“It all started here,” director Jon Favreau told the packed house during Saturday’s “Iron Man 2” session at Comic-Con International. “Nobody cared before you guys did.”
It was just two years ago that “Iron Man” descended on the San Diego Convention Center and went on to make a staggering $318 million in the U.S. (and nearly $600 million worldwide) for a film about industrialist playboy-turned-fully armed superhero Tony Stark — previously one of Marvel’s lesser-known crime fighters.
Anticipation for the sequel’s panel was so high that even Marvel executives and studio guests had a tough time getting in — and some didn’t.
Though Favreau said production on “Iron Man 2” wrapped just a week and a half ago, the director brought five minutes of footage from the film, which — if the reaction from the extra-packed Hall H is any indication — could top the first. Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) is working alone at the outset of the sequel. He rejects another offer to join forces with the group of heroes being assembled by Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and is being ordered by the government to turn in his super-powered suit, which has been branded too dangerous a weapon.
The special preview also introduced the new cast members Garry Shandling as the senator demanding Stark’s suit, Don Cheadle as Jim Rhodes (War Machine), Mickey Rourke as bad guy Ivan Vanko (a.k.a. Whiplash), Scarlett Johannson as Natasha Romanoff (aka Black Widow) and Sam Rockwell as arms merchant Justin Hammer.
Cheadle’s replacement of actor Terrence Howard, who played Rhodes in the first movie, is dealt with quickly during an introductory exchange between Stark and Rhodes: “It’s me. I’m here. Deal with it. Let’s move on,” Rhodes says. (Howard reportedly exited the sequel after a salary dispute.)
Later, during the Q&A portion of the panel, Cheadle was asked if his performance was informed by Howard’s. The actor said he stuck to what the script dictated, “but I will say, being the vampire that I am, I siphoned off everything I could from Terrence’s performance and then modernized it for 2009.”
The audience also got its first look at Whiplash’s electrically charged whips and Cheadle donning his own high-tech get-up as War Machine.
“I can’t believe your rig was heavier than my rig,” Downey joked.
“It was a contractual thing,” Cheadle replied.
When asked by a fan what she did to get the part of Black Widow, Johansson said, “I did a couple of knee bends, some lunges — that came out wrong.” Downey jumped in, addressing the fan, “Did you bump your head? Her audition was her body of work.” Favreau said he liked that Johanssen showed up to their initial meeting having already dyed her hair red for the job. To prepare for the physical nature of the role itself, the actress said she trained in mixed-martial arts and ate a “a lot of egg-white omelets.”
Rourke wasn’t able to attend the panel, but in his absence, his co-stars talked up his commitment to the film. Favreau revealed that, to get into character, Rourke spent some quality time in a Russian prison.
“And I thought I was eccentric,” Downey said. “He’s something else.”
“You know, after perestroika, the first film to arrive in Russia was ‘9 1/2 Weeks,’ ” Favreau said. “Mickey’s a sex god in Russia.”
As for the planned movie “The Avengers,” a film that would team up a smorgasbord of Marvel heroes including Iron Man, one fan asked Favreau point-blank: Are you going to direct that film?
“I still have another year on [‘Iron Man 2’] to go and they’re getting ready to make ‘Thor’ with Kenneth Branagh directing,” Favreau said. “‘Avengers’ doesn’t shoot until we’re done with ‘Iron Man 2…Hopefully the movies will continue to cross-pollinate with each other and be involved with each other.”
How’s that for a non-answer?
“Iron Man” is set for a May 2010 release.
— Denise Martin
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Photo: Robert Downey Jr., left, and Jon Favreau pump up the crowd at Comic-Con during Saturday’s “Iron Man 2” panel. Credit: Getty Images