Iron Man Movie Review (Chicago Tribune Film Critic Michael Phillips)
Paramount Pictures and Marvel Entertainment Present Marvel Studios’ soaring action-adventure IRON MAN, the
story of billionaire industrialist and genius inventor Tony Stark (ROBERT DOWNEY JR.). As CEO of Stark
Industries, the U.S. Government’s top weapons contractor, Tony has achieved celebrity status by protecting
American interests around the globe for decades.
Tony’s carefree lifestyle is forever changed when his convoy
is attacked following a weapons test he oversees and he is held hostage by a group of insurgents. Injured by
life-threatening shrapnel embedded near his already weakened heart, Tony is ordered to build a devastating
weapon for Raza (FARAN TAHIR), the mysterious leader of the insurgents. Ignoring his captors’ requests,
Tony uses his intellect and ingenuity to build a suit of armor that keeps him alive and enables him to
Upon his return to America, Tony must come to terms with his past and vows to take Stark Industries in a new direction. Despite the resistance from Obadiah Stane (JEFF BRIDGES), his right-hand man and top executive, who has taken over the reigns of the company in his absence, Tony spends his days and nights in his workshop developing and refining an advanced suit of armor that gives him superhuman strength and physical protection. With the help of his longtime assistant Pepper Potts (GWYNETH PALTROW) and his trusted military liaison Rhodey (TERRENCE HOWARD), Tony uncovers a nefarious plot with global implications. Donning his powerful new red and gold armor, Tony vows to protect the world and right its injustices as his new alter-ego, Iron Man.
THAT’S (MARVEL) ENTERTAINMENT
With a library of over 5,000 characters, Marvel Entertainment, Inc. is one of the world’s most prominent
character-based entertainment companies. Marvel’s operations are focused on utilizing its character franchises in licensing, entertainment, publishing and toys. Marvel Entertainment’s areas of emphasis include feature films, DVD/home video, consumer products, video games, action figures and role-playing toys, television and promotions.
Rooted in the creative success of over sixty years of comic book publishing, Marvel has successfully transformed its cornerstone comic book characters into blockbuster film franchises. Marvel Studios’ Hollywood renaissance has been nothing short of spectacular, with record-breaking franchises such as "Spider-Man," "X-Men" and "The Fantastic Four," resulting in a string of eight consecutive #1 box office openings. Since 1998, Marvel films have grossed over $4.9 billion worldwide at the box office, firmly establishing itself as one of the top entertainment brands in Hollywood.
David Maisel, Chairman of Marvel Studios, explains why Marvel has been so successful in adapting its comic book characters to the silver screen. "Our films are as much about the man as the superhero. We cast great actors who will appeal to both kids and adults. We set our films up to appeal to everyone."
"Over the past seven or eight years we have had great luck in combining unique and original talent with our
spectacular world-renowned characters," adds IRON MAN producer and Marvel Studios president of production Kevin Feige. "We’ve been very fortunate that with the Marvel brand, we have been able to attract talented filmmakers as well as the best technicians, visual effect supervisors, cinematographers and visual effects companies in the world, which has resulted, we believe, in the best kind of genre mega-event summer pictures out there."
In 2007, Maisel spearheaded Marvel’s announcement to self-finance a slate of ten films which would begin with the 2008 releases of IRON MAN and THE INCREDIBLE HULK, as well as the development of such titles as CAPTAIN AMERICA, THOR, and ANT MAN.
One of the original Marvel Comics, Iron Man has enjoyed a long and prosperous run dating back to the characters’ first appearance in the Marvel comic Tales of Suspense in April 1963. Created by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, Don Heck and Jack Kirby, Iron Man’s alter ego Tony Stark was inspired partly by the personality of the late American icon Howard Hughes.
"Howard Hughes was one of the most colorful men of our time," says executive producer Stan Lee. "He was an inventor, an adventurer, a multimillionaire, a ladies’ man and, finally, a nutcase."
Lee continues, "What triggered me to create a character like Iron Man was that I wanted to do something different than the usual super hero. In 1963, Iron Man was all the things that young readers in those days didn’t really care for: he was an industrialist and created war machines. I thought to myself, I’m going to make these kids like him by making Tony Stark a rich, glamorous, handsome, interesting guy. I also gave him a weak heart so that he would have one thing about him that made him less-than-perfect and would also give the readers something to worry about. The response to the character was amazing and, of all the Marvel characters, Iron Man received more fan mail from female readers than any other property. People of all ages connected to the human side of the character."
A unique and vastly popular character in the Marvel universe, Iron Man is the only self-made superhero whose superhuman strength and abilities come from the powered suits of armor created from the genius mind of Tony Stark. "In the comic book world, Iron Man stands proudly alongside Spider-Man, The X-Men and The Fantastic Four," says producer Kevin Feige. "It’s been that way for decades and Iron Man really connected to readers because he’s not a mutant, he wasn’t transformed at a biological level and wasn’t bitten by any sort of genetic insect. He simply is a man who has used his genius to build an armored suit, which is essentially the greatest piece of human ingenuity ever invented."
It was the superhero’s decidedly flawed character and flashy playboy lifestyle that made the Iron Man comic ripe to be the next Marvel franchise and first film under the company’s new Marvel Studios banner.
"Iron Man is an interesting character for us," adds producer Avi Arad. "We’ve done superpowers very well with ‘Spider-Man’ and the ‘X-Men,’ but what makes the property so adaptable for a movie franchise is that it’s a story that deals with social issues and the world we live in today. It’s about redemption and a man who has a hero in him, but it takes a set of dire
circumstances to bring that out."
"Marvel has a terrific history of successfully bringing comic book characters to life, and IRON MAN is the next logical step," injects executive producer Peter Billingsley. "It’s Marvel’s first venture into fully financing a film and they have invested a lot of time and care developing this potential franchise. The title has been around for a long time. It has a rich history with 40 years worth of story lines to explore."
FAVREAU AT THE HELM
Marvel was faced with the challenge of finding a director who could not only handle the technical aspects of executing a large-scale action film, but more importantly could infuse the story with the human element that so dominated the comic book characters. For the creative team at Marvel, the potential list of directors began and ended with Jon Favreau, who had previously directed the films MADE, the blockbuster comedy ELF and the critically acclaimed sci-fi adventure ZATHURA.
"We got to know Jon when he played Foggy in DAREDEVIL," recalls Avi Arad. "I liked all the movies he directed, but I was most impressed with ZATHURA. So many of my friend’s kids saw that film five or six times and I kept hearing how much they loved it. Jon is a great storyteller and smart filmmaker with a deep love and appreciation for the Marvel brand and Iron Man character.
"Also," Arad continues, "to pull this film off we really needed a director who was tuned in to what was going on in the world today, both politically and socially. Jon possessed all of these characteristics."
For producer Kevin Feige, Favreau fit perfectly into the stable of great storytellers who made the leap to action blockbusters courtesy of Marvel Films. "Jon fits the mold exactly of the kind of director we like to hire for our films. He’s done great movies in the past, but this one has the biggest canvas by far. When you have a filmmaker who has the vision and the passion like Jon does, and can bring his unique sense of character to this grand spectacle, you know you’ll end up with a Marvel movie that is a cut above the rest."
For Favreau, the chance to create a new superhero for the screen was one that he couldn’t pass up. "I grew up reading Marvel Comics," he says. "It’s an exciting challenge to direct IRON MAN because he’s the biggest character in the original pantheon of the Marvel universe who has never had a movie made about him. I come from the independent film world, and what I like to think I bring to the table is the ability to tell a story in a simple, relatable way that brings out the humor in situations, as well as the humanity of the characters. One of the great assets of Marvel Comics is that the heroes are very human and flawed. Marvel began when the iconography of the superhero was larger-than-life. They were usually flawless paradigms of integrity. But Marvel changed the landscape by creating superheroes with their own shortcomings and a recognizable humanity that is enjoyable and interesting to explore."
