Iron Man - Jon Favreau interview
Interview by Rob Carnevale
JON Favreau talks about directing the latest superhero movie Iron Man for Marvel, why he thinks superhero films have taken off since 9/11 and why Hollywood has chosen carefully when it comes to directors for these types of films…
Q. I believe it was down to Zathura that enabled you to make this movie. Perhaps you could tell us…
Jon Favreau: What Zathura was? [Laughs]
Q. What the suits saw in that science fiction family movie that made you ideally suited to Iron Man?
Jon Favreau: It’s interesting the way that Hollywood works. You’d think Zathura would have led to this. For those of you who haven’t heard of it, Zathura was one of those movies that – as Mel Brooks once said – “it wasn’t released, it escaped”. It cost very little to make and made even less than it cost. But it was received well critically, I’m very proud of it and it was a fine film geared towards kids. There were a lot of special effects in it. But I think the thing that opened up the door for this film was the success that Elf had back home. It was viewed as a good movie, it made a tremendous amount of money and it cost very little to make and that opens a lot of doors for you as a director. You find your name on “the list”. Every category has a list and I was on the director’s list.
I’d known Avi Arad from working on DareDevil. I played a supporting character named Foggy Nelson and when they formed their own studio I got a phone call to stop by and they said that the first property they were going to self-finance was Iron Man. And being a comic book fan I, of course, knew about this character; he’s been around for 40 years. But most people who weren’t fans had never heard of him. So, it was an interesting challenge. I knew that the technology of the day – and I’m not that big of a fan of CGI – but the work that’s been done on hard surfaces and metal (metal shading and lighting) is very convincing right now – more so than when you work with organic heroes or figures. And I felt that the tone of the lead and the tone of the film could be a lot of fun. In this landscape of dozens of superhero movies that are being made and continue to be made I felt that this would be a unique opportunity.
Q. How conscious were you of placing this comic book story within the context of the real world?
Jon Favreau: Well, comic books have always been a reflection of a certain aspect of the collective sub-conscious. I grew up, of course, during the Cold War and characters would pop up like Crimson Dynamo representing the Soviet Union and Captain America would fight against people that represented Red China. It was always done in a way where you removed it one generation so that you never felt like you were having your nose rubbed in the problems of the day. But it allowed you to sort of have your collective anxiety expressed and then here comes this superhero to offer simple solutions to these complex problems.
I think it’s no coincidence that since September 11  superhero movies have really… starting with Spider-Man people have really gravitated towards these simple good against evil stories. Now, five or six years later, they’ve tried to capture some of the imagery and anxiety that I know we feel as Americans and then to have the fantasy of this guy that can come in and thoughtfully take care of, or get rid of the bad guys and save the good guys. It’s part of the escapism that I think people are looking for as they go to the movies to take their mind off of their problems for two hours.
Q. You seem a little cynical about the whole Hollywood movie machine and yet you’re still involved with it?
Jon Favreau: I think to characterise it that we have issues with Hollywood is to sort of put it backwards. I think Hollywood has sort of had issues with what our tastes are up until now. What’s nice is that the contentious relationship between Hollywood and filmmakers seems to be… there seems to be little cracks of daylight and I think one of those cracks of daylight is the genre of the superhero movie. It might sound like an odd statement but if you look ever since Sam Raimi and then Bryan Singer, and if you then lump in Peter Jackson and now Christopher Nolan, Hollywood has found that by giving opportunities to do these large movies to people who start off on small, thoughtful independent films, or comedies or genre films, it’s easier to find a storyteller who takes pride in their work and teach them how to make a big movie than to take an action director and teach them how to tell a story.
And remember, this wasn’t a studio movie because Marvel was the studio who were answering to two or three people that were on the set and part of the collaboration, so we had tremendous freedom. The explosions had to be great, there had to be enough action set pieces and we had to fulfil certain dynamic obligations to help make the film marketable, so it made its money back, but Marvel had seen bad movies and good movies that had good action that seemed to make them money. And they gave us permission to make this movie as complex and as good as we wanted to. So, as this cast came together around, first Robert and then Terrence Howard, we started to think that we could really elevate this and make it something that stood out and at least played differently than what the expectations might be. I have very few complaints at this point. I feel like I’ve had more freedom on this film than anyone that I’ve worked on.