Shane Black Tells Us How Tony Stark is Being "Phased Out" as Iron ManS

The trailers for Iron Man 3 show us a shiny new Iron Patriot, a whole army of floating armors... and Tony's mask broken and burned. So is Tony Stark being replaced? And why does Tony spend so much of the movie out of his armor? We asked director Shane Black, and here's what he told us.

We spoke to Shane Black last week at the junket for Iron Man 3, at the same event where we spoke to Kevin Feige.

Iron Man 1 was a lot of getting him into the suit. And Iron Man 3 is a lot of getting him out of it. What was the thinking behind that choice?

Just what you said, actually, is remarkably close. It was about — not making a trilogy of it, but certainly finding the next logical follow-up to what we’ve come to already know about Tony Stark. We’ve seen his ingenuity, we’ve seen him devise these things, but what happens when that sort of goes wrong? How do we see this as one big evolution? My favorite line from the movie has to do with the suit not being a hobby for him or an obsession but a cocoon. And what we started with was that idea.

So Kevin Feige told us that every Marvel movie is supposed to be a different genre. How is Iron Man 3 a departure from the first two?

You have to adjust. I mean, really, for us, Iron Man 3 is not that far dissociated from Iron Man 1 and 2 — it’s a logical sort-of spiritual extension of what Jon [Favreau] already established, so I don’t think we went too far afield. But each one does have to find its own shape. I think.

What was the thinking in changing from the very personal villains of the first two movies to more distant villains, who don't have such a personal history with Tony?

The idea was that he’s sort of dealing with himself in this one. That he’s sort of blind-sided — not by villains that are necessarily known to him, but by the chaotic growth he lives in. He’s forced to become Iron Man, sort of. He’s being phased out, in fact, by Iron Patriot, [who's] dealing with these sort of geo-political crises around the world.

And we wanted to set up that right from the starting point — that it’s not just Tony Stark’s villains come to haunt him, as there are villains in the world and Tony Stark has to step up and eventually overcome them. But, only after they touch his life, because they exist apart from him.

We didn’t want to do just another small story about a villain with a grudge for Tony Stark. But it is interesting that we touched base, and say 'You know, these political villains that are around the world that Tony’s just now noticing, he’s the creator.' If you look back far enough — and you have to kind of squint — you see that Tony’s the one [who caused these problems in the first place]. If he’d just been a little smarter or a little less drunk, he wouldn’t have created such a problem.

Extremis is a pretty well-known storyline. How did you approach doing it in a different way?

Well, interestingly enough, the way we treated it in the movie, with the sort of incidental explosions that happen, is actually a lot closer to the detonations of the "Five Nightmares" storyline. So it’s sort of a mashup, in a way, of "Extremis" and "Five Nightmares."

And it’s just whatever fit the storyline. What was really interesting to me about the Extremis comic was, the notion of a scientist who [Tony] met a long time ago, that he slipped some information to. Not because he was being an innovator, but basically because he wanted to get her in bed. And then he forgets about her, and she comes back later, years later, and calls on him for help.

Similarly, he creates a problem for himself with Aldrich Killian, and he may not even remember meeting the guy. He just blows him off, and says “See you on the roof, pal.” And that comes back to bite him. So [the movie deals with] the idea of these sort of frantic brain-farts that Tony has over the years, that he can’t control because his mind works so quickly. Some, if he can control them, create the Iron Man. Other ones, which he can’t control, create problems.

There are also a lot of characters in this movie, and they all get a really good shake. What did you do to make sure that happened?

Well, I think it takes a long time to write a script and you just keep breaking it, you keep combing it. These guys [points at Kevin Feige] are very good at making sure that you don’t stop before it’s been combed. And the thing that we saw very quickly was that we didn’t want to do anything like — there are a lot of movies where scenes are just connectors.

They just sort of, "A guy runs in and goes, 'I just saw the car, it’s stopped in the quarry, they’ve got John?' 'Really?, Ok, well get the van. And bring a gun. And call Todd.' You know, and they run out of the room." And that’s a scene! And we just didn’t want to do those scenes — we wanted to make sure everything kept being surprising and interesting.

So the goal — and I’d be happy if we even part way succeeded — is that you would watch it and go, “Oh, this scene." That you’d always point and say “This scene,” meaning there’s value to each individual bit. Even if it’s a little tiny gag involving one of your characters. We don’t stop and say “That’s enough," just because information has been transmitted — but rather insist that we be as entertaining as we can throughout, even in individual bits and parts.

Iron Man 3 comes out on May 3 in the United States.