For executive producer Billingsley, a longtime friend and colleague of Favreau’s who has served as a co-producer on MADE and ZATHURA, adapting IRON MAN played into all the director’s filmmaking strengths. "Jon came aboard on IRON MAN while the script was being developed. Since the Iron Man comic books offer such a vast amount of plots and storylines, it’s easy to get lost among the myriad of options available," observes Billingsley. "But in all the previous films Jon has written and directed there is one common denominator – strong, compelling storytelling."
With Favreau signed onto the project a year before principal photography was to begin, the director began the long and arduous task of guiding the development of a screenplay based on a Marvel character who had been in existence for over 40 years, with a wealth of available stories from the more than 600 issues published over the years.
"What separates IRON MAN from a lot of the other superhero films is that there is just as much emphasis on story as there is on action," notes Billingsley. "Jon was given the responsibility of coming up with the best notion of what the story would entail and he really carried the burden of birthing this comic book franchise into a film franchise."
Screenwriters Art Marcum & Matt Holloway worked with Favreau in hammering out the first few drafts of the script, with Academy Award- nominated screenwriters Mark Fergus & Hawk Ostby brought on later for subsequent drafts. From the start, the filmmakers agreed that the film would concentrate on the origin of Iron Man.
"The birth of a hero is something that is highly enjoyable for audiences to watch," says producer Feige. "You don’t want to delay that too long into the story. The development of a superhero has provided some of the most memorable moments in any of our previous films. IRON MAN is no exception."
"When you’re creating the origin story of a superhero, you have certain critical responsibilities, one of which is showing how the hero came to be," adds director Favreau. "This can be a burden, but it also gives a filmmaker the opportunity to allow the audience to become the hero alongside the main character. I personally have the most fun as a viewer when I witness the learning curve of the superhero."
Favreau continues: "When we were developing the script and coming up with ideas for the structure of the story, there was a natural tendency to want to get the character right into action with the suit and to fight but, for me, the more engaged you are in the story, the more interested you will eventually be in those set pieces and the more gratifying those sequences will be to the audience. In writing the script, we made sure to spend time with the character as he is discovering the technology, refining the suit and learning how to use it."
Another task for the filmmakers was updating the origin story to the present day. In the origin story of the Marvel comic, Tony Stark was an anticommunist hero who was shot down and captured while visiting Vietnam to observe his new mini-transistors that were being used to assist the U.S. war effort.
"The origin story had to be redeveloped to reflect new technology and the changes in the political, social and economic landscapes in the world today," says Favreau. "What Stan Lee wrote as science-fiction back in the 1960s is currently modern science. We have become so advanced in our technology that things you can buy in a drugstore now would have been the subject matter for a sci-fi film back in the days when Iron Man first entered the Marvel universe. The character of Tony Stark was a larger-than-life character with a conflicted nature who finds his true purpose when he becomes Iron Man. We wanted to keep the basic origin story structure, but tweak it so that it reflected the present day."
For the writing team of Fergus & Ostby – Academy Award nominees for best adapted screenplay for CHILDREN OF MEN – one of the challenges in developing the screenplay was that, although the character of Iron Man had legions of fans in the comic book world, the property had not crossed over into mainstream pop culture, and required a story that would satisfy hardcore genre fans as well as audiences who had never been exposed to the character. Fergus found his moment of clarity in the writing process courtesy of Favreau and Billingsley. "Early on in one of the writing meetings with Jon and Peter, we sat down and just asked, ‘If we had to boil this movie down to one sentence what would that be?’" recalls Fergus. "After a few deliberations we came up with IRON MAN is a story about a man who finds his heart.’ The idea behind a movie should always be something you can really boil down to a singular theme that is easy to understand. When you break down the character of Tony Stark, he really is a man who learns to feel and connect and to accept responsibility for his role in the world."
"Tony Stark is a good-looking, charming guy who enjoys fast cars, big parties and beautiful women," says producer Arad. "He is also an extremely brilliant scientist, inventor and weapons manufacturer. He is having way too much fun living his James Bond-like lifestyle to consider that what he does actually has profound global implications."
THE CASTING PROCESS
Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark
With screenwriters Fergus & Ostby continuing to refine the screenplay under Favreau’s supervision, the
filmmakers began the search for an actor who could capture the essence of the larger-than-life leading character, billionaire industrialist and consummate playboy Tony Stark.
"Tony Stark is a figure that is famous and has a lot of notoriety both positive and negative," explains Favreau. "His face has been bannered in newspaper headlines many times before he ever becomes Iron Man. He’s been involved with weapons manufacturing for years but suddenly realizes the ramifications of what he does for a living. It’s like waking up one day and
realizing you’re a bad guy when you always thought you were one of the good guys. On the surface he seems to have it all, but Tony Stark is a very complex character who goes through an internal crisis in the film."
In casting the role of Tony Stark, the filmmakers went against the grain in casting Academy Award-nominated actor Robert Downey Jr. "Robert Downey Jr. wanted to play Tony Stark as much as I wanted him to play the character," recalls Favreau. "He wasn’t the most obvious choice from a studio’s point-of-view, but Marvel gave me the freedom to cast the best person for the role. In Marvel movies, the superhero image is the big star and they’ve had a lot of success in the past when they’ve hired people who were strong, interesting actors, and relied on the name of the brand itself to be the rallying cry from a commercial standpoint. This allows you to attempt to make the best movie possible, and when Robert Downey Jr. came on board he became a true partner creatively."
For Downey, the chance to play Tony Stark and slip into the red and gold armor was a childhood dream come true. "I’m an American. I love Marvel Comics and grew up reading Iron Man and Spider-Man," affirms Downey. "I have always been drawn to Iron Man because he had amazing ingenuity and intelligence. Superheroes are great, but superheroes who manufacture weapons and then build a suit of armor that they wear and can fly around in makes for the ultimate ‘nerdgasm,’" he laughs.
On a more serious note, Downey continues: "He’s someone who’s conflicted for the right reasons, and who doesn’t recognize his potential until he starts to live in accordance with a moral code; it’s a great time-honored theme."
For producer Kevin Feige, Downey fit into Marvel Studios’ formula of casting talented actors who truly embody the characters they play. "Tony Stark is a unique comic book character with several different layers," explains Feige. "He is flawed, but also brilliant, funny, extremely talented and likable. When you talk about talented actors in Hollywood, you inevitably wind up talking about Robert Downey Jr., one of the best actors of his generation. I couldn’t be more excited to have him in this film. When you combine Robert’s acting ability with the adventure and spectacle of the comic book genre, you end up with something that is bigger than the sum of its parts."
"Casting Robert just felt perfect," adds screenwriter Fergus. "It’s aslightly off-beat choice, but Marvel has a cool and visionary way of casting its films. When the casting is announced, people usually react with, ‘oh that’s interesting,’ and then it turns out to be more than interesting. It turns out to be perfect and people can’t imagine anybody else in the role. Marvel’s really adventurous like that and I think that audiences really appreciate it."
For Downey, who was actively involved in the creative development of the film and script, the days of preproduction also included an intense regimen of weight training and martial arts in order to prepare him for the physical demands of playing the character. "About a year ago I decided that I really want to put on some size, which isn’t easy when you’re approaching 40," observes Downey. "I felt that if I was ever going to do a movie like IRON MAN, I had to do it quickly before it became embarrassing being the guy in tights with the flabby body. The first thing I did was tons of strength training, because I’m not a kid anymore and you must first get your tendons, bones, and subcutaneous muscles strong enough to deal with
the weight you’re going to be lifting. It was really about survival for me, and all the hard work in preproduction wound up giving me the strength to do the movie."
Favreau was impressed with his lead actor’s hard work in the weight room. "Robert really went the extra mile and trained heavily to make his body look the way it should to play a superhero," says Favreau. "He took the role very seriously, not just in the physical sense, but also in his understanding of what made the character tick. He found a lot of his own life experience in this character and he had a firm understanding of the role and the film before we started shooting."
