Sam Rockwell was on short list to play Iron Man

April 08, 2010 | 3:55 a.m.

“IRON MAN 2″ COUNTDOWN: 30 DAYS

Tony Stark breaks all the rules (even the one that says superheroes must keep a secret identity) and he always seems to comes 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 on 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.

Sam Rockwell in Iron Man 2

If things had gone differently, Sam Rockwell would have been the Hollywood star zooming across movie screens inside Iron Man’s now-famous red-and-yellow armor.

Rockwell, who portrays Justin Hammer in “Iron Man 2,” was on director Jon Favreau’s short list of actors for the role of Tony Stark for the first film, which was a smash success in 2008 and a career windfall for the title actor, Robert Downey Jr.

“He was one of the actors I was looking at for Tony Stark,” Favreau said. “He represented a dark-horse idea for Tony Stark early on in the process. A very different take. Of course when I met with Robert there nobody else on my mind. There was some things Sam would bring to the role that would have been great. Sam is very charismatic and when I was looking at the character there was a list and he had a spot on it, which might have surprised some people. Robert surprised some people, too, though, and now he is Tony Stark. Sam would have come up with interesting and different things.” 

In this film, the 41-year-old Rockwell portrays Hammer, an envious Stark rival who is frustrated in his attempts to match the more celebrated industrialist’s fame and power. Hammer sees a chance to bring Stark down by helping a mystery man with a vendetta, Ivan Vanko, portrayed by Mickey Rourke.

For Favreau, the always nimble Rockwell was the perfect match on the set for Rourke, the only method actor in the cast and a colorful Hollywood veteran who might overwhelm or puzzle lesser actors.

“For much of Mickey’s on-screen time he’s alone and for the parts where he’s paired up I went out and purposely hired Sam Rockwell, who is a bit of an unflappable actor, too,” Favreau said. “He’s very poised and he also puts in a good performance no matter what’s going on around him. I had worked with him before and I know that he could hold his own and let Mickey be a strong brooding type who spoke mostly Russian. I knew Sam could handle the exposition we needed, and that’s way we added the character of Hammer, who is quite different here than he is in the comics.”

– Geoff Boucher

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