It was just two years ago that “Iron Man” descended on the San Diego Convention Center and went on to make a staggering $318 million in the U.S. (and nearly $600 million worldwide) for a film about industrialist playboy-turned-fully armed superhero Tony Stark – previously one of Marvel’s lesser-known crime fighters. Anticipation for the sequel’s panel was so high that even Marvel executives had a tough time getting in.
Though production on “Iron Man 2” wrapped just a week and a half ago, Favreau brought five minutes of footage from the film, which could top the first. Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) is working alone at the outset of the sequel. He rejects another offer to join forces with the group of heroes being assembled by Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and is being ordered by the government to turn in his super-powered suit, which has been branded too dangerous a weapon. The preview also introduced the new cast members Garry Shandling as the senator demanding Stark’s suit, Don Cheadle as Jim Rhodes (War Machine), Mickey Rourke as bad guy Ivan Vanko (Whiplash), Scarlett Johannson as Natasha Romanoff (Black Widow) and Sam Rockwell as arms merchant Justin Hammer.
Don Cheadle’s replacement of actor Terrence Howard, who played Rhodes in the first movie, is dealt with quickly during an introductory exchange between Stark and Rhodes: “It’s me. I’m here. Deal with it. Let’s move on,” Rhodes says. During the Q&A portion of the panel, Cheadle was asked if his performance was informed by Howard’s. The actor responded: “Being the vampire that I am, I siphoned off everything I could from Terrence’s performance and then modernized it for 2009.”
The audience also got its first look at Whiplash’s electrically charged whips and Cheadle donning his own high-tech get-up as War Machine. “I can’t believe your rig was heavier than my rig,” Downey joked. “It was a contractual thing,” Cheadle replied.
When asked by a fan what she did to get the part of Black Widow, Scarlett Johansson said, “I did a couple of knee bends, some lunges – that came out wrong.” Downey jumped in, addressing the fan, “Did you bump your head? Her audition was her body of work.” Favreau said he liked that Johansson showed up to their initial meeting having already dyed her hair red for the job. Favreau said, “We met and I said, ‘Wow, you really want the part, don’t you?’ She had dyed her hair before she had the part, which I thought showed a lot of enthusiasm.” He went on to say, “Boy, she worked her tail off with the stunt guys. Most of the stuff that you see in the movie is her doing it. She trained in fighting and all the acrobatics that Black Widow has to do to stay true to the books.”
To prepare for the physical nature of the role itself, the actress said she trained in mixed-martial arts and ate “a lot of egg-white omelets.” The end results pay off with her butt kicking performance: “I’m kicking some major ass – so I would say ‘major’ is the amount of ass I kick,” laughed Johansson. “Whose ass do I kick?” she grinned, choosing her words carefully. “Well, you’re just going to have to wait and see.”
Mickey Rourke wasn’t able to attend the panel, but in his absence, his co-stars talked up his commitment to the film. Favreau revealed that, to get into character, Rourke spent some quality time in a Russian prison. “And I thought I was eccentric,” Downey said. “He’s something else.”
The excitement of seeing the Iron Man 2 trailer wasn’t just for fans since the stars of the movie had yet to see the preview ahead of time. Their take on seeing the film’s trailer for the first time? “It’s a pretty sexy trailer. I was really turned on when I watched it. It was pretty intense,” Sam Rockwell said. Scarlett Johansson’s reaction: “I was totally geeked out.” The Iron Man himself, Robert Downey Jr. said, “It’s nice to be back with a successful franchise. Don Cheadle and I brought things to another level. So much of [the film] was green screened and CGI, so you don’t know what the end result will be. I was kind of blown away by the trailer too.” Cheadle told the crowd, “You guys saw it before we even saw it.” But in the end Sam Rockwell said it best: “That trailer blew my mind, actually.”