Shane Black and Drew Pearce Interview
Shane Black and Drew Pearce Interview
Shane Black, the director of Iron Man 3, and the film’s co-writer Drew Pearce, share with View the delights of their experiences writing, making and creating the massive movie sequel, touching on the topics of special effects, romance, action, intelligence, emotion, scriptwriting, filmmaking and flying cats.
Is this movie more about Tony Stark and less about Iron Man than the previous one?

Shane Black

I think the first one was more about Tony and less about Iron Man. It’s an Iron Man film which is an attempt to make it more character-centric, and get back to the best of what I think Marvel comics brought to me, even as a kid, which was the real person as a superhero. Up until 1961 you didn’t really have superheroes who had high school problems. Spider-Man’s Peter Parker was the first guy to actually not be able to make the football team, and he has a girl he likes that doesn’t like him, things like that, and Tony Stark was always the more realistic one to me. If you look at the first Iron Man, all that stuff took place in Vietnam which, even as a kid, I knew was a real place where stuff happened, even on the TV. It set itself up as the superhero that existed within a geopolitical reality.

Drew Pearce

Shane always talked at the beginning of this process about how he feels like a movie’s best when it’s a stew, when you put tons of different flavours in there, and then you get a more complicated result. Even if, on some levels, it’s still a straight-ahead movie, there’s more elements to it. We both agreed that what the first Iron Man movie did so well was a sense of being based in reality.

Shane Black

The strangest thing I’ve ever seen, the combination of a Tom Clancy type international thriller about a kidnapped billionaire and a government searching for him, and then this romantic comedy, His Girl Friday relationship between him and Pepper.

Drew Pearce

There’s a huge amount of rom-com in the first movie, and that’s absolutely what we wanted to get back to here as well, partly because you’ve got a thing that’s very rare in summer movies. You’ve got two grown ups who are now in a relationship, and it’s a relationship you understand because you’ve come three movies with that relationship already. You just don’t get to explore either the comedy or the drama in that kind of relationship in these movies. So that was a huge fun part of it, and also plays into the bigger picture about what Tony’s doing in this movie, in many ways. The Avengers is the end of Tony’s traditional hero trilogy, he saves the world. And so this is a movie about what happens when even that doesn’t fill the void that’s in you, and I think that plays into his relationship with Pepper as well. This is a guy who was a playboy for most of his life. How do you settle into your new role?

Shane Black

There was this sense in The Avengers that we got a taste for the first time of him and Pepper in a relationship that was just flirty and happy. They’re together and they’re happy to be together. That’s fine as far as that goes, but you’ve got to start to mess that up a bit if you’re going to proceed for another movie’s worth. We saw the interim version when they’re this flirty couple, but what is it when that starts to show strain at the seams?

Drew Pearce

What happens when James Bond moves in with his girlfriend? She usually dies, luckily Pepper doesn’t.

Shane Black

Who’s Bond with, Rachel Weisz?

Drew Pearce

I was thinking more of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. By the way, this has been my life for two and a half years…
When you talk about the relationship between Tony Stark and Pepper, I wasn’t sure if you were also talking about the relationship between yourselves.

Drew Pearce

I felt like I moved in with Shane for the first four months, into his gigantic but also spooky mansion in Los Angeles. But our relationship was totally harmonious; we were still in the honeymoon period.

Shane Black

We sniffed each other, basically. It was an enforced marriage between two people who were raised to believe they were going to marry other people.

Drew Pearce

We ended up, weirdly, fighting back to back against other things coming in. They maybe got more than they expected.

Shane Black

That’s true. We did share women! [Laughter]

Drew Pearce

We did not share women. Shane never shares his women. [Laughter]
Is the Tony Stark in Iron Man 3 more human? I see a little bit of MacGyver in him, because he does things for himself.

Drew Pearce

We sat down at the beginning and said, ‘How can we do MacGyver?’ No, I think that came from one of the things Shane threw into the pot at the beginning. Shane had this phrase, ‘Sci-Fi Capra’, that he wanted to incorporate.

Shane Black

A Christmas movie that had at least one image of a guy wandering at night through the snow, looking for the lights in the distance, with his buddy behind him, his Iron Man who’s crippled and being dragged.

Drew Pearce

Our challenge was to find that Capra-esque sense of destiny and wonder. One of the things we loved at the beginning, and I think what Maya is in the movie, is about the innocence of science and how that gets compromised. That’s what we were trying to get at in the beginning of the middle section. Basically we knew we wanted to take stuff away from Tony. I think you have to, to get to the movie that we wanted. But we didn’t just want to do it in this modern trope, super-bleak way. We wanted there to be a bit of magic in there as well. Doing it at Christmas always helps that, there’s a twinkle to the movie.

Shane Black

It’s the sense of a good spirit behind it. In other words, there’s a desperate quality, and a real sense of people being pushed to the limits of their endurance. In this case Tony, with the time clock running and having to move fast, and prowl through the snow, and improvise things to survive. All those things are great, but at the same time to get the sense of a real old-fashioned Western adventure to it, almost. The small town really catered to the Western feel, and the showdown with these gunslingers.

Drew Pearce

Of course, the first Iron Man movie did brilliantly and also what we wanted from it, you kind of had to take that and undermine it at the same time. It was a big risk doing the Harley scenes. We didn’t want to be the guys that got criticised for bringing a kid into the Iron Man universe. The way you have to run at that is by undercutting it whilst also keeping your eye on the ball, making sure there’s an emotional resonance to it.

Shane Black

It is truly the ghost of Christmas past, too, it’s the Christmas Carol story. He meets this woman who attacks him as the ghost of all the women he’s left in the morning without calling. This kid is alone in the shed, with the snow outside, it’s him as a young boy virtually, he’s the ghost of Christmas past.

Drew Pearce

And also he is partly responsible for the demons of the movie. If he hadn’t had that extra bottle of Cristal, maybe he wouldn’t have said what he said to Killyon, and maybe Maya’s past would have been different as well. Her path is kind of an inversion of Tony’s. Tony started off as this impure character that worked his way to heroism, and Maya starts off as the wonder of science and ends up compromised.

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Content updated: 23/05/2019 14:08

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