Robert Downey Jr. has finished most of the heavy lifting needed for his role in “The Avengers” and last week, over lunch at his office in Venice, the two-time Oscar nominee felt ready to talk about a different heroic project: “Iron Man 3.”
“My sense of it is that we need to leave it all on the field — whatever that means in the end,” Downey said of the May 2013 film. “You can pick several different points of departure for that.”
Speaking of departures, director Jon Favreau won’t be back for the third installment of a franchise that propelled his career to new heights — even as it established upstart Marvel Studios as a serious Hollywood player and signaled the popcorn redemption of Downey after years of addiction and legal entanglements. ”Iron Man 2,” however, was an especially grueling shoot and by the end of it the relationship between the director and the star was pretty frosty. Downey and Favreau are pals again now and even appeared on stage together earlier this summer in Hollywood for a warm and funny reunion.
“Iron Man 2″ brought in $624 million in worldwide box office but the reviews weren’t as strong as they were on the first film and Downey says that, watching the sequel now, he sees a film in which a lot of things worked but plenty of other things didn’t. The next movie will be written and directed by Shane Black, who became a brand name in Hollywood in the 1980s for writing action films such as “Lethal Weapon,” “Lethal Weapon 2″ and “The Last Boy Scout.” Black made his directorial debut in 2005 with ”Kiss Kiss Bang Bang,” the deliriously over-the-top dark comedy that starred Downey as a petty criminal who is whisked off to the West Coast for a Tinseltown adventure that promises fame but delivers a body count.
It premiered at the Cannes Film Festival and was praised for its sharp wit and over-the-top moments that nodded both to film noir convention and Hollywood culture, but Downey said the meta-charms of “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” won’t be revisited by the Marvel superhero film — unless of course they are.
“The thing about Shane is that it will be anything but one of those moments,” Downey said, ”unless we come up with something that is so cheeky and character-driven and perfect that it has to be in the movie.”
Black began his Hollywood life as a prodigy among blockbuster screenwriters — he famously wrote “Lethal Weapon” in six weeks at age 23 — but by the mid-’90s the scene lost much of its appeal after watching his scripts for “The Last Action Hero” and “The Long Kiss Goodnight” reach the screen with too many revisions and too little spirit. The budget on “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” was a tiny $15 million, but to Downey that number reveals more about Black’s capabilities as a director than it does his limitations.
“He’s more than the sum of his parts and he’s also kind of been a sleeper for a long time,” Downey said. “We’re not talking much about [the script] right now because Shane is off writing and we talked before that and when we are talking again the talking is going to be over pretty quick [because we're on the same page]. It’s kind of like we’re fighting on the same side and at the same time we’re circling each other, so it’s all great. It should be great.”
Favreau, meanwhile, is coming off the mixed-bag performance of “Cowboys & Aliens” and moving on to “Magic Kingdom” for Disney. The filmmaker has said that he is eager to see someone else sit down to play in Tony Stark’s toy box, and on stage at the Hero Complex Film Festival he made it clear that he approves of the Black choice by winkingly saying he’s ready to reprise his on-screen role in the franchise as Stark’s pal, Happy Hogan, if a suitable salary can be negotiated.
Downey was still chuckling about that gag last week and pleased to hear the sentiment that runs beneath it. ”Bringing in Shane Black to write and direct ‘Iron Man 3′ to me is basically the only transition from Favreau to a ‘next thing’ that Favreau and the audience and Marvel and I could ever actually sign off on,” Downy said. With a grin he added: “The fun thing is going to be getting Happy in the movie.”
– Geoff Boucher
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