Iron Man 3 is an “80s action throwback” says Kevin Feige

Marvel Studios’ Kevin Feige on what Lethal Weapon’s Shane Black brought to Iron Man 3

Robert Downey Jr as Tony Star in Iron Man 3
Robert Downey Jr as Tony Star in Iron Man

Iron Man and Iron Man 2 came to us under the watchful eye of longtime Marvel marching society member Jon Favreau, but Iron Man 3 is a different arc reactor of coruscating energy altogether. Speaking exclusively to SciFiNow, Marvel Studios president and Iron Man 3 executive producer Kevin Feige reveals why writer Drew Pearce and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and Lethal Weapon director Shane Black made the perfect team…

How did screenwriter Drew Pearce get involved with the film?

We had developed a film with Drew Pearce [an adaptation of Brian K Vaughan’s Runaways] and we didn’t end up making that film. As we were starting to film Marvel’s Avengers Assemble and were finishing up post production on Thor and Captain America, I was in London and I asked to meet with Drew, who had just been told, and was disappointed understandably that we weren’t going to be moving forward with this movie that he’d written, but I asked him about Iron Man 3.

Of his own accord he wrote a 25-page treatment and outline, sort of an essay of ideas, about where he saw the character going. While we didn’t go with everything he had in that initial document, there was so much there and so much passion, that we decided we wanted him to come on board and team him up with the writer/director we were hiring, Shane Black.

After some initial hesitancy on both Drew and Shane’s part, within a matter of weeks they became great friends and, most importantly, great partners in this screenplay. Drew has stayed with us throughout the entire process and done a tremendous job.

You tend to have your writers on set while shooting. Why is it important to have such access to the writers?

I love having the main writers with us throughout as much of production as possible in case there’s a good idea that pops up or a better idea that comes up or if there is a concern on set. You put a scene on its feet, the actor starts saying the lines and there’s a little concern about a word here or there and, while Robert [Downey Jr] famously loves to ad-lib, you always want to make sure that those ad-libs are still servicing the plot.

If something’s not working, how can we build something that does work for the scene, but still bridges properly from the prior scene into the next scene? Having a writer there is a tremendous asset.

Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige

What was it about Shane that made you know right away that he was the man to bring in for the job?

We’ve talked a lot about it, and Robert has talked a lot about it, and it’s true that Shane has sort of been in the shadows of the Iron Man world since Iron Man 1.  Robert had worked with him on a great movie called Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, which Shane wrote and directed, and frankly that was one of the movies that Jon Favreau and I looked at when we initially started considering the idea of casting Robert for Iron Man.

Robert would take scenes on Iron Man 1 and go over to Shane’s house and just ask Shane about them, and Shane would give some great input to it and the one that I remember most clearly was the scene at the beginning of act two in Iron Man 1. Tony’s returned from Afghanistan, he’s broken out in the Mark 1, Rhodey has picked him up, Pepper has met him outside the C-17 there at Edwards Air Force Base, and the first thing he says is that he wants to do a press conference.

He ends up coming in eating a hamburger and tells everybody to sit down. He talks about his father a little bit, in the ramp up to announcing that he is no longer making weapons, and much of that scene was written and inspired by the conversations with Shane Black. So he was always sort of there helping and guiding in the background, particularly for Robert, for his character.  So when it came time to find a new filmmaker for Iron Man 3, I won’t say he was the first person we thought of, because you always start with a list and you go through a lot of names.

Frankly, we had no idea if Shane would be interested or not and when it became clear that Shane was interested and we began taking meetings with him, it became clear that we had to do this. There was a manifest destiny from Kiss Kiss Bang Bang through casting Robert and now to Shane doing it and bringing that Shane Black energy to the franchise.

There are examples out there of very good part threes, and there are examples out there of disappointingly, mediocre part threes. It’s our goal to make this one of the better and more exciting part threes, and the only way we really feel we can do that is by taking chances and by not just sticking quote unquote to the formula, and by going outside the box.  And frankly, Iron Man 3, under the direction of Shane Black, is almost another genre. It is a technological thriller as Shane calls it. It’s a throwback to action movies from the 80s and 90s and just sort of has a balls-to-the-wall nature to it.

It delves into Tony Stark’s character in a great, quirky and unexpected way, and one of the signatures of a Shane Black film, which Iron Man 3 has in spades, is that when you think the movie is going to go left, it suddenly goes right. That was fun to do. It’s scary sometimes, but fun to do. You can probably only do it on a part three, where the audience has expectations. The audience thinks they know the way you’re going to go with something, and then you totally turn it on its head and spin it. It was exciting, and it was a way to not fall into the ‘threequelitis’ trap.

Iron Man 3 is released 26 April 2013. Read an exclusive interview with Robert Downey Jr and screenwriter Drew Pearce in this month’s SciFiNow.