BSP 2014 Advent Calendar: Day 9

Welcome to Day 9 of Bam Smack Pow’s 2014 Advent Calendar!  Only sixteen more days left until Christmas, and that means sixteen more superhero films will be mined for trivia.  For Day 9, we give you …

Iron Man (2008)

Let’s all reminisce on the movie that started it all.  Before there was Avengers (2012), before there was Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., before there was any talk of a connected superhero universe, there was Iron Man.  Produced on a gamble by Paramount and Marvel Studios, Iron Man became a blockbuster hit and made Robert Downey, Jr. synonymous with the hero he played.  Till this day, people still debate if it’s RDJ playing Tony Stark, or Tony Stark playing RDJ.  The film received rave reviews from critics and audiences, and went on to gross $585 million worldwide, with over $300 million of that in domestic earnings.

Iron Man was directed by Jon Favreau, written by Mark Fergus, Hawk Ostby, Art Marcum, and Matt Holloway, and starred Robert Downey, Jr. as Tony Stark / Iron Man, Terence Howard as Lt. Colonel James “Rhodey” Rhodes, Jeff Bridges as Obadiah Stane, Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts, and Shaun Toub as Yinsen.


  • Iron Man was Marvel’s first self-financed film.
  • When Robert Downey, Jr. was first chosen to play Iron Man, Marvel Studios saw Downey as a risk due to his past substance addiction, therefore, the studio didn’t sign a multi-picture deal with him.  After the success of Iron Man and the planned Marvel Cinematic Universe, Marvel Studios had to renegotiate with Downey, but by then, he had already become a hot commodity.  Till this day, Downey, now by choice, is the only actor in the Marvel Cinematic Universe without a multi-picture deal.  This has positioned him to take home the largest salary out of the overall cast from upping his costs with every renegotiation, deals in gross percentage shares, and merchandising.  It has also afforded him a powerful status where he’s able to help his fellow cast members get a better payday.
  • The film references the Mandarin multiple times.  The terrorist organization who kidnaps Tony Stark is named the Ten Rings.  Raza talks about Genghis Khan and Asia.  Characters in positions of power (Tony Stark, Raza, James Rhodes, and Obidiah Stane) all wore gold rings.
  • Paul Bettany, the voice of J.A.R.V.I.S., had no idea what film he was working on.  He played the role as a favor to his friend Jon Favreau, who co-starred with him in Wimbledon (2004).
  • When Pepper Potts walks in on Tony Stark disassembling his damaged armor, Captain America’s Vibranium shield can be seen on a workbench in the background.
  • Clive Owen and Sam Rockwell were both up for the role of Iron Man / Tony Stark.  Sam Rockwell would later with the role of Justin Hammer, Tony Stark’s rival in Iron Man 2 (2010).
  • Jeff Bridges prepared for the role of Obidiah Stane by reading up on Iron Man comic books and also shaving his head and growing a goatee.  He also researched the Book of Obidiah in the bible upon hearing that Obidiah was a biblical name.  Bridges was surprised to find that the book had themes of retribution, which was not unlike the character of Obidiah Stane.
  • In preparing for their respective roles, Robert Downey, Jr. and Terence Howard had to undergo a weight lifting regimen.  During this long duration of training, the two became competitive and Howard almost got injured because of that.
  • A very early draft of the screenplay had Tony Stark’s father, Howard Stark, characterized as a ruthless, hard-hitting industrialist who later becomes War Machine.
  • Robert Downey, Jr. was so involved in the film that he set up his office right next to Jon Favreau’s during pre-production.  This way, the two could discuss closely about the story and character.
  • Director Jon Favreau and Gwyneth Paltrow have been friends since they were 19 years old.
  • Stan Lee based the character of Tony Stark on real-life inventor and multimillionaire Howard Hughes.  Robert Downey, Jr.’s portrayal of Iron Man also drew inspiration from Tesla founder Elon Musk.
  • Stark Industries’s company logo was inspired by Lockheed Martin’s, which was also the co-developer of the F-22 Raptor fighter jet.
  • In the opening Las Vegas casino scene, the theme playing in the background is actually a jazz rendition of the 1960’s Iron Man cartoon theme song.
  • James Rhodes’s cell phone ringtone is also the 1960’s Iron Man cartoon theme song.
  • Tony Stark’s loyal artificial intelligence, J.A.R.V.I.S., was changed from a human butler, as seen in the comics and named Jarvis, so as to avoid comparisons of a Bruce Wayne / Alfred Pennyworth relationship.  The acronymn J.A.R.V.I.S. stands for Just A Rather Very Intelligent System.
  • Sasha Alexander, the actress who would later win the role of Sif in the Thor movies, took part in screen tests with Robert Downey, Jr.
  • Jon Favreau’s inspiration for the relationship between Tony Stark and Pepper Potts was from His Girl Friday (1940).
  • Concept artist Phil Saunders originally wanted Tony Stark to use the Mark IV armor in the final battle.  This armor would later become the basis for War Machine, which had modular weapons and gear worn over the Mark III armor.  The concept was scrapped halfway through pre-production.
  • When Tony Stark walks in on Obidiah Stane playing the piano, Stane is playing a piece written by Antonio Salieri.  Salieri has been portrayed as a jealous rival of Mozart’s.  Even though fictionalized accounts point to Salieri murdering Mozart, history has shown that Salieri and Mozart actually collaborated.  The fictionalized Mozart/Salieri relationship is used a parallel for the Stark/Stane relationship.
  • Clark Gregg’s Agent Phil Coulson originally had a much smaller part with no identifying name other than “Agent.”  Gregg’s on-screen chemistry during filming made the creative team want to add more scenes involving his character.
  • Tony Stark’s roadster was actually Jon Favreau’s car in real life.
  • Tony Stark’s Iron Man suit contains 450 pieces.
  • The scene where Pepper Potts helps Tony Stark replace his arc reactor was created by using an artificial chest piece, which was joined to Downey.
  • When the actual filming began, the screenplay wasn’t even completed.  As a result, Robert Downey, Jr. improvised his lines and did multiple takes.  At one point, the crew had two cameras setup to capture anything that might happen.  Gwyneth Paltrow went on record saying that she couldn’t keep up with Downey due to her not knowing what he might say next.

Make sure to come back each day because we still have sixteen more days worth of superhero film trivia for you!

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A special thanks to Eric Dufresne for his amazing geometric superhero art that’s being used as the background for the advent calendar.