The movie that revolutionized Hollywood and upended the established norms of superhero action movies was nothing but an improv. Iron Man premiered in 2008 and gave the CBM world its first glimpse at greatness. Jon Favreau, Robert Downey Jr., Jeff Bridges, and Kevin Feige were all present in the room together at the time of the film’s on-set conception and stayed throughout the tenure of its shoot. Four of the greatest minds in Hollywood, comprising an acting legend, a visionary, a directing genius, and an extraordinary star who burned too bright and fell too hard, were all looking to make art out of the rubble. And for the latter, the movie would go on to be his sole chance at redemption.
Jeff Bridges Recalls the Harsh Reality Behind Iron Man
No other film compares to the brilliant forerunner that was the 2008 foundational masterpiece, Iron Man. A relatively unpopular character when compared to the likes of Captain America or Thor, Kevin Feige’s incredible vision paved the path for the Marvel appetizer but picking up the project from there was a monumental task defined by a much harsher reality than was warranted by any movie set. Jeff Bridges, who plays Obadiah Stane in the film, recalled 6 years later what had really gone into the making of this MCU ice-breaker at The Howard Stern Show.
“This was so amazing. 200 million dollars or whatever the thing cost, you think they would have a script, but no! So here we are, coming to work, and I like to be prepared, I like to know my lines, otherwise I’m super nervous, you know. And so we would often come to work and there’d be no script for the scene today.
We would muster in my trailer with Favreau and Robert Downey and the suits, man, the guys from Marvel, and we’d all sit in there and I’d say, ‘Okay, Rob, you play me and I’ll play your guy.’ So, we’d change parts, Favreau would be calling writer friends of his and he’d be like, ‘Okay, so here’s the scene, now you got any ideas?’ Meanwhile, the crew’s in there tapping their foot away, ready to go to work!”
The entire process that had been invested behind the development of the Marvel film was one that was filled with potential and possibilities. It was all in for Feige who at the time was secretly cooking the 10-year recipe and for Downey who had to find his footing in the industry once again after a difficult past marred by substance addiction and prison time. But the sheer magnitude of what Iron Man would go on to become was absent from the set and the trio was simply trying to make it up as best as they could as they went along.
Iron Man Was the Product of Jon Favreau and RDJ’s Improv
The lack of script was only one aspect of what made the sets of Iron Man a chaotic affair. Jeff Bridges had already resigned to his fate by then and realized that the movie was more a “student film” than an actual Hollywood blockbuster and it gave him the introspective foresight to get to play with such minds as Favreau and Robert Downey Jr. But the more involved the trio became with Iron Man, the more Bridges realized the unsolicited outpouring of potential that the other two presented.
“[Robert Downey Jr.] just surfed the big wave so beautifully. He’s a master actor. He’s a master improviser, as is Favreau. So then we just jammed and had fun and great stuff bubbled out of it. And Favreau, what was so great about him was that as the director, you can imagine the pressure, but he was able to keep this thing cooking, with the suits in the room with us… He was just surfing the whole thing so beautifully.”
When Stern precariously asks, “But why wouldn’t they do that process ahead of time?” referring to the missing scripts and chaotic improvisations, Jeff Bridges replies, as if he was himself impressed by the magnitude of the success that was born in the aftermath, “Exactly! Exactly! Something was on the page but it was the wrong something!” The working script was thrown out one day before the camera started rolling. The trio built Iron Man almost like Tony had built Mark I out of scraps in a dark cave. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Iron Man is available for streaming on Disney+
Source: The Howard Stern Show