Iron Man Month

Iron Man Up Close: The Writers

How does a comics icon become a live-action film? Read all about it!

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By Zack Zeigler With only days remaining before the whole world gets to see "Iron Man," we here at Marvel.com wanted to get you close enough to the film to feel the heat of a repulsor blast! Our "'Iron Man' Up Close" articles let you hear from the film's key players—the writers today, Jeff Bridges and Terrence Howard tomorrow and Jon Favreau, Gwyneth Paltrow and Robert Downey Jr. on Friday! Enjoy!
Comic fans share a similarity with coffee drinkers. Each group possesses a fierce loyalty for their respective product and any slight variation from what's expected can turn something revered into something that leaves a bad taste in your mouth. The four writers of Marvel Entertainment's "Iron Man"—Matt Holloway, Hawk Ostby, Mark Fergus and Art Marcum—understood this. Maybe not the coffee analogy, but the line they had to tread in order to satisfy hardcore fans while not alienating newcomers. "A movie like 'Iron Man' works best if you can please the fans and reward them, but also have people who don't know anything about it enjoy the movie just as much," said Holloway. No worries for lifelong fans, though. Those who have followed Tony Stark's saga in the pages of Marvel comics will notice a few hidden gems in the film. "People who are fans and paying close attention [to the movie], they'll be rewarded," assured Holloway. The amount of freedom issued from director Jon Favreau and Marvel gave the writers specific parameters to work with when building characters and creating storylines for "Iron Man." "It's always easier when you have some reels laid down and know what the story is," said Ostby. "After we read the bible [source material supplied by Marvel], we knew what we needed to write this picture." Fergus added, "[Marvel] was the guardians of the movie because they're Marvel, and they had to make sure this was done right. They let us do whatever we wanted but if went out of line or out of bounds where the character should be, they'd give us a whack with their ruler." One of the first things the writers needed to decide on was exactly how the story of Tony Stark would unfold. "How do you update this great origin story of this character that's beloved and been around so many years?" asked Holloway. "You have to tell the birth of the character, and that takes a lot of time. But then to have another plot that you're getting to in the third act of the movie—to figure out how to balance those two was something always under discussion. The finished product is great but it was a lot of struggling and wrestling with what the movie was going to be able to fit." The movie also had to fit the inevitable time constraints, but the character had to become and remain humanized in the time allotted. "The difference between 'Iron Man' and some other movies is that there's no spider bite; there's no magic bullet where a hero is born," said Marcum. "We had to build him. We wanted people to remember that there's a person inside that suit, and it will hurt if he falls." Once the storyline issues were settled, the locations and environment the story would take place in were on-deck for debate. "We wanted to pick locations that reflect the world that we live in," said Ostby. "We wanted Iron Man to be in real jeopardy." Placing Stark in danger in Vietnam or the Soviet Union would not only be outdated and unrealistic in today's world, but something audiences may not be able to connect with anymore. In the quest to make Stark's peril as real as possible, the geographic location of Afghanistan was chosen. The credit for that was passed to Favreau. "Jon makes very good decisions; he's all about story and emotion," said Ostby. Favreau is also the person responsible for allowing Downey to improv many of his lines, something the writers didn't take issue with. "Certain monologues in the script, for Robert, were a spring board to figure something else [out] in the moment," said Holloway. "Seeing the end result is great and gratifying if it makes it better, ya know? "Jon is a writer, comedian and an actor so [Robert and Jon] working together…it gave a lot of choices." When the final product was fleshed out, the combination of ideas from the writers, Favreau, Marvel and the actors created a polished masterpiece that will no doubt set the stage for future Marvel Entertainment projects. With projected success for "Iron Man" reverberating from critics and news outlets around the country, have the writers already started thinking about a sequel? "It's a little early to talk about that," said Marcum. "But there's so much to go over, so many elements and villains and things…there are some new toys that would work in a second one."
Need to catch up on your Iron Man reading? Looking for the perfect stories starring Ol' Shellhead? Check out our list of the 10 Collections marked as required reading by any Iron Man fan! "Iron Man" opens this Friday, May 2 at a theater near you! Visit the official "Iron Man" movie site! Also, Saturday, May 3 is FREE Comic Book Day—get your FREE Iron Man comic at comic retailers everywhere that day!
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