Terrence Howard as Rhodey
With Downey busy preparing for his starring turn in the film, the filmmakers focused their attention on casting the film’s other central roles. In the film, as the leading manufacturer of weapons, Stark Industries has enjoyed a long and prosperous relationship with the United States Government and the Air Force’s leading military advisor, Lt. Colonel James "Rhodey" Rhodes. Following a successful military weapons demonstration in the Middle East, Rhodey and Tony Stark’s convoy is attacked by a group of insurgents. During the intense battle, Tony is wounded by shrapnel and captured. Although the Department of Defense gives up its effort to find him after a few months, Rhodey refuses to stop searching for his lifelong friend and confidant.
In IRON MAN, Rhodey is played by Terrence Howard. An Academy Award nominee for his role in HUSTLE AND FLOW, Howard jumped at the opportunity to perform opposite Downey. "Getting the chance to work with Robert Downey Jr. attracted me to the role more than anything else," reveals Howard. "I first saw him in WEIRD SCIENCE and thought he was hilarious, and then when he did CHAPLIN I realized he was a genius."
For Downey, the feeling was entirely mutual. "First of all, Terrence Howard looks great in an Air Force uniform," laughs Downey. "Terrence is a top-drawer actor and it’s no mistake that he has become such a sensation over the last few years. One of the definitions of a genius is someone with a lot of character and we really needed a strong spirit to play Rhodey. Tony Stark is such a dynamic character that if Rhodey was merely his sidekick it wouldn’t work. Rhodey had to be his equal."
As Howard sees his character, "Rhodey is a Lieutenant Colonel in the United States Air Force who acts as a liaison between the acquisitions department and Stark Industries. He gets a lot of grief for not going into the private sector, but Rhodey is the one guy who is always there to protect Tony’s interests, often times against his own better judgment."
Gwyneth Paltrow as Virginia "Pepper" Potts
Tony’s other trusted ally is his crafty executive assistant Virginia "Pepper" Potts, an indispensable part of the eccentric Stark’s life. Never one to shy away from an argument, Pepper is always there to put out the fires that Tony often leaves burning in his wake. The filmmakers knew they’d scored a major coup when Academy Award winner Gwyneth Paltrow decided to take on the role.
"Casting Gwyneth as Pepper Potts was really an inspired choice and we all felt extremely blessed that she accepted the part," says executive producer Louis D’Esposito. "She is such a fantastic actress and from the first time we watched her in the room with Robert, it was electric."
For Paltrow, the decision to join the cast of IRON MAN was an easy one. "I grew up with Marvel comics around the house because my brother loved Spider-Man from a very young age, but I had never been in a film of this size or scope. When I heard Robert Downey Jr. was playing Iron Man and that Terrence Howard was also in it and Jon Favreau was directing, I said ‘I’m in.’"
"In the comic, Pepper Potts is Tony’s secretary who fawns over him a bit," explains Favreau. "We wanted to update the role based on Gwyneth, who is sharp, poised, and classy. Pepper Potts keeps Tony in line and on track, and organizes his life. There is a yin and yang between them that culminates in a bit of a romantic tension. We wanted to explore that dynamic a bit, because it really wasn’t necessarily fully defined in the original comic."
"There definitely is an underlying sexual chemistry between Tony and Pepper, but it’s more about what they don’t say than what they don’t do with each other," observes Paltrow. "Pepper is the closest person in Tony’s life and is really his lighting rod. She protects him, takes the hit for him when he screws up and keeps him on time and as responsible as she can. Tony is a genius and is able to create all these amazing things, but, like many artists, he’s not very good with the pragmatic side of his life, and that’s where Pepper steps in and whips him into shape."
Jeff Bridges as Obadiah Stane
When Tony Stark is captured and held prisoner by an unknown enemy, the reins of Stark Industries are turned over to his top executive and right-hand man, Obadiah Stane. A confidant and advisor to Tony’s father Howard Stark, Stane is a shrewd and calculating businessman who is willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done.
To play Obadiah, the filmmakers cast one of Hollywood’s most successful and distinguished actors, four-time Academy Award nominee Jeff Bridges. "As a child I was a big fan of comic books and one of the things that really made me interested in doing IRON MAN was Jon Favreau’s desire to make a film that was really grounded in reality," asserts Bridges. "He wanted people to be able to watch the film and believe it would be possible for him to build a suit and maybe that could really happen."
The actor continues: "Obadiah is an interesting name, so I Googled it and discovered that it is the shortest book in the Bible. It’s only a couple of pages, so I read it and it’s all about retribution, of which there is a great deal in this story. I wonder if Stan Lee knew that or if it was just a total coincidence."
"Jeff Bridges was truly the first and only choice to play the part of Obadiah Stane," says Billingsley. "He is such a tremendous actor, a chameleon in all the roles he has played over the years. He has an amazing body of work and we knew he would bring an intensity and realism to the role of Obadiah Stane."
Billingsley’s words rang true when Bridges expressed his willingness to shave his traditional thick head of hair in order to look more like the comic book character. "I’ve never shaved my head before, but I have always wanted to," reveals Bridges. "I always thought that someday a part would come along and I’d have to do it. When I saw the comic book character, I said ‘oh well, here is my chance to finally do it.’ I spoke to Jon about it and he said ‘we feel like you don’t have to shave your head.’ I really wanted him to say, ‘Oh yeah, you have to shave your head.’ I had really long hair prior to this film so we kind of chipped away at it, took it down a few steps at a time until, finally, we took the plunge and shaved it all off, which instantly transformed me in an Obadiah-like way."
"When Jeff Bridges walked into my office after shaving his head and growing a beard, it was as if Obadiah Stane had walked out of the pages of the Iron Man comic and was standing before me," says producer Feige. "The resemblance was uncanny. He could have pulled off the role with a different look, but the fact that he was willing to do whatever it took to become this character really spoke volumes about the kind of actor Jeff is and why you want to have him in your film."
Shaun Toub as Yinsen
When Tony is captured and held captive in a dark and cavernous cave in the mountains, he encounters another
prisoner of war named Yinsen, played by the versatile Shaun Toub. A medical doctor, Yinsen, keeps Tony alive long enough for him to build an RT device that prevents the shrapnel from piercing his heart.
"Yinsen is a worldly man who speaks many different languages," says Toub. "Although he originally comes from a very small town, he has traveled the world. When Tony Stark is brought into the cave, Yinsen operates on Tony and removes as much of the shrapnel as possible. The irony is that the shrapnel that remains in his chest is from a bomb that Stark Industries built."
While Tony is secretly building a suit of armor in the cave, Yinsen must defuse the increasingly hostile Raza, the ruthless leader of the insurgents. Played by Faran Tahir, Raza has captured Tony and is forcing him to build a Jericho missile, Stark Industries’ newest and most powerful weapon.
Tahir, an avid Iron Man comic reader, explains his character’s motives for capturing a high value target like Tony Stark. "Raza is part of a secret alliance and is given the assignment to abduct and kill Tony Stark," he says. "Tony’s almost dead after the attack, but Raza makes a deliberate choice to have him revived because he is a valuable asset and he wants to get an incredible weapon out of him. If Raza can possess this weapon, his caché goes up so much that he can rule the entire region."
Leslie Bibb as Christine Everhart
Playing the role of Christine Everhart, a beautiful young investigative reporter, is Leslie Bibb. "Tony Stark is interviewed by a lot of people, but there’s something about Christine that strikes a nerve in him," says Bibb. "In the script, she becomes his moral conscience and lets him know ‘This is what you’re doing and these are the results of what your company produces.’ In her mind she sees Tony as a war profiteer, but at the same time she is completely smitten by his charm and charisma and can’t resist spending the night with him at his ocean-side mansion."
Rounding out the talented cast of IRON MAN is Sayed Badreya as Raza’s lead henchman Abu Bakar, Clark Gregg as government agent Coulson, Bill Smitrovich as Air Force General Gabriel and Jon Favreau as Tony Stark’s chauffeur Happy Hogan.
