Turns out Tony Stark’s alcoholism wasn’t the only element of “Iron Man 3’s” original screenplay that veered a little too sharply into adult territory. Indeed, writer/director Shane Black’s penchant for using the f-word also required some intervention – by none other than his co-screenwriter Drew Pearce.
“We actually had to have a sit-down conversation about the fact that you couldn’t say ‘fuck’ in a PG-13,” said Pearce during the threequel’s press conference on Monday.
“When you would write for television, when I was coming up in this business, you would just say ‘fuck’ anyway and you would just know they would take it out later,” interjected Black.
“That was weirdly the attitude,” said Pearce. “It was like, [but] ‘everyone’s going to see this.'”
In any event, parents will be happy to know that the film does not, in fact, make use of the popular curse word, though in Black’s estimation it also doesn’t “pander” to that audience by excising all traces of adult sophistication. Noted the director:
“Coming into this I had to go back and say, ‘I remember what it was like when I went to the matinee to stand in line for ‘Empire Strikes Back’ or ‘Star Wars” or those types of films and get excited all over again about that type of adventure that could appeal to a family but was still edgy.”
Also addressed during the Q&A was the much-reported-on Chinese version of the upcoming film (“We left out the giant dragon,” joked Black), which will feature extra bonus footage tailored specifically for audiences in the emerging international market.
“Marvel would like to keep an element of surprise about that,” said Pearce. “So when the inevitable versions of it feed back to us, you’ll see exactly what it involved. But for the moment, I don’t think we’re allowed to talk about it.”
“The Chinese version will be an interesting surprise,” added Black. “We do know that there’s additional footage that will be available in that version, which I’m sure will filter back here.”
Also joining Black and Pearce on the panel were franchise first-timers Rebecca Hall and Guy Pearce, who star as Extremis co-creators Dr. Maya Hansen and Aldrich Killian, respectively. For Hall, it was a rare entry for the actress into the world of blockbuster filmmaking that appealed to her for the very fact that it didn’t feel like most other blockbuster films.
“It was a combination of ‘don’t knock it til you try it’ and ‘this one seems like one that would be very fun to try,'” she said. “I remember going to see the first ‘Iron Man’ film and thinking, ‘What an unusual thing that they’re not casting action heroes, they’re casting Robert Downey Jr. and Gwyneth Paltrow. This must be interesting.'”
Not that all the typical big-budget trappings weren’t a major presence on set.
“There were literally rows of people sitting behind us at the monitors with laptop computers, kind of mocking up versions of what things were gonna look like,” said Guy Pearce of the experience. “Which, you know, doesn’t often happen on a $2 million Australian movie.”
Similar to Hall, Black found himself drawn to the project not only because it gave him the opportunity of reuniting with his “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” star Robert Downey Jr but because it presented him with the opportunity to direct a highly-commercial movie that never lost sight of its characters.
“We got to be more character-centric, and [go] basically back to basics,” said Black. “That was very appealing to me. So to make it more of a thriller, and to make it more about Tony and less otherworldly, and just sort of ground it more. That was our intention.”
Interestingly enough, the film also takes place during the Christmas season – an element common to several of Black’s past filmmaking efforts including “Lethal Weapon,” “The Long Kiss Goodnight” and “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.”
“I did ‘Lethal Weapon’ back in ’87 and we [set it during] Christmas, and [producer] Joel [Silver] liked it so much he put ‘Die Hard’ at Christmas,” said Black. “It’s a time of reckoning for a lot of people, where you take stock as to where you’ve been [and] how you got to where you are now.”
“Plus, there was a kind of ‘Christmas Carol’ thing that we wanted to bring in for Tony as well –” began Drew Pearce.
“Meaning the Ghost of Christmas Past,” interjected Black, “in the sense that Harley [Ty Simpkins] is kind of [Tony] as a young boy. Just encountering all these different things that come to him almost like a fever dream when he’s at his lowest point.”
Indeed, Tony’s life falls apart in spectacular style in “Iron Man 3,” culminating in an attack on his hillside mansion that leaves the billionaire genius reeling – and also involves a mysterious bearded adversary known as the Mandarin (Ben Kingsley).
“If you’re gonna do something that involves a terrorist in [the] modern world…why not say something about the entire experience of what it would take, for instance, to create a myth that was all things to all people?” said Black, who was initially resistant to the idea of using the Mandarin before coming up with a whole new spin on the character. “Why not make an uber-terrorist and then play with the idea of that? Of a corporate world full of think tanks whose assignment, let’s say, was to cobble together the ultimate warfare specialist. And then have that man’s sole unifying characteristic be his undying hatred for America, such that he attracts to him these acolytes and disciples who respond to the myth? We thought that was an interesting idea, regardless of his ethnicity.”
Want more “Iron Man 3”? You can check out a full report from the earlier press conference with stars Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle and Ben Kingsley here.
“Iron Man 3” hits theaters on May 3.