s quite an undertaking.
Quint: I was going to say ,though, if you have mutual friends or colleagues working on it, I’m sure you had the temptation to say “Oh, make sure the skies of Barsoom are…”
Jon Favreau: Yeah, no… You know, I spoke to Andrew [Stanton] and actually visited him when he was prepping it at Pixar at the very beginning and gave him my blessing and well wishes and passed the torch as others had passed it to me in the hundred years of the endeavor to get this movie to hit the screen, so I’m glad it’s happening finally.
It deserves to be and we all know it’s in great hands, so I’m excited to see it and you know then I‘m working on COWBOYS AND ALIENS, so I’ve got my own version of a period alien piece that I’m working on, so I get to really explore something with a little bit more humor and a little bit more up my alley and I’ve always wanted to do a western, since I wrote THE MARSHALL OF REVOLATION right after SWINGERS and I’m getting to work with Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford.
Quint: Yeah, I was going to say “They don’t have Indiana Jones!”
Jon Favreau: (laughs) I’m very excited. He is the real deal, man. I can’t believe… I’m finally at the point where I can actually have a real conversation with him without fumbling over my words like Chris Farley doing an interview on THE CHRIS FARLEY SHOW because that was most of my conversations. “Remember that scene… that scene when you shot Greedo? That was cool.”
Quint: “Remember in BLADE RUNNER when… when you jumped on the roofs of the cars…”
Jon Favreau: “Before there was the narration?”
Quint: (laughs) That’s awesome. I can’t wait. We don’t get westerns a lot. The iconography of the western is something that you can play around with a lot.
Jon Favreau: Sure, and then I’ve got Spielberg, which brings all of his cinematic advice into my ear, it’s just… It is a dream come true. It’s wonderful. And now I also have the chops from working four years on the IRON MAN franchise, so I get the technology and now we are exploring 3-D and what that would be like.
I was very adamant about not converting IRON MAN 2. It wasn’t designed to be 3-D. I think maybe someday when the technology catches up for conversion, when I’m a little bit more convinced that it can be done effectively... and I think a lot of that is going to come. I get a sense that that’s going to come when we see STAR WARS EPISODE 4 converted. I have a feeling they are going to do that right or if Cameron does one of his old films [and] converts… I think it’s going to take somebody who has tremendous resources and technical savvy to be able to bring all of that to bare to really establish a standard baseline for conversion, if 3-D in fact sticks around. And I think that whether it sticks around or not is going to be dependant on the quality of the 3-D movies that come. Thankfully AVATAR kicked the door down and showed us what could be done.
Quint: Yeah, but you even hear Cameron talking now about the knee jerk from the studios is in the wrong direction.
Jon Favreau: Yeah, but I think that will all come out in the wash. I definitely am looking into 3-D, but if I do it, I’ll do it stereo. I’ll shoot stereo. I won’t do it the other way and then it becomes a matter of embracing digital as well. “Is that the right thing to do for a western? With EXT. DAY?” There’s a lot of things to come to terms with.
Quint: Well see, that fits a little bit more. The stuff that has me worried is like when Ridley Scott says he wants to do the ALIEN prequels in 3-D. 3D works with bright material, which is why the cartoon stuff is such a natural thing.
Jon Favreau: But digital is very different. Digital photography, which is what it demands, is better in the darkness, but you do lose a full stop just in all of the polarization and all of that stuff, so it does tend to darken things, you’re right.
But I think it also creates a tremendous mood, so ALIEN really lends itself, because I’m looking at ALIEN and ALIENS again and again as we figure out the way we are going to approach COWBOYS AND ALIENS and that’s one of the benchmark alien films that we would want to reference, at least cinematically, for part of the movie and as we dissect that you see what a craftsman Ridley was, and Cameron for that matter in the second one, when it comes to mood and environment. So much of it is the mood and the tension. I think 3-D can really be quite helpful in that regard. 3-D, when executed well makes for a very dream like experience. That’s why AVATAR was so well suited for it.
