As Dinner for Five viewers well know, Jon Favreau landed his breakthrough acting role in the ensemble of 1993's Rudy. Since then, Favreau has made his name more so as a writer and director. He wrote and directed Swingers and Made, both of which allowed Favreau to co-star with buddy Vince Vaughn. For several years, Favreau hosted the sinfully entertaining Hollywood chat show Dinner for Five, and he moved into big-budget filmmaking with Elf and Zathura before landing the plum job of bringing Iron Man to the screen. I spoke with Favreau, all too briefly, at a backstage press conference at San Francisco's WonderCon.
Groucho: The number one question always is: what can the audience expect from your film, and what can the fans expect from the film?
Jon Favreau: Let's see—the audience in general—nobody knows it: for this thing to work, and when I mean work I mean to make sense for Marvel to be in the movie business, it has to attract people who don't know anything about the comics, or about the character. And so we sort of walk everybody through everything that happens. We don't assume any reality because it's in the books. And I think we also limit things a little bit more, make them a little bit more plausible in this chapter of it, so that people will get it and don't feel like "Oh, it's just a comic book movie: anything can happen." And then we also have a cast, I think, that is a little bit more broadly appealing, so that people might give us a chance who wouldn't normally come to a Marvel-type film. But for the fans, we wanted to have enough stuff happening in there that it seems like we were either reacting to or by staying true to or making a choice to go against what their expectations might be, based on the books. So we always said, "Okay, here's a suit—this wasn't in—how can we tip a hat to the suit that was in? In the books, he was in this country, he was in Vietnam—well let's make it Afghanistan now, that seems consistent as an adaptation. James Rhodes was piloting a helicopter that rescued him. How do you at least acknowledge what the source material has to say? In the case of Jarvis, we decided to not have it be an Alfred-type butler but take a leap there. And I'm sure there's certain things that, you know, we will be crucified for and there are certain things that we'll be celebrated for. Y'know, I'm sure we have our own version of the organic web-shooters here somewhere that I don't...But I think in the casting of Downey and the way we handle it and the tone of it, it sort of has that irreverence that the old—that I always associate with the Marvel brand. It was a reaction to the very earnest, you know, black and white iconic flawless heroes of the day. And Stan Lee gave it attitude, even in the way he would answer questions in the letters to the editor. So we tried to maintain that without ever undermining the stakes or the reality of the situation. We never joke about the danger. But we do treat things in maybe an unexpected way. With Downey he always wants to take a left turn.