Even though a fourth movie episode may never see the light of day, we are still wondering about the reason for the Tony Stark outrageous success…
Iron Man (real name Anthony Edward “Tony” Stark) made his first appearance in March 1963. For comic collectors, the crucial moment was number 39 of the series ‘Tales Of Suspense’ and he was the brainchild of Stan Lee (the father of all the Marvel superheroes), Larry Lieber (writer) and Don Heck (artwork).
Stan was looking for some futuristic ideas but also an icon that was something like Bruce Wayne (Batman from the rival DC Comics) and Howard Hughes, the visionary entrepreneur/master of the skies who would later be played by Leonardo Di Caprio in the 2004 movie, ‘The Aviator’.
Lee found what he was looking for in Stark, a complex multi-faceted figure who managed to combine the billionaire-philanthropist with a gruff hard-living playboy. The contrast worked a treat and after a misadventure in Vietnam with some guerrillas, Tony takes the decision that his company (Stark Industries) will no longer build weapons and that he himself will strive to keep the peace through his tin-skinned alter-ego: a high tech superhero protected by indestructible armour and a helmet forged in a classy alloy of titanium and gold.
Tony Stark definitely had depth and true potential for the silver screen. And so a Hollywood odyssey of pre-production kicked off which was to go on for nearly twenty years. After the umpteenth refusal in 2006 Marvel decided to intervene and commissioned the project to Jon Favreau who, in the meantime, had accumulated considerable experience as director, in TV, acted himself in many parts, and written a number of screenplays.
Favreau has a hunch: he drops the more youthful candidates Clive Owen and Sam Rockwell and approaches the then forty-year old Robert Downey Jr. He didn’t think twice and praised the heavens for the stroke of luck: he would use Iron Man as catharsis in his own life and he brought the character to life as nobody else could have done.
The symbiosis is seamless and Downey, drawing inspiration from the real-life billionaire Elon Musk (creator of PayPal and Space X), developed great empathy with the audience and improvised so much on set that his side-kick Gwyneth Paltrow as Virginia “Pepper” Potts – had a hard time keeping up with him and often had to reshoot her scenes.
‘Iron Man’ the movie came out once and for all on 2nd May 2008. The critics went wild and Favreau had another go in 2010 with ‘Iron Man 2’ (featuring Scarlett Johansson/Black Widow), playing it safe with a plot full of gags, sparkling dialogue and action. But the third in the series, ‘Iron Man 3’, directed by Shane Black in 2013, switched the focus to the themes of alcoholism (and fear of death) which resulted in a brooding, serious movie much loved by fans.
The fourth movie seems to have dropped off the radar however, seeing as how Downey Jr./Tony Stark is constantly busy in the vast world of MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) in movies with Thor, Capitan America and the Avengers which, with every new box office premiere, draw fans to movie theatres in droves. And yet some of us stubbornly keep our eyes on the skies in the hope of catching a glimpse of that gleaming red and gold armour…