“IRON MAN 2” COUNTDOWN: 10 DAYS
Tony Stark breaks all the rules (even the one that says superheroes must keep a secret identity), and he always seems to come out on top — that’s why we love him. But now comes “Iron Man 2,” a film about secret dangers, the sins of the father and the nasty price of modern celebrity. The movie lands May 7 in the U.S., and every day until then, we’ll have behind-the-scenes scoops on the summer’s most anticipated film.
A major theme of “Iron Man 2” is the churn and burn of public life — billionaire superhero Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) is living large but he’s also being poisoned by his celebrity, his past and, yes, even by that bright glowing disc in his chest that keeps his heart going even as it taints his blood.
So, because of the mad public-life theme, the Hollywood premiere for the movie on Monday was big, brash, loud and crazy at the edges. (It was also an interesting moment in the life of Marvel Studios and Walt Disney Entertainment, which walked down their first public red carpet together with the tentative hand-holding that you might expect in any arranged marriage.)
The premiere shut down Hollywood Boulevard and hundreds of fans and tourists turned out to gawk at the movie stars, the scantily clad cheerleaders in red-and-gold (they’re called the “Ironettes”) and the assembled press, which rearranged schedules to attend the affair — this premiere was supposed to be in London but the nasty ash cloud from that Icelandic volcano changed those plans. Yes, it sounds like a comic-book plot twist but isn’t that appropriate? I’m not sure I would have been surprised Monday if Mickey Rourke shed his leather-lapeled suit and attacked the crowd with crackling laser whips. He didn’t however, although at one point he did give his agent the slip; in the lobby of the El Capitan Theatre, ICM President Chris Silbermann walked up to a group of reporters and asked (with only mock distress), “Where’s Mickey? Have you seen Mickey? I went to the bathroom and I came back and he wasn’t in his seat.” The star was located and guided to an elevated stage outside, where “Iron Man 2” director and costar Jon Favreau introduced his cast before fireworks were launched (and, yes, I confirmed that it was fireworks, not an attack by the Mandarin.)
Downey had arrived with an appropriate bit of James Bond flair by zipping up a narrow, blocked-off lane in a souped-up, soft-top white Audi R8 Spyder. He stopped curbside, hopped out to open the door for his wife and producer partner, Susan Downey (she’s the executive producer of “Iron Man 2”). It’s amazing to watch Downey these days –
– along with Johnny Depp, he’s ascended to a star level that no one anticipated a decade and although Depp loses himself in the disguise of his roles, “Iron Man” succeeds by bottling its star’s singular charisma and bad-boy background and presenting it as meta-entertainment.
On the red carpet I stopped to chat with “Iron Man 2” producer and Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige, who is the linchpin figure right now in this grand Hollywood adventure for the characters of Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko and so many other comics creators. Feige told me a story: “Nineteen years ago I came down here and sat on some bleachers over there to see the original ‘Star Trek’ cast members put their handprints in the cement. I was a freshman at USC. I took a taxi up here. I remember looking around and thinking, ‘Wow, why are these nerds here?’ And then I realized, ‘Oh wait …’ “
On Monday, when Feige looked around, he saw a number of big-time comic-book creators, among them Geoff Johns, Mike Mignola, Brian Michael Bendis and Ed Brubaker. Bendis and Brubaker had never been to a premiere — each flew in for this one — and they were more than a little wide-eyed. “This is a nightmare,” Brubaker told me in a text message as he tried to navigate the red-carpet’s wall-to-wall chaos. We finally found each other and over the course the evening I got to introduce him to Dane Cook and Jeremy Renner but, alas, I couldn’t get through the thicket surrounding Downey in order to bring together the man who killed Steve Rogers and the man who brought Tony Stark to life.
Hugh Hefner, fresh from the heroic act of saving the Hollywood sign, attended and, really, may have been the closest thing to a real-life Tony Stark in attendance — the young Howard Hughes wasn’t available it seems. Also attending was portly porn star Ron Jeremy, not someone you usually see standing a few feet away from Disney chief Bob Iger.
Inside, ready to watch the movie, I found that our seats were next to to Louis Letterrier, the director of “Clash of the Titans” and “The Incredible Hulk” and one of the really nice guys in Hollywood. I first met him on the London set of “Clash” and, over the many months since, I could sense that he was really pained by the criticism of “Clash,” particularly the savage rebuke of the 3-D effects. He never planned to make a 3-D film and the format wasn’t his choice in the end, but Letterrier was the good solider throughout and even on this night he didn’t utter cross word about it all.
It was an interesting room. Before the movie started, Adrien Brody (soon to be seen in “Predators“) had long chat with Avi Arad, who was a key figure in the Marvel success story in Hollywood. Jeph Loeb was near the front of the room chatting with friends and engaging in the careful art of relentless crowd-scanning while speaking to someone. One entire row was taken up the military advisors to film, who wore their dress uniforms and sat with extremely good posture. Finally, the stars all arrived and the movie rolled. How was it? Well, I’m no movie critic, but I thought it was great fun, especially the Monaco race set piece and the relentless energy of Downey’s one-of-a-kind jive. It was nice to see the chemistry between Gwyneth Paltrow and Downey take on new sizzle and Rourke was a wonderful study in sullen malice.
The movie may be too much, too loud and too silly for many people but it’s also going to be a massive hit for those people who walk into a theater looking to fly away and laugh between the explosions. Afterward I saw Don Cheadle in the crowded lobby and we waved at each other. I asked what he thought. “I didn’t know what to expect, I hadn’t see it yet. So it was new to me. And liked it. I’m happy. It was fun.” I couldn’t agree more.
— Geoff Boucher
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Photos: Robert Downey Jr. (top), Samuel L. Jackson with Scarlett Johansson, and Hugh Hefner with Crystal Harris arrive to the Hollywood premiere of “Iron Man 2.” Credit: Getty Images.