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  • Entertainment > Movies


    Posted on Sat, Apr. 26, 2008 10:15 PM

    Jon Favreau rose from obscurity to direct ‘Iron Man’

    Back when he was a struggling unknown and acting jobs were few, Jon Favreau dreamed of making Woody Allen-type movies … modest romantic comedies that would allow him to perform, write and direct without risking huge sums of money.

    Now he’ll have to settle for being behind what could be the year’s biggest movie, a comic book-inspired adventure with an estimated budget of $186 million and starring one of America’s best actors.

    “Iron Man,” Favreau’s adaptation of the Marvel Comics superhero saga, opens Friday. Robert Downey Jr. plays Tony Stark, a playboy arms dealer who undergoes a crisis of conscience and emerges as Iron Man, a fighter for justice with a metallic suit that gives him superhuman strength and the ability to fly.

    “I no longer want to make tiny movies,” Favreau, 41, said in a recent phone interview. “There’s been a shift in my thinking. Moviemakers are the village storytellers of this generation. A good movie helps people take their minds off things, brings a lot of happiness. I think it’s a noble way to make a living, and I can’t wait to go to a theater showing ‘Iron Man’ to watch the audience laugh and cheer.”

    Which is not to say that Favreau is satisfied to make brainless diversions. For a popcorn movie, “Iron Man” deals with some heavy subject matter — terrorism, the morality of arms distribution, personal responsibility and the greater good. It’s all summed up in Downey’s performance as a selfish man whose smug worldview gets rocked.

    “Yes, it’s a big-budget movie with lots of special effects,” Favreau said. “But you know what? This movie feels intimate to me. It’s got some real weight at its center.”

    Downey was always Favreau’s first choice to play Tony Stark, but the money guys couldn’t see it. “I told them that Downey could do for ‘Iron Man’ what Johnny Depp did for the ‘Pirates’ movies.

    “Tony Stark is no teenager. He’s an adult, and when we meet him he’s not exactly the world’s most likable fellow. He’s rich, he’s arrogant and he doesn’t think much about the consequences of his actions.

    “But forced to look at the inevitable results of his business in making and selling weapons, he goes through a moral and spiritual awakening. That was something Robert and I could sink our teeth into.”

    And, let’s be honest here: It’s fun making a movie in which the hero gets pretty girls, can lift a car over his head and zoom across the sky at supersonic speeds.

    “Like Orson Welles said, a movie is the best train set a boy could have,” Favreau said. “And here I got to play with a really big train.”

    That he would ever get to this point was never a sure thing.

    Audiences first became aware of Favreau as an actor. He got his first decent part in 1993 in the classic sports movie “Rudy,” playing the brilliant but girl-challenged tutor of the title character. But despite the film’s success, Favreau’s acting career stalled. He found himself cast in inconsequential roles, often playing characters who didn’t even have names.

    The only way he’d get a good role, he figured, was to write one for himself. So with buddy and fellow actor Vince Vaughn (the two met on the “Rudy” shoot) he wrote “Swingers,” a 1993 comedy about a group of young Los Angeles men whose ambitions far outstripped their abilities.

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