Their characters have existed on the comic book page for decades, etched into readers’ minds long before the idea of adapting “Iron Man” for the big screen was even hatched. But that history of pen and ink, of well-established characterization, of colorful heroes and even more colorful villains, didn’t mean cast and crew were boxed in when it came to conceiving cinematic equivalents for characters like War Machine, Whiplash and Justin Hammer.
In interviews conducted before “Iron Man 2″ grossed $133.6 million during its opening weekend, the actors behind those Marvel creations — Mickey Rourke, Don Cheadle and Sam Rockwell — spoke with MTV New about the choices they made to make the characters their own.
Rourke famously holed up in a Russian prison to capture the nuances of the villain Ivan Vanko, who ends up transforming himself into the laser-tendril-outfitted Whiplash. While his dialogue coach gave his Russian accent the OK, Rourke’s girlfriend, the Russian-born model Anastassija Makarenko, was less pleased.
“She thought it sucked,” he laughed.
Rourke’s preparation didn’t stop there. He insisted that Vanko have a mouthful of metallic dental work, a body covered in tattoos and a pet cockatoo. “[Director Jon Favreau] had to fight for the teeth and the tattoos and the bird. Everything was a little bit of a fight,” Rourke said. “The Marvel people, who could have easily said no, said yes. They trusted Jon, and Jon trusted me, and Robert was very supportive.”
So what did Cheadle do to get into character as the metal-suited freedom fighter, War Machine? He headed straight to a Russian prison as well.
“I discovered that once I’d been in there that it had nothing to do with War Machine,” he joked. “But I thought, ‘If Mickey Rourke’s going to do it, I got to do it.’ ”
In actuality, probably all Cheadle needed to do was lift some weights, because the War Machine costume was seriously heavy and uncomfortable. “A great deal of it is CGI,” he explained. “The metal frame, the metal torso down to the waist was real and metal and inarticulate and cumbersome. I was thinking, ‘Why did I do this?’ Summer Stock looked so much better!”
To portray the nefarious arms dealer Justin Hammer, Rockwell turned to the “Iron Man” comic books — up to a point. “I got the flamboyance of him in the comic book — the ascot and the smoking robe,” the actor said. And though they experimented with the idea of using that look in the movie, he said, “Eventually, we just did our own thing. Who knows? Maybe he’ll go there some day.”
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