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Downey, director Black hookup no coincidence

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Los ANGELES -- Make no mistake: Iron Man 3 is a sequel to the preceding two movies featuring heavy-metal techno-industrialist Tony Stark.

But just one minute into the film, as you listen to Robert Downey Jr.'s dipsy-doodling narration as he recalls the apocalyptic events of the movie, you might swear you're about to watch a sequel to the 2005 cult noir-comedy Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.

The movies couldn't be more different, of course. KKBB was the story of a small-time thief (Downey) forced to play private eye to get to the bottom of a Hollywood murder. It cost about US$15 million to make and it barely earned its budget back in worldwide release.

Iron Man 3, which sees Stark/Iron Man face off against a ruthless terrorist known as The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley), is a massively expensive movie in the Marvel franchise in which Downey's salary alone is likely more than three times the entire budget of Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.

But it should be no surprise if one movie makes you think of the other. Like KKBB, Iron Man 3 was written (with co-writer Drew Pearce) and directed by Shane Black, a longtime Hollywood player who got on the Hollywood map at the age of 23, selling a spec script for the franchise-starter Lethal Weapon.

Black made his directorial debut with Kiss Kiss Bang Bang at a time when producers weren't exactly falling over each other to hire Downey after the actor slogged through highly publicized substance-abuse issues.

Even if the movie wasn't a box office blockbuster, it did prove Downey maintained not only his acting chops, but a lot of star power in reserve.

It's not a stretch to suggest that the glib, sardonic Tony Stark carries some of the same cinematic DNA as glib, sardonic, down-at-heels criminal Harry Lockhart in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. Black, 51, allows his place at the helm of both movies is no coincidence.

"I can only imagine that having worked previously with Robert contributed to him calling me and asking me aboard this somewhat more ambitious production," Black said at a press conference for the film.

"I had worked briefly with him and sat with him and (director Jon) Favreau during the inception of the first Iron Man in those early phases. And I was impressed with the project and I was impressed with both of them and the chance to have a green-lit picture where I got to work again with Robert Downey, and also spend some time with Jon Favreau, who gave me endless tips and advice on this thing, it was too attractive to pass.

"Our ambitions were to make a movie that felt like a worthy successor to the two previous Favreau films," Black says. "To Marvel's credit, they said they'd done The Avengers, they made a lot of money, but let's not do that again right now. Let's do something different.

"And they allowed for a different, stand-alone film where we got to be more character-centric and look at what Tony Stark would do next. And that was very appealing to me."

Black says he only had to make a small adjustment to his usual style of screenwriting for the Marvel universe. He had to tone down his usual penchant for profanity.

"It was pretty easy," he says. "I had done a film for kids previously called Monster Squad."

Black says he tapped into his own youth "when I went to the matinee to stand in line for The Empire Strikes Back or Star Wars or those types of films and get excited all over again for that type of adventure, where you can appeal to a family but it's still edgy.

"We didn't want to pander. We didn't want to make a kiddie film," he says. "But we couldn't go beyond the boundaries of PG-13."

Iron Man 3 opens in theatres Friday, May 3.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 27, 2013 G5

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About Randall King

In a way, Randall King was born into the entertainment beat.

His dad was Winnipeg musician Jimmy King, a one-time columnist for the Winnipeg Free Press. One of his brothers is a playwright. Another is a singer-songwriter.

Randall has been content to cover the entertainment beat in one capacity or another since 1990.

His beat is film, and the job has placed him in the same room as diverse talents, from Martin Scorsese to Martin Short, from Julie Christie to Julia Styles. He has met three James Bonds (four if you count Woody Allen), and director Russ Meyer once told him: "I like your style."

He really likes his job.


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