‘Iron Man 2’: Jon Favreau reveals his hero’s new secret weapon [UPDATED]

Jan. 20, 2010 | 8:33 p.m.

Jon Favreau and Iron Man


There are so many superheroes in Hollywood these days that they’re tripping over each other’s capes, but director Jon Favreau has a secret weapon that will set the “Iron Man” franchise apart from the masked masses. Or perhaps it’s better to think of it a not-so-secret weapon.

“The fact that our hero has no secret identity — that opens up a lot of things for us creatively,” says Favreau, whose Marvel Comics character returns to the big screen on May 7. The high-flying franchise from Marvel Studios and Paramount Pictures picks up right where the 2008 hit film left off: with billionaire Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) revealing his secret identity to the world in open defiance of every municipal code in Gotham City and Metropolis. It was a bit jolting but Iron Man is the first major Hollywood superhero to soar over Los Angeles and, well, the laws of publicity are different here.

Favreau knows about the old conventions of cape movies (he had a small role in “Batman Forever” in 1995, after all), but the $585-million success of “Iron Man” was wired to avoid most of them and keyed instead on Downey’s wit and decadent smirk.

“The superhero genre has been picked over pretty thoroughly with all the different titles, sequels, reboots. It’s tough to keep it fresh and not do something that is derivative of something someone else has done. By taking a left turn at the end of the first film and making him a public figure, it opened it up to a whole lot of new possibilities. It goes beyond your standard secret identity/caped crusader model.”

Robert Downey Jr in Iron Man 2


The script by Justin Theroux (“Tropic Thunder”) takes the franchise on a trajectory that heroes rarely follow in popcorn films, Favreau said. “The rise of Caesar — there are mythic proportions to that. Other genres tackle that type of story on a regular basis but the superhero genre has not, up to this point. We were able to deal with the ramifications of fame and notoriety and high expectations.”

If anyone knows the riptides of celebrity, it’s Downey Jr., and Favreau said the star brought that into the mix for “Iron Man 2.”

“It allowed us to draw upon our experiences and certainly Robert’s experiences,” the filmmaker said. “Robert had strong points of view on these things. He was propelled quite publicly to a much more successful station and we were able to draw upon that. We were able to comment on the phenomena of celebrity as we know it today.”

Favreau said only “Fantastic Four” has really flirted with this type of story but those two films were more playful in tone. “Iron Man 2” will show Stark grinding the gears in his life as fame drags him down to earth. That’s exciting for Favreau, who said he saw a dangerous sameness in the big-screen tales of Peter Parker, Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent.

“Usually the hero is forced to live an even more bifurcated existence between the esteemed persona of the superhero version of himself and the humble or disguised existences of his secret-identity self,” Favreau said. “Those twin stories deviate more and more as the hero becomes more established. The hero starts to leave behind the secret identity. All of these franchises struggle to find their different angle on all of that as they move forward but the thing is it’s all fairly limited and limiting. There are only so many stories there. We’re flying in a different direction.”

— Geoff Boucher

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Top, Jon Favreau at his office in 2008 (Ringo H.W. Chiu / For The Times). Second photo: Robert Downey Jr. in “Iron Man 2” (Francois Duhamel / Marvel Entertainment).

FOR THE RECORD: An earlier version of this post had the name of Caesar spelled incorrectly. Et tu, spellcheck? 


16 Responses to ‘Iron Man 2’: Jon Favreau reveals his hero’s new secret weapon [UPDATED]

  1. I think it's an interesting "twist". I mean who woulda thunk, a superhero with no secret identity, a public figure superhero? Well, I do recall seeing portrayals of Obama as a superhero on t-shirts in 2008, but fast forward 2 years, and our economy still sucks. Apparently, Obama is not actually superhuman. Lest I digress..
    I did wonder after watching the first Iron Man installment how IMII would fare given IM's revealed identity. I think it could be interesting, although conventions exist for a reason: they work. Whether defying convention will work for IMII, we shall see, but if anyone is capable of pulling it off, it would be under the direction of Jon Favreau.

    • John says:

      The economy still sucks because the previous president was not a super-hero and while reading children's stories and snoozing after his anti-depressant binges, the arch-demon "Sub-Prime" unleashed his real estate devaluation machine. The rest is history, but we can feel optimistic because the true super-hero Obama is on the job, taking out villains GWB couldn't and correcting the massive reverse flow of money caused by Sub-Prime and his cronies..