With cast ing completed, the filmmakers reflected upon the extremely talented cast they had assembled for IRON MAN. "I think this is the best cast that we have ever assembled for a Marvel film," claims producer Feige. "Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Terrence Howard and Jeff Bridges are all Academy Award nominees or winners. This is an ensemble that you only dream about, but we were able to land all four of these extremely talented actors, which is really something special and Marvel couldn’t be happier."
"With IRON MAN, I really wanted to offer the human side of the story that is more in line with my sensibilities as a filmmaker," says Favreau. "I would be thrilled to have our cast in a drama or a comedy, but to be able to have them in a bigger-than-life superhero film really offers the possibility to exceed people’s expectations. Superhero films have been very successful recently, but I really wanted to push the envelope and go for something a little bit more interesting, and having a cast like we do really affords me the opportunity to achieve that."
ABOUT THE PRODUCTION
With casting completed, the filmmakers made the decision to set the film in Los Angeles. With key locations that included Edwards Air Force Base, historic "Movie Road" in Lone Pine, CA and the Playa Vista Stages, director Jon Favreau explains his decision to make Iron Man a West Coast superhero.
"IRON MAN is an adventure that takes you around the globe," says Favreau. "The character of Tony Stark is a guy who’s involved in the whole geopolitical landscape, which really opened up our world. I wanted to set this film on the West Coast even though the Iron Man comic is traditionally set in New York, as are all the Marvel superhero comics. I wanted a different look, so instead of having Iron Man flying between New York City buildings, we have the ocean and mountains of the West Coast in the film. I also felt shooting in Los Angeles tied in with the roots of the whole Howard Hughes influence and the history-of-flight aspect."
Principal photography began at the Playa Vista Stages in Playa Vista, California, on the west side of Los Angeles. The stages would serve as home base for the production, with a majority of the film shot on two stages whose history can be directly linked to Howard Hughes.
"When we were looking for stages in Los Angeles that would be large enough for all the sets we had to build, we turned to the Playa Vista Stages," recalls Favreau. "We thought it was really cool because it was Howard Hughes’ old assembly factory and the place where the wings for the Spruce Goose were originally built."
"When you make movies, they take on a sort of mythic life of their own," adds executive producer Billingsley. "It’s no coincidence that our sound stages are the two hangars where Howard Hughes worked. Hughes originally inspired Stan Lee when he was creating Tony Stark, and in this film the character is a real blend of wealth, genius and fame."
The first sequences shot on the stages took place in the cave set where Tony Stark is held captive and forced to build his company’s Jericho missile for Raza, the leader of a group of insurgents in the Middle East. Tony, against the advice of his fellow captive Yinsen, begins to build what will become the first suit of armor he wears in the film. Following his director’s mantra of keeping the film as authentic as possible, J. Michael Riva, who designed the production, was faced with the challenge of creating a set that looked and felt like a rugged cave in the mountains of Afghanistan.
"The really fun part about building the cave was dressing the set," explains Riva. "When you’re locked up in a place for two or three months by terrorists, presuming that you’re not being ‘water-boarded’ the big question becomes ‘how do you live? What’s the daily routine’? Now Robert, who has had some first-hand knowledge of what it’s like to be held captive, brought some of his own very revealing ideas to the cave dressing that made our job easier and gave it an authenticity – things like how to make tea with a sock and how you make a backgammon set out of nothing. We lived in the cave overnight before we started shooting to really feel it out."
Riva continues: "One of the things I discovered in my research of truly remote caves is how cold they really are. I saw some footage of a cave interior in Tora Bora, Afghanistan. In it, a Taliban fighter is being interviewed and you can see his breath. So I convinced Jon Favreau we should ‘freeze’ the set. We built an air conditioning system into the cave and had cold air coming out of the actors’ mouths for days — something everybody hates me for to this day — but it was very effective and really showed the harsh contrast of being held captive— especially for a billionaire like Tony Stark. Robert and the rest of the cast loved it. And so did Jon."
While the production was shooting the cave sequences, four-time Academy Award winner Stan Winston and his team of makeup and special effects artists were busy building all the armor Iron Man wears in the film. "I worked with all the folks at Stan Winston Studios on ZATHURA and have been a fan of their work for a really long time," says Favreau. "They’ve always been a wonderful collaborative group. It was a great opportunity to introduce Marvel to a whole new group of suit designers, and I was thrilled to be able to get Stan and his gang involved in a new movie franchise."
"The minute we heard that IRON MAN was being made, we really went after it," admits Winston. "I’m a big comic book fan and Jon Favreau really understands the concept of how to mix all the different technologies and do whatever it takes to make things work, rather than getting caught up in doing a movie that relies heavily on digital effects. The final design of these suits is quite amazing and I am confidant that it will be some of the coolest stuff this studio has ever produced."
Prior to Stan Winston Studios beginning construction, Favreau describes the concept and design process that went into the creation of the different suits of armor. "When I was first hired on to direct IRON MAN, the images I gravitated to were the Adi Granov illustrations and paintings from the recent ’Extremis’ series of Iron Man comic books. That one felt the most grounded in technology and was also the most dynamic. As we started to talk about design elements, Adi actually contacted me because he saw that I posted a lot of his images on the IRON MAN MySpace page I had set up. We started corresponding via e-mail, and he later flew to Los Angeles to help oversee the design process of the suits. I also brought in illustrator Phil Saunders and conceptual designer Ryan Meinerding, who were both very valuable in helping us refine the different versions of the ‘Iron Man’ suit."
In the film, the first suit Tony Stark builds during his captivity is the Mark 1 armor. Originally called the "Grey Armor" in the early years of the Marvel comic, Favreau speaks about the process the filmmakers came up with for the suit’s concept design. "I never fully believed that this suit could have been built in captivity, especially under the watchful eye of hostile captors. Conceptual designer Ryan Meinerding came up with the idea of building the suit out of materials that could have been scavenged from other Stark Industry weapons. He was able to conceptually imagine a suit that looked like a bit of a junkyard war weapon creation. It’s probably my favorite suit in the whole movie and most original in our film."
"Ryan is one of the best conceptual designers in the business," adds Phil Saunders. "He did an amazing job of taking that iconic, sci-fi design of the very clean, boiler plate metal and making it something that really felt like it was made out of spare military parts and surplus equipment. You may notice that some of the back panels on the suit are less armored than the front. That really came from Tony’s idea that ‘I need to get through this gauntlet of people by moving forward and there’s not going to be anyone behind me because I’m gonna be toasting everybody in my path.’ So there really was a psychological concept that went into the armor for the character and how he put those pieces together."
The responsibility of physically building the Mark 1 suit, as well as all the other suits in the film, fell squarely on the shoulders of Shane Mahan, suit effects supervisor at Stan Winston Studios. An employee at Winston’s for over 25 years, Mahan describes the process of building the Mark 1 armor. "First of all, the designs provided to us for the Mark 1 were very strong. The concept was hunks of metal, parts of bombs, a complete hodgepodge of pieces. It was really a lot of fun to build, because it served two functions: it paid homage to the original comic book, and it also showed the evolution of Iron Man. We built the suit with the mindset of it being an escape suit that is like a powered human tank around his body."
Mahan continues, "We also had to make the suit as light as possible without compromising its integrity, because we knew that we wanted to make sure that Robert and the stuntmen who were going to wear the suit and move around in it didn’t look awkward. The suit ended up weighing about 90 pounds because we had to make the internal structure sound enough so that it could withstand some hits without being crushed. We also constructed it to be worn in pieces so that Robert or a stuntman could wear the top half of the suit without the legs, which made it easier on the performers."
The sturdiness of Mahan’s Mark 1 suit was unexpectedly put to the test early on when stuntman Mike Justice tipped over in the full suit and fell to the ground after shooting a take in the cave. "When I saw Mike fall face-first to the ground, my heart jumped out of my chest," recalls Mahan. "My first thought was, ‘Oh no, I hope Mike is alright,’ quickly followed by, ‘Oh no, I hope the suit is still in working order.’ We only had one Mark 1 suit so anything that happened to it would have to be repaired on the actual suit. Luckily for us, Mike was fine and the suit was not damaged and we continued shooting."
