Typically, we'd plaster the early part of an article like this with the words "Spoiler Alert!" all over it, but this isn't a news item on what is in this week's "Iron Man" movie. Instead, the most controversial element of the highly anticipated flick is what you might not be seeing.
Way back in July, as rumors began to circulate that Marvel would begin cross-pollinating its superheroes with cameos by Hilary Swank and Samuel L. Jackson, super-producer Avi Arad confirmed to MTV News that both had shot footage for "Iron Man." According to rumors, Swank's appearance would be a brief cameo, while Jackson would be setting himself up as Army hero/ superspy Nick Fury.
"The Sam thing was supposed to be the biggest secret of them all," Arad said of Jackson's scene. "It's amazing how it got out."
In the last week, several of us here at MTV News have been fortunate enough to see early screenings of the blockbuster in NYC and L.A. — and, sadly, none of us observed either star. The closest we could find was a nonspeaking extra who kinda looks like Swank, gambling with Robert Downey Jr. in a scene.
"I have seen Samuel Jackson on a set before," Terrence Howard said recently, "but not necessarily on this one."
But hold the presses: A new theory is emerging that director Jon Favreau, in an attempt to keep his big surprise intact, has been making some last-minute manipulations to put Jackson's cameo into the prints that begin running in theaters when the film opens on Friday.
Barely a month ago, Downey indicated that a cameo scene would appear at the conclusion of the film. "It's like the same thing we did with a hitherto-unnamed star," he revealed, refusing to say Jackson by name, "who will probably appear in the end credits of 'Iron Man.' "
At the screenings we attended, "Iron Man" had a crisp conclusion followed by low-rent end credits simply showing the suit. It all seemed suspiciously simple. Even after the final name and the Marvel logo rolled, the press saw no additional fireworks.
In recent years, Marvel films such as "X-Men 3" and "Daredevil" boasted extra footage after the end credits.
The end-credit rumors can largely be traced to the site ComicBookResources.com, on which columnist Rich Johnston wrote after attending a London screening: "One thing missing from the film was the much-touted end-of-movie scene with Samuel Jackson as Nick Fury. I understand from British Film classification sources that the scene is in the print that they've approved for general release, but not in premiere or preview screenings, so as not to spoil the um ... surprise ... bugger. Anyway, he's recruiting for a group called 'The Avengers.' "
Spokespeople for Paramount Pictures did not respond to requests for comment by press time.
Asked by MTV News this past weekend about Jackson's curious disappearance, Favreau dodged the issue as if he were Iron Man taking on two fighter jets. "As a filmmaker, we like to have some surprises left for the audience. I found, when I looked at my Christmas presents [early], my parents knew that I opened the tape up," he said with a smile. "I never confirmed that Sam Jackson was in the movie. People asked me about Hilary Swank. I will tell you this: I pay attention to what people are talking about. The Internet is a big watercooler, and we're all allowed to take a sip from the cup."
Favreau's most telling comment, however, may have been the final one he made to us.
"I just want to have some surprises left for the fans. I care what they think, and I want to make sure they're happy," he insisted. "I think at the end of the day, they're going to be happy with how I handled this."
Sure sounds to us like a man who has something up his sleeve. Either way, we'll get the final peek at "Iron Man" on Friday. Only then, it seems, will we learn what Favreau is hiding behind his mask.
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