Tony Stark makes you feel

…sounds like an uncompleted Mad Lib, awaiting your response when asked for an emotion. But the theme songs for the Marvel ’60s cartoons were never that lyrically brilliant, catchiness aside. “He’s got radioactive blood” really isn’t a satisfactory response to the question of whether or not Spiderman is strong. In fact, it sort of casts doubt on the notion.

That was the very smooth introduction to my post about a special screening of Iron Man I attended just a few weeks ago. The Aero Theatre in Santa Monica invited John Favreau and Robert Downey Jr. (in a very fetching sweater from the Freddy Krueger collection) to come do a running commentary for a live screening. Which is cool enough, but it seems someone at Paramount/Marvel never bothered to record an actual commentary for the DVD, meaning I was lucky enough to be among the few who got to hear one. At least until they release a special edition correcting the omission. Someone in the crowd undoubtably recorded the thing, so a torrent must be floating around there somewhere, but for those of you too lazy to find it or are sure the sound quality’s crap, here’s some highlights just in time for the home video release.

  • By playing “Back in Black” immediately after the opening credits, they saved around $100,000 in licensing fees. Protip for aspiring filmmakers!
  • Favreau on Stark’s bar-in-a-briefcase, complete with rising serving surface: “That’s just some prop guy under the table.”
  • There was intense discussion on how many rocks should fall on the bad guy’s head when Stark fires a missile at him. Favreau: “It should be enough that he could have died, but not enough that it’s ridiculous when he survives.” Apparently, they never reached a satisfactory amount of rocks.
  • The production team placed an ad for Tony Stark’s house in a real-estate magazine, with the contact information leading to ads for the movie.
  • Downey served as a sort of consultant on how people react when people are released after a prolonged confinement. Stark getting a hamburger at first opportunity was his idea.
  • A great deal of the dialog was improvised, with a camera on each actor during each take. It made for some bland lighting and camera movement, but it produced a lot of good takes and produced elements that were incorporated into the story.
  • Things like the running gag with the robots in Stark’s workshop. The script didn’t mention them, but Downey thought the robots weren’t nearly cool enough for Stark, and berated them on the set and during takes.
  • All of the filming, save the scenes at Ceasar’s palace, were filmed in California. Favreau on the terrorist’s campsite: “Yeah, that’s just some parking lot in Playa Vista.”
  • Obadiah Stane plays some Salieri on the piano in one scene. Symbolism!
  • The hot-rod is Downey’s. He was supposed to simply be installing spark-plugs, but that wasn’t visual enough so it progressed until he was disassembling the engine block. In his interview on the Tonight Show, Leno pointed out that Stark obviously knows nothing about cars.
  • Favreau got a call from the US Military demanding to know how he knew about the holographic interface with which Stark designs the suit.
  • Downey: “Of course they get there in their Audi, because without Audi, how the hell would anybody get anywhere?”
  • Speaking of Audi’s, they totaled two shooting an action sequence, but ended up never using those shots. Audi wasn’t happy.
  • One of the first things cut from the budget was Stark getting in and out of the suit, but Favreau was able to convince Marvel that folks loved that kind of stuff based on the success of Transformers.
  • A leaked photo from the set was used as the image for the newspaper at the end of the movie. Apparently, that resulted in a lawsuit and it’s been altered in the DVD release.
  • Favreau: “We’ll have a better third act next time, promise.”

There was a short Q&A session afterwards, and both confirmed they were attached to the sequel. Attempts at a cell phone picture met with failure. Still, a fun night all around.

Also: I got engaged this last weekend. A most heartfelt thanks to Annie for letting me be a part of her life.
See Parish, open up the front page and your contributors get all “personal life” on you. [I don’t really care so long as you don’t use the front page for your proposal. I’ll edit that cliché crap right out. — Parish]

6 thoughts on “Tony Stark makes you feel

  1. I saw this pretty recently myself and liked it a lot, so this commentary is quite amusing. The Salieri bit was obscure enough that I had to spend a few seconds remembering who he was.

  2. This film just opened this past weekend in Japan so I saw it for the first time on Saturday. I had a great time, as did my wife, and I’m pleasantly surprised to hear about the ad-libbing. Their take on Stark was probably the key to making the entire film as enjoyable as it was. Sure, the F/X were great, but not every comic book adventure film can make me laugh as often as Iron Man did.

    PS Congrats on your engagement.

  3. I learned the meaning of the word “yield” from the Captain America theme song at…ca. age 7? Yep, the ubiquitous traffic sign wasn’t clear enough for me. You know, I probably learned “oppose” that way, too. And the proper construction of relative clauses.

    Which isn’t really what you expect to get from well-written lyrics, generally, so yeah, maybe not such great theme songs.

    But congrats on the engagement!!

  4. Grats on the engagement!

    I hope I can hear that commentary at some point, that sounded really fun. I recently watched the original Star Trek movie at a convention with running commentary from one of the guys who updated the effects for the DVD release, and the director of documentary about Star Trek fans. It was amazing.

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