It's a busy time for Jon Favreau — certainly a long way from the semiautobiographical, down-on-his-luck loser he portrayed in "Swingers," the film that launched him a dozen years ago.
He recently signed on for a supporting role behind longtime buddy Vince Vaughn in the comedy "Four Christmases." He's got a slew of new DVDs compiling the best of his underappreciated IFC talk show "Dinner for Five," newly available on Amazon. Oh, and he's got a little flick he directed by the name of "Iron Man" on the way.
Favreau gave a ring to MTV News to talk up "Dinner for Five," a show still very close to his heart, and to fend off all the latest rumors about his big-budget summer flick.
MTV: In putting together these new "Dinner for Five" DVDs, did you notice anything in particular about the old shows?
Jon Favreau: I noticed how I slowly grew in size over the course of the four or five years. There are things you notice, like the one we did with [Oscar-winning actor] Rod Steiger was his last TV appearance. As people's careers grow and change, it's interesting to look back on it as a moment of history. With Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner [appearing together] long before anything romantic happened, you see that there was a chemistry growing there. Judd Apatow was someone we had on the show because I knew him and he was a good storyteller, and now he's such a significant player in Hollywood. Nothing was going his way at the time.
MTV: Who was a surprise?
Favreau: ["Deadwood" creator] David Milch was a huge surprise. That's one of my favorite episodes, the one with Milch and [actors] Jay Mohr and Tim Olyphant and Michael Rapaport. It wasn't the most star-studded lineup we ever had, but the chemistry between the people was great.
MTV: If the show was still on today, what five would you want at the table?
Favreau: [Jack] Nicholson's a great storyteller. [Steven] Spielberg. Woody Allen. Bill Clinton. And I'm the fifth.
MTV: Where are you on "Iron Man" today?
Favreau: There's a lot of effects work that's going to be happening in the next six months. The movie is pretty much going to be everything that it's going to be by the end of January. Because so much of it is animated and CGI, you have to turn it over and let those people do their work on it. So we'll be done in about a month with all the big creative decisions. And then the rest of it becomes about scoring and sound design.
MTV: Have you shown it to friends you trust?
Favreau: Yeah, I showed it to Vince [Vaughn] not long ago. He's always been a very helpful collaborator. We have very similar tastes in storytelling. He brings a lot to the table in terms of giving a reaction that I trust. His big thing is story. Is it as strong a story as it can be? And that's what you're constantly hammering at when you're trying to get a movie right. All the other stuff tends to fall into place. What's nice about "Iron Man" is it's a clean canvas and I get to use what's in the books. I chose to stay fairly true to it, but I left enough room for myself and the performers to deviate a little bit and take a few left turns. It's nice to be able to start my own world within the Marvel universe.
MTV: How long a running time are you shooting for?
Favreau: Probably between [an hour and 45 minutes and two hours]. I don't think it should go much longer than two. We have to see how it plays.
MTV: When are we going to see some more footage from the film?
Favreau: What's fun is that in the next few months, we're going to get huge chunks of effects coming back to us. You don't want to come out with something unless it's a quantum leap from the last stuff shown.
MTV: There's talk of a Super Bowl ad. Would you recommend that I TiVo the game?
Favreau: I would. [He laughs.]
MTV: Marvel producer Avi Arad confirmed to us that Hilary Swank will appear in the film.
Favreau: You're going to have to talk to Avi. I'm amazed by what I see printed and what I hear in interviews. There are not a lot of secrets left, so I'm not going to comment much. I will not confirm or deny.
MTV: How about Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury?
Favreau: That's another interesting question. Right now the only thing that's saving me is the white noise out there. I don't like lying to the fans, but that doesn't mean I have to spill all the secrets either.
MTV: Is there a cameo by you in the film?
Favreau: I did do a cameo. It's nothing to speak of. I'm a glorified extra but with a lot of future potential. I've removed almost all of my dialogue. We shot a lot of movie, so now we're in the winnowing-down process, and part of that is losing everything that's not exceptional, and unfortunately my performance falls into that category. [He laughs.]
MTV: You can show off your recent massive weight loss.
Favreau: I know. We're going to have to do some CGI to make me match. [He laughs.] We shot over the course of several months, and I dropped 80-90 pounds total over the course of the movie.
MTV: There's also been talk of a scene in which Iron Man encounters the Hulk.
Favreau: Again, I don't want to confirm or deny any of this stuff. I think it's a fun game. Every Marvel fan is like Columbo. They can take in very little information and they can piece together the whole scene of the crime. But I'm not going to show any cards before I have to.
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