Since reports surfaced that Iron Man 3 is the last film in Robert Downey Jr.'s Marvel Studios contract and the actor hinted in a GQ cover story that he may be wrapping up his time playing Tony Stark, fans have been wondering if the upcoming film will be his last in the role. And it looks they're going to keep wondering for a little bit.
"I'm not at liberty to discuss that," Downey said when asked by a reporter about possible negotiations to extend his run. "The future as usual is uncertain, and I think the great thing is that we never could have known what and who was going to come together for the third Iron Man.
"In all earnestness, things are very much in flux right now — Marvel has their plans, and we're all living and growing, and we'll see what happens."
At a press conference in Los Angeles on Monday, Downey did discuss the challenges in making a third Iron Man solo film, which comes on the heels of the character's starring role in last summer's The Avengers, a critical hit that also wound up as the third-highest grossing movie of all time in both domestic and worldwide charts.
"These movies are only ever as good as their bad guys," Downey said. "In addition to what we wanted to have happen with Pepper in the arc that she got, that was kind of overdue, Tony and Rhodey last time decided that he wasn't an island, and there was this power of their partnership, and that expanded in the Avengers. All that was left was, 'movie's only as good as its bad guy.' Once we cast Sir Ben, half our troubles went away. Then the other half had to do with him executing this very peculiar and awesome arc."
That arc for Pepper Potts includes, as revealed previously in promotional clips, the character — who started the trilogy as a personal assistant and is CEO of Stark Industries in Iron Man 3 — at one point operating a suit of armor herself.
"One of the most thrilling parts of having gone all over the place and talking about this movie is that people really love to see Pepper in the suit, and kicking ass," Gwyenth Paltrow said during the press conference. "I would come back — in the comics she becomes Rescue, her own person."
"And she marries Happy Hogan," Downey points out.
James Rhodes, played again by Don Cheadle, also undergoes a transformation in Iron Man 3, transitioning from his familiar role of War Machine to Iron Patriot, a guise introduced in the comics as Norman Osborn's "Dark Reign"-era identity as head of the Dark Avengers. In this film, the change comes from the U.S. government wanting to use Rhodes as more of a symbol, and deeming "War Machine" to be too overtly militaristic of a name.
"The Iron Patriot [armor] is about three kilos heavier, so I prefer War Machine," Cheadle told reporters. "A lot of fun for me in this one was being able to do a lot of action outside of the suit, and getting to work with the stunt team, and doing a lot of the cable work. That was just a big thrill for me. "
Another first for the franchise in Iron Man 3 is the addition of Kiss Kiss Bang Bang's Shane Black, who directed the film and co-wrote the screenplay with Drew Pearce.
"When I started Iron Man 3 I was very uncomfortable with the fact that Jon wasn't there directing," Paltrow said. "As we went on, I really warmed to Shane. He is so sharp. He is so smart, and his dialogue was incredible. What we started with on this movie that we didn't start with on the first two films was a really excellent finished screenplay. I think it really shows in the film."
Ben Kingsley, who plays classic Iron Man villain The Mandarin, also praised Black.
"He has a great attribute as a director — [he] will give you the role, and then he will let go," Kingsley said. "There are some directors, lesser in confidence or skill, who make the actor feel very uncomfortable because you fear you're auditioning for them every day. And that's a terrible feeling on the set."
While Iron Man 3 is consciously a very different movie than The Avengers, the major events of that film do play a significant part in the new movie, with the alien invasion of New York City weighing heavily on Tony Stark's psyche.
"It's weird when movie that's connected to another doesn't reference that movie at all," Downey said. "I think it would lack confidence if we didn't. I thought it would be helpful."
When asked about whether or not the film — which features Extremis-propelled terrorists acts perpetrated by The Mandarin — has any newfound resonance due to the recent tragic events in Boston, Downey downplayed any connection.
"I'd like to speak for all of us and say that I like entertainers to talk about entertainment," he said. "In a sidebar it's different, but I think at this level, everybody's having their own personal feelings about it."
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