For stuntman Mike Justice, falling to the ground wearing the 90-pound suit was all in a day’s work. "The one thing you did not want to do is fall over in the Mark 1 suit because it was the heaviest and had a lot of components that could be damaged," says Justice. "The biggest challenge with that suit was that you had very limited peripheral vision and could only see the ground directly in front of you. I was lucky when I tripped and fell over in that I resisted the natural instinct to put my arms out, or I probably would have broken my wrists. They just picked me up, dusted me off and we went back to work."
For Downey, the first time he worked in the Mark 1 brought a newfound respect for his team of stuntmen. "I’d been training all these years and thought I was pretty tough, but the first time I put on the Mark 1 suit, I almost had a personality meltdown," laughs Downey. "I’m not claustrophobic, but after moving around in it for a couple of hours your spirit is kind of broken and you’re like, ‘ok, time to bring in the stunt team.’"
After the production completed its work at Edwards Air Force base, it returned to the Playa Vista Stages, where production designer Riva had built and designed spectacular sets to bring the lavish world of Tony Stark to life. First on the agenda for the production was shooting in Tony’s workshop, which also served as a garage for his exotic car collection, as well as the place were he creates the Iron Man suit and tests out all of the different components that go into designing it.
"The workshop is where Tony secludes himself," explains Favreau. "In the film, we suggest that all the innovations and inventions that come out of Tony’s mind usually start here. Sure, he’s got his office at Stark Industries, but the workshop is where most of his work happens at 4:00 in the morning."
"Jon was very specific about Tony Stark’s garage," says Riva. "He didn’t want it to be super high-tech, which is something of a contrast to the usual comic-book vernacular. Films like these usually go to that place where everything is super high-tech and computer generated. But we decided early on to make it a real guy garage, more of a grease monkey approach. French presses — no, that’s not a coffee machine — and drill presses, metal benders from the ’50s, forges, welders and plasma cutters. A little like monster garage, that kind of vibe. Later, inevitably some of the high-tech stuff started creeping into the set — some of the producers were getting lonely without their ‘toys.’ Overall, it still maintains that hot rod garage feel.
"Jon’s own vintage Ford Roadster is the centerpiece of the garage. It stands in for the car that a young Tony and his Dad worked on together when his dad was alive. Just before we were to begin construction I felt the space was shaped a bit too conventionally, so at the last minute I added this big curved axis to the one giant exterior wall overlooking the ocean. The effect is to have all this really hard-ass, high-testosterone equipment contrasted by this round, soft, elegant curve."
"The workshop was always the most important set for me," says Favreau. "Tony Stark is a bit of a gear head, and the workshop is the space that tells you he’s a guy who likes working with his hands. I’m completely intrigued by people who can fabricate and build cars, and I love watching reality shows about car building. It was a way for me to include a hobby of mine into the character, as well as making it believable that he could make the Mark I in captivity. Michael Riva did an excellent job of creating a workshop, a mix of hightech and low-tech that would be any car builder’s dream come true."
In the film, the workshop houses an array of classic and state-of-the-art cars and bikes, including Tony Stark’s vehicle of choice, a 2008 Audi A8, as well as a Saline super-car, a 1967 Shelby Cobra, a Tesla electric car and a 1932 Ford Flathead Roadster belonging to director Jon Favreau. "I thought it would be cool to put my ‘32 Ford in the movie as the car Tony is always tinkering with," laughs Favreau. "But then we shot a scene where he was working on the engine and the crew had to take it apart. There were parts everywhere and all I kept thinking was, ‘Why did I do this? They’re never going to be able to put it back together correctly.’"
In the film, the workshop also serves as the spot where Tony Stark starts constructing what will eventually become Iron Man’s Mark III armor. "Part of our approach to making IRON MAN feel realistic was to show the elements of the suit coming together," explains Feige. "After building the Mark I in captivity, Tony uses the same technology to develop a high-tech suit. The first step in the process is building a set of boots that have repulsor technology thrusters on the bottom that enable him to fly. Stan Winston and his team constructed a really cool skeletal version of the boots that matched what could be underneath Iron Man’s armor."
The boots would also find Downey in them when the filmmakers made the decision to shoot it with the actor actually flying through the workshop set. "I’ve done wire work both as an actor and a director, and even if you use computers to paint everything out, there’s something about the physics of it that is unconvincing to me," says Favreau. "I was very skeptical if we could do any wire work at all because if you can see the pick points, it takes the audience out of the movie."
The challenge of finding an alternative solution fell into the capable hands of stunt coordinator Tommy Harper, who brought in the company Zero G to build a state-of-the-art rig that would enable the filmmakers to avoid traditional wirework. "I already knew that Jon doesn’t like when its looks like an actor is being lifted by wires," explains Harper. "So we came up with a new system that has what’s called an ’endless’ wire that goes through two pulleys in a bar above Robert’s head. That goes down through two more pulleys on his hips and into two platforms under his feet. So as his feet move, it moves above his head, and he can move independently because he is actually being lifted by his feet and not by his hips or back."
The stuntman continues, "The problem with it is like doing isometrics. It’s very taxing on the legs and upper body, because it’s like holding yourself as rigid as you can for six or seven minutes. It’s very difficult, but Robert had been training in order to get his muscles toned for it. After the visual effects guys put in blasts from his hands and his feet, it will really look like he’s being propelled around."
"I had a few hours training up on the rig for the sequence and the learning curve was pretty steep," admits Downey. "I do a lot of martial arts training so that really helped me to control my body in the reductive kind of way that was required. The hardest part was remembering that you have propulsion on the bottom of your feet and in the palms of your hands. So every time you move in a certain direction, you have to limit that movement with your hands and feet in order to generate the kind of propulsion that stabilizes Tony as he flies around."
Producer Feige was impressed with the actor’s ability up on the wire rigging. "Downey is a pro across the board," says Feige. "He is an amazing actor and he really put in the time required to master the technique. It’s a great scene because, early on, Tony Stark moves in a way that shows he needs to test his boots and gauntlets abilities, which was very funny. But then, as he begins to master the technology, he starts to move around and fly in a completely heroic manner – which is the birth of Iron Man."
Tony Stark continues to refine the suits’ technology, which eventually results in the high-tech, sleek, sophisticated, red and gold Mark III armor. The Mark III armor that has become synonymous with the Iron Man character was created, designed and built in partnership with Stan Winston Studios, Phil Saunders and Adi Granov. "The Mark III suit is a character in the movie," says Favreau. "Tony Stark takes on a different character when he’s wearing the suit and he’s able to do things he would never otherwise dream of doing. The suit gives him the personality of a hero and I really wanted the Mark III Armor to look like it just stepped out of the comic book and onto the big screen."
The finished Mark III armor was the culmination of a truly collaborative effort of many talented designers, technicians, craftsmen and filmmakers. "The Mark III suit is a life-size, three-dimensional prototype of something that you’ve only seen in a comic book until now," says executive producer D’Esposito. "It is the comic book character come to life, which really is a testament to Marvel, Jon Favreau, Stan Winston Studios and all of the incredibly talented people on the production team that helped conceive, design and build this iconic Iron Man armor."
ABOUT THE CAST
ROBERT DOWNEY JR. (Tony Stark) has evolved into one of the most respected actors in Hollywood. Downey received an Academy Award nomination and won the BAFTA (British Academy Award) Best Actor for his performance in the title role of CHAPLIN, released in 1992. Downey recently completed a starring role alongside Ben Stiller and Jack Black in the DreamWorks comedy TROPIC THUNDER. Written and directed by Stiller, the film is slated for release on August 15, 2008.
