Last Week at an L.A. Film School event, “Iron Man 3” director Shane Black was joined by his co-writer Drew Pearce to talk about the third chapter in Tony Stark’s story. The pair dished on their process (Black tried to have Pearce fired as soon as he came on the project), why fans shouldn’t expect to see the “Demon in A Bottle” storyline on the big screen, and how “The Avengers” killed “The Runaways” movie.
First off, let me say that Shane Black is kind of a dick–prickly, opinionated, quick with a joke, and incredibly wise, thoughtful and articulate about film. The “Lethal Weapon” and “Kiss, Kiss, Bang Bang” director joined Pearce at the “Iron Man 3” home video pre release event as part of a Q&A for the Jeff Goldsmith podcast to discuss the making of the film as well as their thoughts on filmmaking in general.
Perhaps the most exciting thing to hear was the amount of latitude that Marvel and Disney gave Pearce and Black in the making of “Iron Man 3,” which was Black’s second time in the director’s seat at ten times the budget of “KKBB” (the film that arguably helped resuscitate star Robert Downey Jr.’s career). Black says Downey actually pitched him to Marvel and Disney execs for the job after “Iron Man” and “Iron Man 2” director Jon Favreau bowed out for the third installment.
Marvel already had British screenwriter Drew Pearce on board after the death of “The Runaways” project. Pearce joked that it was kind of daunting to find out that he’d be working alongside critically-acclaimed screenwriter Black only to find out his director wanted him fired from the film. Disney and Paramount stuck to their guns, keeping Pearce on to help Black see “Iron Man 3” to the big screen, with the duo first collaborating on the script via Skype (with Pearce getting more than an eyeful of three in the morning nude Black), and later at Black’s L.A. home.
As for the “Runaways,” Black added that Pearce’s script (which he had nothing but praise for) was simply a victim of Marvel/Disney’s Phase 3 films, which saw the launch of the third wave of films accompanying “The Avengers.” Pearce lamented that “We were really close to getting made” before the project was shelved. Black and Pearce still say there might be hope for an adaptation of Brian K. Vaughan’s critically-acclaimed teen comic series on the big screen in a future phase of Marvel films, but like a fourth installment of “Iron Man,” don’t hold your breath until at least 2016.
Some other notes from the talk:
- While shooting on “Iron Man 3” began in May of 2012, storyboarding began all the way back in June of 2011.
- Among the excised subplots for the film: Extremis would have had a pheromone factor allowing its users to be more attractive to members of the opposite sex, leading up to the notorious cut sequence where Pepper has sex with villain Aldrich Killian (which would have subsequently been displayed on the Home Depot in-store TV’s while Tony was gearing up for the Miami safehouse sequence.
- Pearce said that the kid’s book for the film actually indirectly references this scene by saying that Tony gets angry that Aldrich and Pepper become “friends.”
- Of the film’s themes, Black and Pearce say they wanted to explore false faces (both Tony’s and those of his villains), manipulating media and symbols, and creating and defeating demons.
- Black on Tony’s neuroses in “Iron Man 3”: With his various suits, Tony was trying to tinker with an externalize his own psychology.
- An earlier draft of the screenplay had Rebecca Hall’s Mya Hansen character as the main villain, using her efforts to aid landmine victims as a cover for developing Extremis.
- The first draft of the film’s script was 178 pages long (which would have made “Iron Man 3” nearly 3 hours long).
- All the way back in the first “Iron Man,” Marvel was trying to find a way to make the Mandarin work, cut only six weeks before that movie was to start filming. For Pearce and Black, it was a matter of figuring out what was interesting about the character while shedding the less savory Cold War era bits and racism. Black was attracted to the idea of the Mandarin as the power behind the true power.
- When asked whether Marvel would return to the Mandarin and the 10 Rings introduced in the first film, Black asked “Is it really worth it?” He added that with AIM and their version of the Mandarin, he and Pearce feel they’ve successfully explained the character for the Marvel cinematic universe.
- Black on “Demon in a Bottle”: “The idea that [Tony] drinks too much will never be a go with Disney.” However, the director added that Downey has a bit of input into the character and has attempted to scale back Tony’s hard partying ways in line with his own recovery from substance abuse.
- When asked about the amount of gunplay Tony engages in in “Iron Man 3,” Black said he “doesn’t give a shit how many times Tony pulls a trigger.” With Black and Pearce’s version of the character, there’s no difference from blasting them with a repulsor at a distance or taking them down with a 9MM.
“Iron Man 3” is out on DVD, Blu-ray, and VOD Tuesday.