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Iron Man 2 Movie

Iron Man 2 Up Close: Sam Rockwell & Mickey Rourke

We speak with the men playing Justin Hammer and Whiplash about causing trouble for Tony Stark in "Iron Man 2"

Mere days remain before "Iron Man 2" hits the big screen for all to see, and here at Marvel.com we're dedicated to getting you so close to the action you'll feel like you're decked out in your own suit of armor! Our series of "'Iron Man 2' Up Close'" articles will get you in the heads of the key folks working to bring you this blockbuster-today we've got Sam Rockwell and Mickey Rourke, tomorrow it's Scarlett Johansson and Gwyneth Paltrow, Jon Favreau on Thursday, and finally Robert Downey Jr. and Don Cheadle on Friday! Enjoy!


By Zack Zeigler

After earning a Best Actor Golden Globe Award as well as an Oscar nod for his performance in "The Wrestler," Mickey Rourke's stock soared as high as Robert Downey Jr.'s following "Iron Man." But the decision to cast him as Ivan Vanko, aka Whiplash, in "Iron Man 2" had to do more with skill and reputation than solely on the brilliance of his Academy Award-nominated portrayal of a washed-up pro wrestler.

"I talked to people that worked with [Rourke], and they said great things about him. His talent is undeniable," director Jon Favreau said at a press conference in Los Angeles. "I met with Mickey... [and] I brought him some artwork and we thought, Whiplash in the comic book is a guy wearing tights with a big plume, big purple feather coming out of the top of his head. That wasn't what we wanted. But what's the tech version of that?"

Mickey Rourke as Whiplash
Rourke, a method actor, boarded a flight to Eastern Europe to search for ways to connect with Vanko, an inventor-turned-convict.

"Well, the character is Russian, so I went to Russia and spent some time there," Rourke said. "I spent time in a prison so I could understand how the whole underground system operated... [and] studied the art of prison tattoos. I worked with my dialect coach three hours a day, six days a week just to learn how to speak a paragraph of Russian dialogue."

Teaming with Whiplash to add even more menace for Tony Stark in "Iron Man 2" is sleazy weapons manufacturer Justin Hammer, played by Sam Rockwell.

"Justin's a bit of a used-car salesman... a real wheeler and dealer who is kind of like the Jeremy Piven character in 'Entourage' mixed with George C. Scott in 'The Hustler," said Rockwell. "I also really like the character of Justin Hammer as an arms dealer trying to get in good with the United States and be their new Tony Stark."

Added Rockwell, "I knew [Jon] and Robert were very similar to me in that they like to improvise a lot, which made me feel very comfortable with coming on board."

Rockwell, like Rourke, is on a hot streak of his own after posting memorable performances in "Moon" and "Frost/Nixon." His versatility

Sam Rockwell as Justin Hammer
along with an established professional relationship with Favreau-the two worked together in the latter's directorial debut, "Made"-were a draw to hammer him down as Hammer.

"[Rockwell] really knows how to play with story and character and squeeze the most out of it," noted Justin Theroux, who penned the "Iron Man 2" script. "Even though he is ostensibly a villain, he is also enormous fun to watch."

And if a film is only as good as its villain, as once suggested by famed movie critic Roger Ebert, fans of the Iron Man franchise should rest easy knowing both roles were handled with such attention.

You can see Rourke and Rockwell wreak havoc on Stark and the world at-large in theaters May 7, when "Iron Man 2" opens nationwide.

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