Robert Downey Jr. stars as “Iron Man” and alter ego Tony Stark in the summer’s first certified blockbuster. Listen to a couple of his co-stars talk in separate New York interviews, and you’d swear he wrote much of the Marvel-inspired film, too.
“Robert is totally insane, and brilliant, and hilarious. I'm madly in love with him,” says Gwyneth Paltrow, who plays Pepper Potts, right-hand woman to Stark. “Working with him every day was very refreshing. He has such a different approach. He's very spontaneous, and he would always change lines.
“What would happen every morning is that they would say 'OK, Robert and (director) Jon Favreau are ready to talk about the scene in Jon's trailer. I would go in Jon's trailer and be chatting with Jon. Then Robert would come in with his 88-liter coffee, and his sunglasses. He would saunter in and take the sides, and he would literally ball them up, whip it against the wall, and be like, 'Fuck this. This is the worst thing I've ever read. We are not doing this.' "
“And we would be like, 'OK, OK.' Then we would sit down and rewrite a lot of it, and that's sort of how we did the whole movie," Paltrow explains. “It was kind of crazy, but it was fun. We always knew where we wanted to go, but it was a lot of time. Robert cannot say something that he doesn't feel. He can't do it, and he just won't do it. I think it's a testament to why he's such a good actor.”
Adds Terrence Howard (playing military man and Stark confidante Rhodey), “Robert is the most gifted actor I’ve ever worked with. I told him, ‘I am your second lead and anyplace you go I will follow.’ He was a real leader on set. He would take the script and say, ‘This is good. We can shoot this and be done by lunch, or we could rewrite it and make a good movie.’ ”
“His instincts are right on. He made every scene better. It’s as if he’s completely free because everyone knows the worst of his deeds.”
For his part, Downey, whose late-‘90s drug woes and demons are well-documented, freely admits to the “dirty deed” of rewriting what’s on the page.
“We had great writers and (two of them) had just been nominated (for “Children of Men”), and I said, 'Hey, I was nominated once, too,’ ” Downey says. “So, anyway, we really all worked together as a team and sometimes they'd hand me stuff that I said, 'Thank God they wrote this. It's so smart and cool and perfect.' And other times I would go to them with ideas or with Jon Favreau.
“By the time we got to Act III, I was like, 'I can't have this confrontation scene with Pepper.' Hey, we're getting along fine. Yeah, I realized that some of the stuff that I was like, 'That's garbage!' becomes the first big laugh in the movie after all the schlock that Jon and I wrote gets just these little titters and chuckles."
“It's always a group effort,” Downey concludes, “but my thing is that we should always feel free to ball each other's junk up and throw it against the wall because we're not here to serve a legal document. If you asked me, that's going to be the problem for me in the rest of my career and I know it now.”
Sounds as if the sequel might be boffo – on and off the set.
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