Comcast On Demand today premieres the big-time blockbuster Marvel superhero flick Iron Man 2, starring Robert Downey Jr. as the titular hero aka Tony Stark, Gwyneth Paltrow as his long-suffering assistant Pepper Potts, Don Cheadle as his best friend and eventual partner James Rhodes, Sam Rockwell and Mickey Rourke as his antagonists, Scarlett Johansson as his secretive secretary and Garry Shandling as a senator determined to take the fantastic suit of armor away from him. Shandling recently spoke to us here at Fancast about working on a huge movie like this.
“The work on that movie was so free, was so loose while being focused and so much fun and so much,” Shandling said. “All of those actors and [director] Jon Favreau are constantly creating in the moment. That’s actually what I look forward to seeing because that’s what my favorite thing is. My favorite thing to do is creating in the moment. I often can’t convince women that, but that is my favorite thing. I don’t have any kids, and yet my favorite thing is creating in the moment. How is that possible? It’s funny because I would hope that in the work that I do I create life. I think that’s what works on the screen, I think that’s what works in this movie is that Downey is real. Everybody is real, and yet it’s an action movie. I think you have a sense of watching life, and that’s what I always try to do in my work and tried to do in that character too. I was trying to make that senator real.”
“Five seconds before the director said ‘action’ – I thought, ‘Oh my God, the last thing I did was the voice of a turtle,’” he explained about how nervous he was on set, “and to shift from that to a senator in that setting was a great, great, great challenge because you’re controlling the room. That senator is controlling the room, and that requires some real actual commitment, and I knew who that senator was and he knew he was on TV, and he knew that his constituency was watching, and he knew there was an election within a reasonable length of time. There always is, and you do sense how that affects perhaps one’s real sense of judgment because who are you playing to? Are you playing to the constituency watching or the audience watching the movie or are you working over Tony Stark?”
Shandling is known for being a comedian, though, so how did he adjust to playing straight man to Downey? “That senator and the choices I was making were to play with Mr. Stark and get around to the issues at hand and allow him to play,” he said. “Robert, I would say every take had something different it. Probably on some of the outtakes that will be on the DVD, there will be moments where you see me being funny that weren’t in the movie, and you realize that for those scenes in the senate hearing, it slows it down because that senator is on a track to get that information. I think Jon felt the best way to do that was a pretty straight line. But there was a lot of improv in all of that, and Jon really did a good job of picking out the way he wanted that to come through. There are places where I chose to be funny, and I would support saying, ‘Let’s keep him straight.’ I watched a rough cut of the movie, and there was a room to give writers’ notes, and Jon was nice enough to include me, and I said at the beginning of the session, ‘I can’t give notes on my scenes because I can’t really be objective. Mostly, I had my eyes closed during those parts.”
Any chance he’ll be back in Iron Man 3, or perhaps the upcoming Avengers film? “There has been no talk of me coming back,” he lamented, “although I’m sure I’m invited to watch any of the movies that are made after this. I would love to come back, and I rarely say that. I’m happy to say that. It says a lot about what that set was like and what the work was like, which was astonishingly creative.”
Shandling also gave us some insight into his TV-watching habits. “I watch everything political,” he revealed, “because I’m writing new stand-up about the failing of our system and what we’re going through right now, so I flip from news broadcast to news broadcast, and then I try to keep up on the movies and the football games, and at that juncture, I’m an idiot. By that point, I’m just an idiot who’s seen too much. Then you start to realize the NFL is working better than the government. It’s a dangerous process.”
What about Video On Demand? “I use it to look at my friends’ work when I missed it that week, and they’ll say, ‘It’s On Demand.’ Now, if you could get every single actor who’s my friend who called me and said, ‘Hey, it’s On Demand,’ you’d have a great ad.”