Downey was most recently seen as the high school principal in CHARLIE BARTLETT; David Fincher’s ZODIAC alongside Jake Gyllenhaal and Mark Ruffalo; in Richard Linklater’s 2006 summer hit A SCANNER DARKLY, co-starring Keanu Reeves, Winona Ryder and Woody Harrelson; and FUR, opposite Nicole Kidman in a film inspired by the life of Diane Arbus, the revered photographer whose images captured attention in the early 1960s. In 2005, Downey was in the Academy Award-nominated film GOOD NIGHT AND GOOD LUCK directed by George Clooney. He was also seen in the action comedy KISS KISS, BANG BANG, directed by Shane Black and co-starring Val Kilmer.
In 2003, Downey starred in two very different films: THE SINGING DETECTIVE, a remake of the popular BBC hit musical drama featuring Downey singing and dancing alongside Adrien Brody, Katie Holmes and Robin Wright-Penn; and GOTHIKA, starring Halle Berry and Penelope Cruz, in which Downey played a psychiatrist who works in a mental institution.
Downey made his primetime television debut in 2001 when he joined the cast of the Fox-TV series ALLY McBEAL, playing the role of attorney Larry Paul. He won the Golden Globe Award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Series, Miniseries or Motion Picture Made for Television, as well as the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Male in a Comedy Series. In addition, Downey was nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series.
In 2000, Downey co-starred with Michael Douglas and Toby Maguire in WONDER BOYS directed by Curtis Hanson, in which he played a bisexual literary agent. In April 2000, he appeared alongside Steve Martin and Eddie Murphy in the hit comedy BOWFINGER. In 1999, he starred in BLACK AND WHITE written and directed by James Toback and co-starring Ben Stiller, Elijah Wood, Gaby Hoffman, Brooke Shields and Claudia Schiffer. BLACK AND WHITE is about a group of white high school teens and their excursions into the lives of Harlem’s black hip-hop crowd. He also played the villain opposite Annette Bening and Aidan Quinn in IN DREAMS, directed by Neil Jordan.
In 1998, Downey co-starred with Tommy Lee Jones and Wesley Snipes in US MARSHALS directed by Stuart Baird, and with Heather Graham and Natasha Gregson Wagner in the critically acclaimed TWO GIRLS AND A GUY, directed by James Toback. In 1997, Downey was seen in Robert Altman’s THE GINGERBREAD MAN, along with Kenneth Branagh, Daryl Hannah and Embeth Davitz, as well as ONE NIGHT STAND directed by Mike Figgis and starring Wesley Snipes and Nastassja Kinski.
Other film credits include RESTORATION, RICHARD III, NATURAL BORN KILLERS, SHORT CUTS, THE LAST PARTY, SOAPDISH, AIR AMERICA, CHANCES ARE, TRUE BELIEVER, JOHNNY BE GOOD, LESS THAN ZERO, THE PICK-UP ARTIST, BACK TO SCHOOL, WEIRD SCIENCE, FIRSTBORN, and POUND, in which he made his feature film debut and which was directed by Robert Downey Sr.
On November 23rd, 2004, Robert Downey Jr. released his debut album, "The Futurist," on the Sony Classics label. The album, which contains eight original songs, showed off his sultry singing voice.
Academy Award nominee TERRENCE HOWARD (Rhodey) exploded onto the Hollywood scene after delivering powerful performances in a number of film and TV productions. Howard has garnered multiple nominations including Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations, as well as awards for Breakthrough Actor by the National Board of Review, Movieline and the Gotham Awards. Crowned as the "Indie Film King" by Entertainment Weekly, he has also received the Rising Star Award from the Palm Springs International Film Festival, the Renaissance Artist Award from the Diversity Awards and the Career Achievement Award from the Chicago International Film Festival.
For his leading role in John Singleton’s HUSTLE & FLOW, Howard received nominations for an Academy Award, a Golden Globe, an Image Award and an Independent Spirit Award; he won the Satellite Award for Best Actor.
Howard’s memorable performances are of scene-stealing characters such as Cameron in the Oscar-winning Best Picture CRASH, Cowboy in the Hughes brothers’ DEAD PRESIDENTS and as Quentin in Malcolm D. Lee’s THE BEST MAN. Other film credits include PRIDE with Bernie Mac; THE BRAVE ONE with Jodie Foster; THE HUNTING PARTY with Richard Gere; AUGUST RUSH with Keri Russell and Jonathan Rhys Meyers; AWAKE with Jessica Alba and Hayden Christensen; ANGEL EYES; MR. HOLLAND’S OPUS; HARTS WAR; FOUR BROTHERS; IDLEWILD and GET RICH OR DIE TRYIN’. He recently completed production on Dito Montiel’s FIGHTING with Channing Tatum.
In television, Howard appeared in the HBO film LACKAWANNA BLUES with Jeffrey Wright and S. Epatha Merkerson. In 2006, he took on a new role as host of the Emmy Award-winning PBS series INDEPENDENT LENS, a showcase for independent filmmakers that introduced a new drama or documentary every episode.
Howard recently made his stage debut in the Broadway revival of "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" starring opposite Phylicia Rashad, James Earl Jones and Anika Noni Rose, under the direction of Debbie Allen.
A self-taught musician Howard plays both the piano and the guitar. His musical talents were seen on the big screen opposite Jamie Foxx in 2004’s RAY, for which they both earned a SAG nomination. A promising songwriter, he recently joined some of the industry’s top musicians at the famed SonyColumbia music label and will be releasing his original debut album in
JEFF BRIDGES (Obadiah Stane) recently wrapped production on HOW TO LOSE FRIENDS AND ALIENATE PEOPLE. He last starred in STICK IT for Touchstone Pictures, in which he played the coach of a team of rule-abiding gymnasts. He is one of Hollywood’s most successful actors and is a four-time Academy Award nominee. He earned his first Oscar nod in 1971 for Best Supporting Actor in Peter Bogdanovich’s THE LAST PICTURE SHOW co-starring Cybill Shepherd. Three years later he received a second Best Supporting Actor nomination for his role in Michael Cimino’s THUNDERBOLT AND LIGHTFOOT. In 1984, he landed top kudos with a Best Actor nomination for STARMAN. That performance also earned him a Golden Globe nomination. In 2001, he was honored with another Golden Globe nomination and his fourth Oscar nomination for his role in THE CONTENDER, Rod Lurie’s political thriller co-starring Gary Oldman and Joan Allen, in which Bridges played the President of the United States.
Last summer, Bridges lent his voice in SURF’S UP, from Sony Pictures Animation, a film that went behind the scenes of the high-octane world of competitive pro-penguin surfing. Bridges voiced the lead character, Geek (a King Penguin) a cantankerous, washed-up surfer living the life of a recluse until a hot-shot kid named Cody (Shia LaBeouf) enters his world and disrupts his life.
In 2005, Bridges appeared in THE MOGULS, a comedy written and directed by Michael Traeger, and TIDELAND directed by Terry Gilliam.
Bridges’ multi-faceted career has encompassed all genres. He has starred in numerous box office hits, including Gary Ross’s SEABISCUIT, Terry Gilliam’s offbeat comedic drama THE FISHER KING (co-starring Robin Williams), the multi-award nominated THE FABULOUS BAKER BOYS (co-starring his brother Beau Bridges and Michelle Pfeiffer), JAGGED EDGE (opposite Glenn Close), Francis Ford Coppola’s TUCKER: THE MAN AND HIS DREAM, BLOWN AWAY (co-starring his father Lloyd Bridges and Tommy Lee Jones), Peter Weir’s FEARLESS (with Isabella Rossellini and Rosie Perez), and Martin Bell’s AMERICAN HEART (with Edward Furlong, produced by Bridges’ company AsIs Productions). That film earned Bridges an IFP/Spirit Award in 1993 for Best Actor.
In the summer of 2004, he appeared opposite Kim Basinger in THE DOOR IN THE FLOOR for director Todd Williams and Focus Features, which earned him an IFP/Spirit Award nomination for Best Actor. He has also appeared in the suspense thriller ARLINGTON ROAD (co-starring Tim Robbins and Joan Cusack, directed by Mark Pellington.)
