Before 2008’s Iron Man, comic book films were still isolated events. Yet, the then-questionable Marvel entry arrived lacking a top-tier superhero and showcasing a damaged star in Robert Downey Jr. Of course, not only would its success lead to RDJ’s definitive comeback, but it also planted the seeds for the sprawling multimedia continuity empire we now know as the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Ironically, co-star Jeff Bridges reveals that the Iron Man production that launched the uber-organized MCU was winging things every day on the set!
Appearing on Variety and PBS’ Actors on Actors, interviewed by fellow star Matthew McConaughey, Oscar-winning actor Jeff Bridges looks back on his experience on the set of director Jon Favreau’s original Iron Man. While Bridges, a veteran actor and consummate professional, claims to have arrived on the set of the upstart film in 2007 prepared and knowing all his lines, he was shocked to discover that the production was in a state of chaos, especially regarding said lines with almost daily re-writes of the script. As Bridges reveals:
“It turned out that many times — 10, 12, 15 times — we would show up for the days work, not knowing what we were gonna shoot. – All the guys in the studio tapping their foot, looking at their watch, and we’re sitting in my trailer trying to figure out my lines, man. – On the day!”
Bridges portrayed Obadiah Stane, a key executive in Stark Industries who, initially touted as a mentor to Downey’s Tony Stark, turned out to be responsible for the machinations that left him in an Afghan cave with shrapnel in his heart. Captured by terrorists, Tony was forced to secretly improvise the creation of the Iron Man Mark I armor to escape. Stane was a crucial character for the film, ultimately donning his own towering, overweight armor as the MCU’s version of the classic comic villain Iron Monger. Yet, because of the script’s frantic nature, Bridges implies that both he and Downey found their parts interchangeable, confessing:
“Downey’s saying, ‘You try my part, I’ll try your part,’ Favreau calling up writer friends [saying], ‘Now here’s this scene, what do you think?’ and it’s driving me crazy! I’m pissed!”
However, lest anyone think that Bridges is looking back on his Iron Man experience through a bitter lens, he ultimately explains that – in a manner almost akin to his iconic character The Dude from The Big Lewbowski – he found a very Zen way to abide the chaos of the set. As Bridges endearingly explains:
“I made a little adjustment in my head. That adjustment was – ‘Jeff, just relax, you are in a $200 million student film, have fun, just relax.’”
Indeed, the original Iron Man – actually budgeted at $140 million – became a $585 million global hit and a bellwether event for not only the comic book movie genre, but the overall film industry and the reverence with which similar genre properties are bestowed. Having tolerated the behind-the-scenes bedlam atmosphere, Bridges is able to brandish bragging rights for having played the inaugural villain of the MCU, which currently manifests as 14 films and 5 televisions shows with plenty more on deck.