Iron Man 3 director Shane Black and his co-writer Drew Pearce recently appeared in our Iron Man 3 spoiler podcast. In it, we discussed everything from what ended up on the cutting room floor to which football team a certain character supported.
But there was so much detail, it couldn't be contained in just one podcast news story, so here, like the Purvis and Wade Skyfall special before it, we've broken out several particularly interesting (and incredibly spoilerific) titbits for you to read at your leisure.
And again, just in case you haven't seen it already, go and see Iron Man 3 before reading this feature. Also, be sure to subscribe to the Empire Podcast so you don't miss out on our equally eye-opening Star Trek Into Darkness spoiler special...
Drew Pearce: We kicked around with a lot of stuff. Both separately and together, Extremis and The Mandarin are two of the most iconic parts of Iron Man, but we talked a lot about the Five Nightmares* as well…
Shane Black: Yeah, in fact the version of Extremis that ends up in the movie is suspiciously similar to the actual way that bomb people manifest in Five Nightmares – it’s kind of a mash-up, as it were.
*The Five Nightmares were seen in an 2008 Iron Man comic book run – The Invincible Iron Man #1-7 – where son of Obadiah Stane (Jeff Bridges in the first Iron Man movie) Ezekiel Stane uses Iron Man tech-inspired suicide bombers against Tony. Find out more details here.
Drew Pearce: With some of the early drafts, or at least our early writing, probably before it came into being as an official draft, we were actually toying with the Five Nightmares idea of black market RT Units, arc reactors – because Matt Fraction run* does a brilliant real-life job of that, you know?
We didn’t go down that route in the end but I guess that’s partly kind of how we were originally envisaging it.
Shane Black: Remember where the Marvel version where Pepper Potts goes undercover at the black market bazar in Nairobi or something? You kind of think, “That doesn’t seem very realistic…”
* RT stands for “Repulsor Technology”, by the way.
** Matt Fraction – real name Matt Fritchman – is a Marvel writer who has worked on The Invincible Iron Man runs previously mentioned, as well as The Immortal Iron Fist and the Uncanny X-Men.
Drew Pearce: Do you remember when I wrote that sequence in the first draft for Pepper? We were trying to establish what had happened to Pepper since the second movie. And we did like this little sequence that was like Hugo Stiglitz’s from Inglourious Basterds. You know the German guy where they do that mini, Sam Jackson-narrated, exploitation update? We did like a whole rolling, Tarantino-esque two page thing – it was cool as well!
Shane Black: It was all cool, but the fact is when we were introducing the characters, we had these mini montage segments that would have made the movie 3 hours and 50 minutes long…
Drew Pearce: …which it actually was [in the assembly cut] even though we didn’t shoot them so, um, yeah.
Shane Black: By the way, a fun fact – although also a tragic and scary fact – is that the movie’s assembly cut came in at 3 hours and 15 minutes, and it ended up being 1 hour 59 minutes. We cut 75 minutes of footage. Picture sitting still for 1 hour and 15 minutes. That’s a movie. We lost a movie out of the movie. And I don’t know how we did it, and that’s the miracle – it’s always a leap of faith. I never would have believed we could cut it down and still have it make sense.
Drew Pearce: I miss the car chase. That would have been a lot of fun. On just a purely practical level, the car chase was one of the elements that stayed in the movie pretty late. We location scouted it… there’s some amazing art kicking around for it, somewhere in the depths, that will probably make its way into some kind of Phase 2 photo book in three years’ time.
Shane Black: There was a scene where the water tower falls over and traps Tony. But there’s actually another character there that was cut out: the bully. The bully who bullied young Harley and comes back. They meet him in town, and then later, as they’re about to leave they realise he’s been trapped under the water tower, and Tony is trying to save him and can’t and he’s getting desperate, and then suddenly Harley surfaces and the little kid has actually dived down and saved his own bully. And then they have to resuscitate him, and Tony takes the RT Unit out of his chest to shock the kid back to life, and…
Drew Pearce: …and that was in so late, I sometimes forget that it’s gone. It sometimes surprises me, but I mean, that’s the nature of this movie.
Drew Pearce: There’s the stuff we lost from the 3 hour 15 cut, and there’s also stuff we lost from the writing stage – there were two whole different sections. Do you remember the M.I.T. geeks?
Shane Black: Yeah, Tony, instead of consulting this young kid, he went to this kind of weird…
Drew Pearce: …it was like the ‘Stark wing’. There were [two female scientists], and one of them was a fan, and one of them was basically that kind of brilliantly chippy student that you get. The student who because they meet someone famous thinks the best way to deal with them is with total aggression. I don’t know if I’d necessarily say that I miss that – it played, but – I don’t think there was any room for it in our Capra-esque second act.
Shane Black: You could probably take a lot of the material we wrote and just forge it into a document that would be another script entirely. We had other villains. Remember Mallen, and [Simon] Krieger*?
Drew Pearce: Even Edwin Cord was discussed. Actually, [Mallen’s] a significant one. Elements ended up transmuting into other stuff we did, but we really kicked around the idea of doing a Mallen* movie.
* Comic book character from the Extremis arc. One of the people who responds best to the Extremis drug – i.e. he becomes a superstrong villain who can breathe fire and electrocute people (pictured above from the animated Iron Man: Extremis series).
** Another businessman in the Iron Man canon who wants rid of Tony. In one story, he impersonates everyone’s favourite genius billionaire playboy philanthropist to ruin his reputation. Find out more about him here.