He played a major featured role in THE MUSE (an Albert Brooks comedy starring Brooks, Sharon Stone and Andie McDowell), and starred in SIMPATICO, the screen version of Sam Shepard’s play (with Nick Nolte, Sharon Stone and Albert Finney). In 1998, he starred in the Coen brothers’ cult comedy THE BIG LEBOWSKI. Before that, he starred in Ridley Scott’s WHITE SQUALL, Walter Hill’s WILD BILL, John Huston’s FAT CITY and Barbra Streisand’s romantic comedy THE MIRROR HAS TWO FACES.
In 1983, Bridges founded the End Hunger Network, a non-profit organization dedicated to feeding children around the world. Bridges produced END HUNGER, a three-hour live television broadcast focusing on world hunger. The television event featured Gregory Peck, Jack Lemmon, Burt Lancaster, Bob Newhart, Kenny Loggins and other leading film, television and music stars in an innovative production designed to educate and inspire action.
Through his company, AsIs Productions, he produced "HIDDEN IN AMERICA, which starred his brother Beau. The television movie, produced for Showtime, received a Golden Globe nomination in 1996 for Best TV/Cable Film and garnered a Screen Actors Guild nod for Best Actor for Beau Bridges. The film was also nominated for two Emmy Awards. Current AsIs projects in development include THE GIVER,based on Lois Lowry’s Newbery Award-winning novel.
One of Bridges’ true passions is photography. While on the set of his movies, he takes behind-the-scenes pictures of the cast, crew and locations. After completion of each motion picture, he edits the images into a book and gives copies to everyone involved. His photos have been featured in several magazines, including Premiere and Aperture, as well as in other publications worldwide. He has also had gallery exhibits of his work in New York at the George Eastman House, and in Los Angeles, London and San Diego.
The books, which have become valued by collectors, were never intended for public sale but, in the fall of 2003, PowerHouse Books released Pictures: Pictures by Jeff Bridges, a hardcover book containing a compilation of photos taken on numerous film locations over the years, to much critical acclaim. Proceeds from the book are donated to the Motion Picture & Television Fund, a non-profit organization that offers charitable care and support to filmindustry workers.
A few years ago, Bridges fulfilled a lifelong dream by releasing his first album, "Be Here Soon," on Ramp Records, the Santa Barbara, CA label he cofounded with Michael McDonald and producer/singer/songwriter Chris Pelonis. The CD features guest appearances by vocalist/keyboardist Michael McDonald, Grammy-nominated Amy Holland, and country-rock legend David Crosby. Ramp Records also released Michael McDonald’s album "Blue Obsession."
Jeff, his wife Susan and their three children divide their time between their home in Santa Barbara, California, and their ranch in Montana.
SHAUN TOUB (Yinsen) was raised in Manchester, England. At the age of 14, he moved to Switzerland and, after a two year stay, crossed the Atlantic to Nashua, New Hampshire where he finished his last year of high school. After completing his education at USC, he broke into the Hollywood scene with a memorable role on the much loved television series HUNTER.
His filmography includes a lead in the Golden Globe Best Picture nominee THE KITE RUNNER, his gripping performance as Farhad in Paul Haggis’s Oscar-winning film CRASH and the critically acclaimed film THE NATIVITY STORY. As a comedic performer he shined in Michael Bay’s BAD BOYS with Will Smith and Martin Lawrence.
He made his mark on HBO as well, both in Mick Jackson’s LIVE FROM BAGHDAD starring Michael Keaton and Helena Bonham Carter and the controversial PATH TO PARADISE opposite Marcia Gay Harden. He appears often in television mini-series, most recently in the ABC Emmy nominated PATH TO 9/11. Toub has received accolades for several of his appearances in over 100 television episodes including SEINFELD, THE SOPRANOS, ER, JUST SHOOT ME, NASH BRIDGES, JAG, and MARRIED WITH CHILDREN.
Toub is very proud of his Persian heritage and very active in the community. Through various charity events and public speaking engagements, he inspires the community to embrace the arts, as the arts enhance everyday life.
A Hollywood legend in the making, GWYNETH PALTROW (Pepper Potts) has defied the odds by remaining one of today’s most prolific and celebrated actors in the ever-changing film industry. A testament to her undeniable talent, her role in SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE catapulted her into awards stardom with Best Actress honors at the Golden Globes, Screen Actors Guild Awards, and Academy Awards. Her career has been studded with both critically acclaimed independents and studio blockbusters that have made her a fixture for this generation’s film audience.
Paltrow recently completed production in James Gray’s romantic drama TWO LOVERS with Joaquin Phoenix. She was also seen in her brother Jake Paltrow’s directorial debut, THE GOOD NIGHT, as the wife of a former pop star who’s been reduced to writing jingles. The film also starred Penelope Cruz and Danny DeVito.
Paltrow’s recent film credits include PROOF, the film adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize-winning play in which Paltrow recently finished a successful run at London’s Donmar Warehouse Theatre. This performance as a harassed young woman struggling to care for her eccentric math genius father reunited her with her SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE director John Madden, who also directed the film costarring Anthony Hopkins, Jake Gyllenhaal and Hope Davis. She received an Olivier Award nomination for Best Actress for her work in the play, as well as a Golden Globe nomination for her work in the film.
Paltrow was also recently seen in RUNNING WITH SCISSORS, the adaptation of Augusten Burroughs’ novel directed by Ryan Murphy. She also makes a cameo in INFAMOUS by EMMA director Douglas McGrath, as a Peggy Lee-esque nightclub chanteuse.
Her other film credits include SKY CAPTAIN & THE WORLD OF TOMORROW, an adventure film co-starring Jude Law and Angelina Jolie; SYLVIA, the Focus Features film that tells the story of the relationship between Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes; Neil LaBute’s POSSESSION, a romance also starring Aaron Eckhart; a cameo appearance in the New Line comedy AUSTIN POWERS 3; and the critically acclaimed Wes Anderson film THE ROYAL TANNENBAUMS, in which she starred opposite Gene Hackman, Anjelica Huston and Ben Stiller. She also starred in the Peter and Bobby Farrelly-directed SHALLOW HAL, co-starring Jack Black and Jason Alexander.
Additional credits include roles in Jennifer Jason Leigh and Alan Cumming’s THE ANNIVERSARY PARTY opposite Cumming, Leigh, John C. Reilly, Kevin Kline and Parker Posey, as well as DUETS, a film directed by her father Bruce Paltrow, and Miramax Films’ BOUNCE, opposite Ben Affleck. Paltrow has appeared in director Anthony Minghella’s THE TALENTED MR. RIPLEY opposite Matt Damon, Jude Law and Cate Blanchett, and the hit film A PERFECT MURDER opposite Michael Douglas and Viggo Mortensen, as well as the critically acclaimed and international box office hit film SLIDING DOORS.
Her other film credits include EMMA directed by Douglas McGrath, GREAT EXPECTATIONS opposite Ethan Hawke, THE PALLBEARER opposite David Schwimmer, SE7EN, A VIEW FROM THE TOP, MOONLIGHT AND VALENTINO, JEFFERSON IN PARIS, MRS. PARKER AND THE VICIOUS CIRCLE, MALICE, HOOK and SHOUT.
Paltrow’s first role was her remarkable performance in the critically acclaimed FLESH AND BONE opposite Meg Ryan and Dennis Quaid. She has also received rave reviews in a sell-out run of the Williamstown Theater Festival’s production of "As You Like It," in the role of Rosalind.
Paltrow recently made her directorial debut, co-writing and co-directing (with her friend Mary Wigmore) a short film, DEALBREAKERS.
In 2005, Paltrow entered into a multi-year contract with Estée Lauder. Since then, she has appeared in global print and television advertising campaigns for Pleasures and Pure White Linen fragrances. In 2006, Estée Lauder introduced a newPleasures by Gwyneth Paltrow limited edition collection, inspired by her favorite pampering rituals. In future seasons, Paltrow will appear in additional Estée Lauder fragrance, makeup and skincare advertising campaigns.