  2. With Stark revealing his dual identity, doesn't that invalidate his governmental contract against the government duplicating his technology? So in IMII, will we see Stark take a presidential appointment as Sec. of Defense like we did in the comic?

  3. Markus says:

    Favreau and Downey rocks!.. I really can't wait for Iron Man 2.

  4. Nichole Carlson says:

    I'm glad to see a franchise that looks like it can handle sequels. For the longest time I've grimaced at box office $ oriented attempts. It's refreshing to see a real interest in storyline integrity. Of course you have a winning crew doing the job. I may be a tad biased. Iron Man 2 I know I will see and like, trailer unseen.
    Good job guys!

  5. Dean Robinson says:

    Oh please… Iron Man has no secret identity in the comics, why is Fav making out like its something special WE KNOW THIS ALREADY and NO it doesn't make him a more interesting Hero than Batman, Superman or Spider-Man, we just love the special effects and good story… either way, can't wait for the 2nd film, BRING ON WAR MACHINE!!!
    Batman RULES!

  6. JD says:

    It's better for the audience to have the star be able to show his face for most of the movie. Remember how many times in the Spider-Man movies his mask was torn or off altogether? Otherwise, folks believe it's all CGI or a stuntman in there.

  7. EK says:

    You have to pump up the film based on a B-level character when it's not one of the top three classic characters you don't get to work on. And yeah, a superhero with a known identity is not original to the big screen or make it better than a story about a secret identity.

  8. Thomas Shea says:

    Favreau played one of Marvel's oldest characters, Foggy Nelson, in DAREDEVIL, so why mention the bit part in BATMAN FOREVER?

  9. Geoff Boucher says:

    Sure, I know Favreau was in the DD film but I mentioned the other because I was riffing off the Bruce Wayne + Clark Kent stuff (Superman and Batman represent the whole secret identity conceit in its most iconic and earliest representations) and because, well, I thought it was a funny tidbit.
    And btw, Foggy isn't really one of the oldest Marvel characters, to be technical, not when you consider Namor and the Golden Age types.

  10. Joanne says:

    Ok, not to be THAT person, but it is "Caesar" not "Ceasar" and Gotham City and Metropolis are localities in DC Comics, not Marvel Comics, which tends to use actual places like New York and Los Angeles. A little fact checking, please.

  11. Geoff Boucher says:

    Uh, yeah I know Batman and Superman are DC, Joanne. Thanks. Where exactly did I say they were Marvel? A little careful reading, please.

  12. DL says:

    Many of these films have handled the question of a hero's public identity in different ways. FANTASTIC FOUR of course took quite a frivolous, 'Hello!' magazine, 'E! News' angle on the celebrity super-family, while the X-MEN films delved deeper into the more serious matter of public prejudice and distrust of mutants (even X-MEN 3, despite that movie's somewhat jumbled storyline, brought up the interesting question of a supposed 'cure' for the mutant menace). THE DARK KNIGHT superbly portrayed the pressure on Bruce Wayne to out himself as the Caped Crusader, when faced with a deadly threat to innocent life should he not do so.
    Of course it will be fascinating to see how Tony Stark handles this new wave of fame as Ol' Shellhead, and the pressure it brings from the government and military, but also I'm just a real sucker for a good honest action movie, and IRON MAN 1 is about as good as action movies get. Roll on, IRON MAN 2!

  13. Joanne says:

    @ Geoff "with billionaire Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) revealing his secret identity to the world in open defiance of every municipal code in Gotham City and Metropolis." That sentence just doesn't make sense.

  14. geoff boucher says:

    It's a joke. In Hollywood, an entrenched tradition in superhero movies is the secret identity. There have been more than a dozen movies set in Gotham and Metropolis dating back to the 1940s and Superman and Batman created the vocabulary of superhero. Now here comes a new movie breaking the laws/rules/codes of the genre. No one else seemed to have a problem understanding the sentence. Thanks for reading.

  15. Jennifer says:

    What about Ozmandias in the Watchmen? He had no "secret" identity either. For my money, the Watchman and Iron Man are my favorite super hero films.

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