Iron Man 3: Director Shane Black Interview
Iron Man 3 writer/director Shane Black has long been considered one of the pioneer screenwriters of the modern action genre. He made his breakthrough at the age of 26 when he wrote the screenplay for Lethal Weapon in 1987. Starring Mel Gibson and Danny Glover, the film set up one of the most successful action/comedy franchises of all time. Black subsequently wrote the screenplays for Lethal Weapon 2, The Last Boy Scout, Last Action Hero and The Long Kiss Goodnight. In 2005, he wrote and directed the well-received Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, which marked the return to the big screen for Robert Downey Jr.
Black has also worked in front of the camera appearing in As Good as It Gets, Predator, RoboCop 3 and Dead Heat. He is producing the upcoming comedy Agent: Century 21, starring Cameron Diaz and Benicio Del Toro.
First, here’s a clip from the UK Iron Man 3 press conference, then read on for more from Shane Black…
What was your impression of the first Marvel’s Iron Man as an outsider/friend of the star and not as a filmmaker?
“I was very happy for Robert [Downey Jr] when I found out he was going to be Iron Man. It’s one of those why-didn’t-I-think-of-that? situations where you have certain actors that when you hire them, you get what you pay for. With Robert you never quite know what you’re getting but he always seems to elevate the material and that’s what’s great about him.
“Robert came to me early on with Jon [Favreau]. They had a version but they were looking for some ideas. I like to think I contributed very little. I just sat and talked with them about the movie. I was impressed just how gung-ho they were to do this thing in kind of a realistic style and make a real-world film, not just a comic book film.
“Robert elevates anything he takes on. He is one of those people who is very personal about it. He’s very passionate and intense about not just giving you a performance you recognize from his last performance. I think he’s one of our great actors and the idea that he can do something that is as intimate and wonderful as Chaplin and then also do Iron Man and not be cynical about it, is remarkable. But Robert is Iron Man; he really committed to it.”
What was it like as a director working with an actor who is so involved in the film making process like Robert Downey Jr?
“Robert shows up to play ball, and you’ve got to be pretty alert in the morning, which I’m not generally. I remember standing outside his trailer like jumping up and down a couple times, gulping down coffee because I knew I had to go in and face this guy. No matter where you go in the room he’s going to be two inches away from your face. He has his ideas and we collaborate, and we’ve done it before, but he’s a force of nature to be reckoned with.
‘He’s an adult. He’s a child. He’s a genius. He can be the most hyperactive, kinetic guy who is limitless in his energy. Basically he’s a phenomenon. He’s remarkable to work with, and he shows up to play. You’ve got to be on your game, because when he walks in, it’s not about chewing the fat and drinking coffee. He wants to go. And so, that was our challenge – just to be ready on set for him. When he walked in, we had to be up to it.”
Does Robert Downey Jr motivate your filmmaking process?
“Yes. When you want someone to trust you, you can’t be lazy and you can’t slack and when you want someone to trust you as much as I wanted Robert to trust me, it forced me to perform at a certain level. I didn’t want to disappoint. I didn’t want him to see me as unwilling to do something I was asking him to do. So I had to step up. Robert is the kind of actor that challenges you in a way that’s not antagonistic; it’s exciting. I’ve always said that it’s probably better to hang around people you admire instead of people who admire you.
“It keeps you on your toes and it keeps thing fresh and hanging around Robert keeps me on my toes. It’s just a really challenging and invigorating kind of creative relationship. I feel he brings out my best because he has the grace to believe in me.”
“Drew Pearce, my co-writer, and I went hog wild
when we were told that there should be extra suits!”