One of the biggest problems with mainstream movies nowadays is the way studios buy a “pitch” or option an idea that’s less than a sentence, and then treat the actual script as an afterthought, as if the groins are just going to hit themselves and records will scratch on their own. Problem is, sometimes it works. As, if Jeff Bridges is to be believed, in the case of Iron Man. From an interview with In Contention:
“They had no script, man!” Bridges exclaims. “They had an outline. We would show up for big scenes every day and we wouldn’t know what we were going to say. We would have to go into our trailer and work on this scene and call up writers on the phone, ‘You got any ideas?’ Meanwhile the crew is tapping their foot on the stage waiting for us to come on.”
Bridges, director Jon Favreau and Robert Downey Jr. would literally act out sequences during primitive rehearsals, Downey taking on Bridges’s role and vice versa, to find and essentially improvise their way to full scenes, the actor recounts. Bridges says that the entire production was probably saved by the improv prowess of the film’s director and star.
“You’ve got the suits from Marvel in the trailer with us saying, ‘No, you wouldn’t say that,’” Bridges remembers. “You would think with a $200 million movie you’d have the sh-t together, but it was just the opposite. And the reason for that is because they get ahead of themselves. They have a release date before the script, ‘Oh, we’ll have the script before that time,’ and they don’t have their sh-t together.'”
Then Bridges had a very Dude-like epiphany:
So I said, ‘Oh, what we’re doing here, we’re making a $200 million student film. We’re all just f-ckin’ around! We’re playin’. Oh, great!’ That took all the pressure off. ‘Oh, just jam, man, just play.’ And it turned out great!”
I remember seeing Iron Man for the first time and thinking that despite the movie being great, the script was pretty bad. But you can make a lot of things work when you’ve got Downey chewing scenery and shooting rockets from his hands. Adding Robert Downey to a movie is like adding booze to everyday situations.