Born in Los Angeles, where she spent the first 11 years of her life, Paltrow comes from a very close-knit family deeply entrenched in the entertainment industry. Her father, Bruce Paltrow, was a highly successful producer (ST. ELSEWHERE, THE WHITE SHADOW) and her mother is the award-winning actress Blythe Danner. While Paltrow and her younger brother, Jake, lived in Los Angeles, she attended St. Augustine by the Sea (now known as Crossroads).
Subsequently, her family moved to New York and she graduated from the Spence School before enrolling in the University of California at Santa Barbara to major in Art History. She quickly learned that college life was not something she felt committed to and withdrew from school despite her father’s strong recommendation to remain. It wasn’t until he caught her moving performance in the Williamstown Theater Festival production of "Picnic," starring opposite her mother and Tony Goldwyn, that he lent his support in her pursuit of an acting career.
Paltrow currently resides in New York City and London.
ABOUT THE FILMMAKERS
(Director/Executive Producer) JON FAVREAU is a true multi-hyphenate. After getting his break as an actor in RUDY, Favreau went on to establish himself as a writer of considerable talent with the acclaimed hipster comedy SWINGERS. Since then, he has continued to challenge himself with a variety of eclectic projects.
Prior to IRON MAN, Favreau directed ZATHURA, a children’s adventure film starring Tim Robbins, for Radar Pictures and Sony Entertainment. In 2003, Favreau directed the acclaimed holiday smash hit ELF starring Will Ferrell, for New Line Cinema. Favreau made his feature film directorial debut with MADE,a script he wrote and starred in opposite Vince Vaughn and Sean "Puffy" Combs for Artisan Entertainment.
In front of the camera, Favreau was most recently seen opposite Vaughn and Jennifer Aniston in Universal Pictures’ THE BREAK-UP. He next appears in FOUR CHISTMASES opposite Vaughn and Reese Witherspoon, which will be released on November 14, 2008. Favreau was also seen alongside Kirsten Dunst and Paul Bettany in Universal Pictures’ WIMBLEDON, in Sony Pictures Entertainment’s SOMETHING’S GOTTA GIVE, and in the Mark Steven Johnson film DAREDEVIL with Ben Affleck, an adaptation of the Marvel Comics franchise for 20th Century Fox-Regency Enterprises. He also portrayed legendary heavyweight champion Rocky Marciano in the MGM biopic ROCKY MARCIANO.
Favreau’s other feature film credits include LOVE AND SEX opposite Famke Janssen, THE REPLACEMENTS with Keanu Reeves, VERY BAD THINGS opposite Christian Slater and Cameron Diaz, and DEEP IMPACT with Robert Duvall, Morgan Freeman and Vanessa Redgrave.
Favreau’s television credits include a recurring role on FRIENDS and a special appearance on HBO’s critically acclaimed THE SOPRANOS, playing himself. Favreau also added the title of show runner to his multi-hyphenate list of credits as the creator, producer and host of the critically acclaimed and Emmy nominated IFC series DINNER FOR FIVE.
MARK FERGUS & HAWK OSTBY (Screenplay by) have collaborated on more than a dozen scripts over the past decade, including their Oscar-nominated adaptation of P.D. James’ novel Children of Men (along with Alfonso Cuarón, David Arata and Timothy J. Sexton) and the thriller CONSEQUENCE for HBO Pictures. Fergus made his directing debut with his and Ostby’s original screenplay FIRST SNOW, a psychological thriller starring Guy Pearce, Piper Perabo, William Fichtner and J.K. Simmons.
ART MARCUM & MATT HOLLOWAY (Screenplay by) began to work as a writing team in Los Angeles. They made their first sale – a pitch to Disney’s Touchstone Pictures – in late 2001. Subsequently, they have worked for Paramount Pictures, Warner Bros. and DreamWorks, as well as CBS and Fox television. IRON MAN is Marcum and Holloway’s first major motion picture to be produced, and will be followed by the upcoming PUNISHER: WAR ZONE directed by Lexi Alexander.
The son of a political science professor, Marcum was raised in Santa Cruz, California, but influenced by the wider world. Regular dinner guests at home included African revolutionaries, novelists, poets and filmmakers. He spent many years living overseas in both France and South America and is a graduate of Stanford University. After college, Marcum worked briefly in television news in Washington, D.C. before moving to Los Angeles to pursue a career in film.
Holloway grew up in the Philadelphia area. After completing Stanford University’s undergraduate creative writing program, he moved to Los Angeles to pursue a film writing career. Holloway worked many production jobs after college on movie sets as varied as James Cameron’s TITANIC and Doug Liman’s GO.
STAN LEE (Executive Producer) is currently the chairman and chief creative officer POW! Entertainment. The company was founded in 2001 and has over 40 movies, TV, DVD, video game and other projects in various stages of development.
Also the chairman emeritus of Marvel Comics, Lee is known to millions as the man whose superheroes propelled Marvel to its preeminent position in the comic book industry. Hundreds of legendary characters, including Spider- Man, The Incredible Hulk, The X-Men, The Fantastic Four, Iron Man, Daredevil, The Avengers, The Silver Surfer, Thor and Dr. Strange, all grew out of his fertile imagination.
Lee served as executive producer for Columbia’s worldwide blockbusters SPIDER-MAN, SPIDER-MAN 2, and SPIDER-MAN 3, all directed by Sam Raimi and starring Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst.
Lee executive-produced the global hit GHOST RIDER, which took in over $200 million worldwide. Lee also executive-produced X-MEN: THE LAST STAND after executive-producing the first two smash "X-Men" films. He also served as executive producer of THE FANTASTIC FOUR, HULK, ELEKTRA, DAREDEVIL, and the "Blade" trilogy.
In the early 1960s, Lee ushered in what has come to be known as "The Marvel Age of Comics," creating major new superheroes while breathing life and style into such old favorites as Captain America, The Human Torch and The Sub Mariner.
During his first 25 years at Marvel as editor, art director and head writer, Lee scripted no fewer than two and as many as five complete comic books per week. His prodigious output may comprise the largest body of published work by any single writer. Additionally, he wrote newspaper features, radio and television scripts and screenplays. By the time he was named publisher of Marvel Comics in 1972, Lee’s comics were the nation’s biggest sellers. In 1977, he brought the Spider-Man character to newspapers in the form of a syndicated strip. This seven-days-aweek feature, which he has written and edited since its inception, is the most successful of all syndicated adventure strips, appearing in more than 500 newspapers worldwide.
In 1981, Marvel launched an animation studio on the West Coast and Lee moved to Los Angeles to become creative head of Marvel’s cinematic adventures. He began to transform his Spider-Man and Hulk creations into Saturday morning television and paved the way for Marvel’s entry into live-action feature films.
Under the umbrella of his new company POW! (Purveyors of Wonder!) Entertainment, Inc., Lee is creating and executive producing an animated "Stan Lee Presents" DVD series, with the first two released in 2007: "Mosaic" and "The Condor." Lee’s television credits with POW! include serving as executive producer and star on NBC’s sci-fi hit reality series WHO WANTS TO BE A SUPERHERO? seasons one and two, and as co-producer and creator of STRIPPERELLA on the Spike cable channel, in addition to previously executive producing NICK FURY: AGENT OF S.H.I.E.L.D., THE INCREDIBLE HULK, SPIDER-MAN, and X-MEN.
Lee has written more than a dozen best-selling books, including Stan Lee’s Superhero Christmas, The Origins of Marvel Comics, The Best of the Worst, The Silver Surfer, How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way, The Alien Factor, Bring on the Bad Guys, Riftworld, The Superhero Women and his recent autobiography Excelsior! The Amazing Life of Stan Lee.
Iron Man Movie Review (Chicago Tribune Film Critic Michael Phillips)