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Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow and Scarlett Johansson talk ‘Iron Man 2’

By Todd Gilchrist

HollywoodNews.com: Iron Man 2 arrives in theaters Friday promising all sorts of testosterone-driven spectacle, led in no small part by Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark. But the actor is only one part of a larger ensemble that includes a virtual cornucopia of different performers including, of all things, a number of women, that most feared of creatures within the fan boy community (except of course as vinyl-clad fetish objects). Specifically, Gwyneth Paltrow and Scarlett Johansson provide the sequel’s estrogen quotient playing, respectively, Stark’s exceedingly capable secretary, Pepper Potts, and Natalie Rushman, a personal assistant with more than a few secret skills.

Hollywood News joined a group of journalists at the Iron Man 2 press day in Los Angeles, Calif., where Downey commanded attention, but his female co-stars commandeered the questions. Alternately jokey and reflective, Downey, Paltrow and Johansson discussed the process of bringing Iron Man back to life, and giving the ladies in the film stuff to do that lives up to the action of their male co-stars.


[Note: Although “Hollywood News” is used to distinguish questions from answers in the text below, our journalist was just one of many reporters asking questions of the filmmakers.]

Hollywood News: Robert, how do you define a hero? And Gwyneth, what sort of advice would you give like you do on your website, Goop, since I’m trying to lose my weight?

Robert Downey Jr.: I think a hero is someone who, if they’re abroad or traveling, they go to the Goop website to find out what restaurants to go to, what clothing shops they might enjoy, and what sights they should see. And they do that not fearlessly, but they do it in spite of their fear.

Gwyneth Paltrow: Actually, not this coming week, but next week, the Goop newsletter will be about my Iron Man training regimen and how I lost weight and got in shape to play this part. So you can check it out.

Hollywood News: Robert and Gwyneth, there’s a real Moonlighting sort of chemistry between you two, and the kiss was eagerly anticipated. How was it to get to pay that off finally?

Downey: I couldn’t get her off of me. It was embarrassing.

Paltrow: It was great because both my husband and his wife were right there.

Downey: She said to me that I didn’t know what I was doing, like it didn’t feel good. I’m like, you know what? First of all, we’re all friends, so what would be creepy would be if I was coming off all sexy to you – which by the way, I’ve done that in movies and it creeps them out. So what am I going to creep you out for? Despite what she said on set, she still thinks about it.

Hollywood News: Gwyneth and Scarlett, in the film, Tony is surprised to discover you two can work together quite well. So who do you think would work better to save the world, Tony and Rhodey, or you two?

Paltrow: Well, if Scarlett and I were doing it, the body count would be different, less bloody.

Scarlett Johansson: More organized. We’d just stack them [the robots we fight]. I don’t know, I think that with the brains and the muscle and the beauty and the blonde, I feel like we have maybe a greater chance, but you guys can fight for yourselves.

Paltrow: We are unstoppable.

Johansson: We are, it’s true. Unstoppable. I don’t know. I feel like if I could wield the guns and like the karate-chop movements, and you could like

Paltrow: Outthink people.

Johansson: Be the brains behind the operation. That’s your one superpower. “I will outthink you!”

Hollywood News: Gwyneth and Scarlett, talk more about your roles as strong intelligent women, not just sex symbols?

Johansson: Well, I’ve never really seen this kind of film of this genre where the female characters, that their sex appeal sort of came second. Of course they’re sexy characters. When you have a sexy secretary or a girl swinging around by her ankles in a cat suit, that’s innately sexy. But the fact is these characters are intelligent, they’re ambitious, they’re motivated and calculated to some degree. I probably would’ve – – to be just a pawn in a story of a whole bunch of men kind of fighting it out and rolling around and getting down and dirty and there you are to be the vision in a tight cat suit is a boring thing to me. I think Jon made that really clear in the beginning that he felt, as far as Black Widow was concerned or that Natalie was concerned, she was mysterious and nuanced and something to peel back the layers to and that there was something there. He wanted that. I think that’s why this film is so much more dynamic for me as an audience member. I’ve never been a huge fan of this genre really and I think because it was always sort of one note and very kind of explosive, I think because Gwyneth and I are able to sort of be the brains behind the operation in some aspect, there’s kind of a happy medium there. It kind of adds to the charm, to the charisma of the finished product.

Paltrow: I agree with Scarlett. I think it’s a very smart decision actually to have women who are capable and intelligent because it appeals to women so it’s not only a film for 15-year-old boys. It’s a film that can relate to a lot of people on a lot of levels. A lot of my girlfriends like it because of the romance or like Scarlett in the trailers is appealing, like oh, who is she. It doesn’t look gratuitous. It looks like there are interesting women in the movie, certainly from the first one too, that my character is quick and she’s articulate. I think it makes it so that when you take your kid if you’re a mom, it’s really fun for you to watch as well. So it’s nice to see women who are kind of aspirational and smart, sexy all at the same time.

Johansson: It’s awfully kind of old fashioned actually in the best sense of the word. There’s sort of that these characters are like those fabulous femme fatales of the golden age of Hollywood, that Bette Davis more than the Jayne Mansfield which I think is so much more dynamic to watch.


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About Todd Gilchrist

Todd Gilchrist is a Los Angeles-based film critic and entertainment journalist. Over the past decade he worked at a variety of online and print publications, including the Miami New Times, Filmstew.com, SCI FI Wire, and IGN.com, where he wrote reviews, conducted interviews with actors and filmmakers, and edited Movies, DVD and Music content. He currently works for Cinematical.com among other outlets, and has been a member of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association since 2005.

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  • May 7, 2010 | Permalink |

    Neat interview. I can’t wait to see the movie!

  • May 8, 2010 | Permalink |

    Paltrow’s Character isn’t a secretary she was in the first Iron Man but in this one shes CEO of Stark’s company

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