Quint: Yeah, well we should probably talk a little bit about IRON MAN or else…
Jon Favreau: Let’s do that. (laughs) So, you will be at the show, that’s great. I want to hear what you think. I’m in that vacuum between being done, being happy with it as a filmmaker, but not having had any feedback and having the bar of the first movie… It’s a high bar that casts a shadow. Nobody expected anything from the first one.
Quint: I re-read a couple of the interview that we did surrounding the first movie and you said that “Oh man, the sequel should be so much easier because we don’t have to do the origin story…”
Jon Favreau: Which is true! It was easier, I think. I had Robert [Downey Jr.] from the jump, so that was good and then I was able to get Mickey [Rourke], which that was my big challenge this time around, making that all happen and getting everybody comfortable with that decision.
We had the core relationship between Tony and Pepper and we were able to add Scarlett [Johansson] in to throw things sideways a little bit, so that helped make it not too repetitive and then you know I also… Fortunately we hadn’t had that much action in the first film, so we were able to double the amount of digital shots and really up the ante on the action and the scope of the whole thing. So, thankfully we left ourselves some place to go. The first one was very small and intimate. This one is a little more blown open, yet I don’t feel like we crossed that line where we went too far and it becomes just a wall of chaos. And then I also had Genndy [Tartakovsky] helping me out this time, which was tremendous.
Quint: Which was the most exciting thing from the last time we had talked, where it was like “Whoa, what a great idea!”
Jon Favreau: You’ll see it now. When you see the movie, you will definitely see his influence because his sense of humor fit in very well with us and to have the action have a little bit of a tongue and cheek quality to it, without breaking the reality, was great. I just did a commentary and identified some of the moments that he was really instrumental in with some of my favorite stuff from the film.
I used his trick from SAMURAI JACK, if you are killing robots, you can eviscerate them and have blood spray the frame if it’s oil and we had a lot of fun with that.
Quint: Awesome! You are looking now at the challenge of having an extremely successful and an extremely well liked movie to follow up. You are also, from what I understand, peppering a lot more of the future of MARVEL into this one, where with the last film it feels like you had a couple of hints with the Ten Rings flag and the big post-credits…
Jon Favreau: Yeah, we had fun with it, we definitely did.
Quint: But was is more pressure though?
Jon Favreau: No, I was never asked to do anything. Everything was something that was an idea that came to us, like “What would be cool?” not “What do I need to do?” It’s not that precise, it’s more foreshadowing as opposed to actually setting up things that are going to literally pay off one to one. It’s more something that we will… It’s more about playing with expectations as fans and giving clues and throwing things in the margins and in the background.
If you didn’t read the books, you wouldn’t even notice most of it, but for the people who really love to examine it and the people who found the shield in the background, you know what I mean?
Jon Favreau: In that first time around… That was something that I had barely noticed. It was something that was like a little inside joke between ILM and us that turned into a reality that we then had to reckon with. We had to reconcile it in the future. Same thing with saying “I am Iron Man” at the end or even the Nick Fury after the credits was something that was like “Hey, let’s do this. This would be cool.”
Well, now that’s our reality and the whole sequel has more to do with those little added things that we threw in just for the hell of it to get a rise out of the audience and the fans. That’s now the reality that we are dealing with and so Nick Fury has a very prominent role, not just in this film, but the entire franchise of the Marvel universe and “I am Iron Man” ended up being just dealing with… Those four words became the biggest factor in how we broke the story on the second film.