** Head of the Cord Conglomerate and yep, another businessman baddie. [First seen in 1988](http://marvel.wikia.com/Edwin_Cord_%28Earth-616%29), he's the guy who assembled similarly suited baddoes The Raiders to take down Tony. *
* There is another comic book character's name mentioned at this point, but you're going to have to listen to the podcast to hear who it is. Yep, we're teases like that. *
Shane Black: In the second draft, Pepper slept with Killian because he was so pheromonally enhanced with Extremis that she couldn’t resist him. Also, she was angry at Tony. Then he makes a sex tape and broadcasts it in Home Depot!
Drew Pearce: Wow, that seems audacious even by our standards. It was definitely ground breaking.
Drew Pearce: There were brilliant points throughout the process where, because Shane has basically only ever written his own scripts, he’s his own master and because of that he’s always been his own master of language as well. So whatever ‘colour’ he wants to bring to that language, he brought.
There were a couple of points early on where I would go, “I don’t think we can say that.” And you genuinely didn’t believe me when I told you we couldn’t say fuck in a PG 13 movie. “We’re allowed a couple of fucks, right?”
I think you can have one, but our first draft didn’t have one. It had a lot.
Drew Pearce: I remember the meeting where we pitched [the idea of Trevor Slattery] to [Marvel head Kevin Feige]. I think we had back up plans as well, because we didn’t know they’d go for it. And Kevin, you know, Kevin did what Kevin is best at. He took a beat and he thought about it and in classic Kevin style said, “That’d be cool.” And then it was like, full steam ahead.
And I think there’s a part of him that liked the challenge of having a – for want of a better word – a twist in one of their movies. Just because he hadn’t done it before. So the whole movie has been marketed in support of a twist, and a twist that is, you know, in the most generous version, a brave reinterpretation of a canonical character.
Shane Black: It’s already a brave interpretation of a canonical character and then, turn it into something else that people go: “You have raped this…”
Drew Pearce: Man, here’s the thing: as we do this podcast before the movie is released, I am still absolutely on tenterhooks about whether Trevor Slattery is embraced or not – [whether fans will] point at me and go “Lynch him!”
Shane Black: We won’t be lynched. Here’s the thing: I am more interested in a way – and I don’t usually care about critics – but I’m interested in the idea of some critic somewhere saying well they’ve chosen to do something rather interesting in a comic book movie more than a couple of fan boys going “I wanted space rings!”
Drew Pearce: …until they kill you.
Drew Pearce: What we are shooting for, in the smallest possible way, is that it would be lovely if we could get some satire into the movie essentially, and in our own small way I’d like to think that [we did]. I don’t think it’s a ground breaking artistic comment, but I do think it’s an interesting analysis of real world news cycles and how the western world demonises and creates opposition that can fund military power or fund political power.
Shane Black: There’s a waiting niche in America, waiting to be fed fear. It’s the daily dose and The Mandarin supplies that much in the same way that Extremis supplies the dose the niche in the human mind for self-improvement.
Drew Pearce: And that’s how we always hoped that those two ideas would join up. And again, we don’t hit that stuff really hard on the head in the movie - you kind of can’t hit it too hard on the head. But that’s definitely how, for us, Extremis and The Mandarin concepts join up.
Drew Pearce: I don’t know if Sir Ben believes me, but we genuinely had him in our minds when we wrote it. We had Sexy Beast in our heads and we also felt like if anyone was going to take the piss out of a certain kind of British luvvie then he would know how to do that best.
Drew Pearce: It’s Liverpool F.C. [The Mandarin is watching on TV] because Sir Ben said he was being Liverpudlian. I think Trevor is his own thing, frankly.
Originally it was going be Arsenal because before I wandered off to America for a bit, I lived in Highbury, so that’s who it was gonna be, but now it’s Liverpool.
Drew Pearce: Jon Favreau is the Downton Abbey fan. You don’t understand how big Downton is in the states. To be honest, it’s kind of faintly appalling when you’re British and you’re over there.
Shane Black: Because people who I talk to in the UK say it’s not that good.
Drew Pearce: I know lots of people that love it, but for me it’s a wee bit soapy. There's a kind of gentrification porn to it. Jon feels like there is this totally unexplored story, which there were more hints of in the gargantuan version, but where Happy has always been in love with Pepper as well. And in Happy’s head, Happy as the servant stood aside to let the lord take his woman, and that’s why there is the specific clip that there is in the movie.
Shane Black: [The Captain America tattoo on the back of The Mandarin’s neck] was actually part of the design of the Mandarin. He’s very “cobbled together”. It’s essentially a Captain America shield with an anarchy symbol in the middle of it. It’s a corruption of America again.
Drew Pearce: It was that brilliant kind of mash up vibe of, “How would a think tank create a terrorist?” And the way that they would do it in their own wanky way is to put together a mood board of all of the symbols of modern Western power. And I think post The Battle Of New York, Cap’s shield would be one of them.
Shane Black: Drew came up with the clean slate idea. In a version of the first draft, she didn’t want to give up her powers so she was just saying, “I can’t do it, I can’t go back,” and he said, “Well, how about if I give it up then, will do you do that for me?” Then he had this scene which was very romantic where he sacrifices the suits in order to get her to give up her power.
Drew Pearce: It came to mean something else. The key words in the later versions and in the filmed versions was this idea of distractions and the fact that, you know, literally, physically – Iron Man has been getting in the way of their relationship.
Obviously the irony is that he will almost certainly go back on [his promise] the next time we see him. If I were a betting man...