Quint: That’s interesting and it’s forcing you to embrace Tony Stark more than you would Iron Man because you are not just marrying him with the machine, but also forcing him be such a public persona. When you have somebody like Robert in the role…
Jon Favreau: Well, you want to see him deal with shit, you know? That’s the bottom line. You want to see him deal with situations and circumstances and obstacles, so everything becomes a… Whether it’s throwing Mickey Rourke in his path or playing with the relationship between he and Pepper, that MOONLIGHTING thing and how that changes, and then you throw in Sam Rockwell, who I love, as somebody who is trying to be Tony Stark… I gave myself a lot of wonderful tools to work with here with this tremendous ensemble and what was really cool was that everybody that we added was of the same pedigree as the people that we had the first time around and so I really had tremendous resources to draw from here.
Quint: Yeah and picking the villain, or in this case villains, is such a crucial part to any comic book film.
Jon Favreau: Yeah and especially a sequel. Think of the good sequels. It could be done well. X-MEN 2, SPIDER-MAN 2, BATMAN 2, WRATH OF KHAN, EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, you know. We looked at all of those films and said “Why do these ones work?” But we needed a big villain this time around, we really did, and somebody that you didn’t have to spend a lot of screen time with to really understand.
We couldn’t just hire somebody off a TV show who was ten years younger than Robert and say “There he is, look out!” You cut to Mickey Rourke, with all of those prison tattoos and his gold teeth, and you see him building an arc reactor and you know something’s going to happen. That degree of danger allows us to have fun tonally with Robert on the other side, much like the way that having him ambushed and in a hostage video with the beginning of the first one gave us a little bit of freedom to play tonally with the level of humor without undermining the stakes of the film and not making it feel like a comic book.
We wanted that Marvel feel and Marvel is about emotional reality. It’s about danger and it’s about having a sense of humor and flawed heroes and naturalistic banter and the soap opera that unfolds because these are real people tat have to deal with these circumstances that are crazy, but they have to deal with it in a real way.
Marvel really cornered the market when I was reading it growing up of having a human touch, having these characters have peccadilloes and flaws. With DC, Superman was carved from granite… Tony was a screw up. Peter Parker was a nerd who lived in my neighborhood. That’s another thing, we are playing against the backdrop of New York. It ain’t Gotham City.
We tried to set it in as much in reality as we can and that’s difficult because you have to… The politics change, the backdrops changes from film to film. It’s a lot different, the world’s a lot different than IRON MAN 1 and we wanted to reflect that.
[A rep. mentions there is only time for one last question.]
Quint: I guess the question has to be on your future. What’s it looking like? Have you figured anything out past COWBOYS AND ALIENS?
Jon Favreau: They have asked me to exec produce AVENGERS and I look forward to staying involved.
Quint: Are you going to be very hands on or is that going to be going on around the time of…
Jon Favreau: I think Marvel… one of the great aspects of working with Marvel was that they really gave me a tremendous amount of freedom as a director. There were definitely restrictive parameters in working with a new studio and it emulated in many ways working on an independent film rather than a studio film, but by the same token Kevin (Feige) and the studio were always extremely supportive of my vision and I ended up getting everything that I needed, whether it was cast or everything that I had wanted to creatively tell the story.
I think that in the tradition of that, they are hiring excellent directors. Everybody that they have hired or are considering to hire, they are making very strong choices and I would be as involved as little or as much as the director would want. I’m a resource, but I definitely have a vested interest in this universe baring out, because these are… It’s a continuation of what we created with the first two films and I’d love to see that become something that’s built upon in a way that’s not just successful, but something that honors what the fans have come to expect and what the promise of Marvel Studios always was.
So I guess it’s a long way of saying the directors, whoever is directing these films are the boss and I am somebody who will be of service to them as much or as little as they would like.
Quint: All right, cool. Well thanks so much, dude. I very much look forward to seeing the movie!
Thanks as always for the good interview, Favs! Hope you guys dug it and dig the flick. I’ve seen it once now (notice how he dodged any mention of him being at the Austin screening the next day) and just bought my Double-Feature tickets for Thursday night (Iron Man and then the midnight of Iron Man 2). I’m sure I’ll see a few of you geeks there!
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