Terrance Howard Comic Con Interview – IRON MAN

     July 30, 2007

Over the weekend I attended Comic-Con in San Diego and was able to interview a ton of people and see a lot of footage from upcoming movies. And while everyone has a favorite from the con, most I’ve spoken with seem to agree that “Iron Man” was the star of the show.

The reason? The amazing footage that was shown.

While many movies conducted panels and talked about stuff that’s in the far off future, “Iron Man” showed about four minutes of footage and brought the house down.

And while I posted a YouTube link last night to see what you missed, since then Paramount has pulled all the clips so you’ll have to wait to see the footage.

But while you may not have watched the footage, at least you can either read the roundtable interviews that I took part in on Saturday afternoon. All of them were great interviews and are worth reading.

So… this now brings up the first interview, and it’s with Terrance Howard.

In the movie Terrance plays Jim Rhodes, a liaison between the acquisitions office of the United States Air Force and Stark Industries. And since many of you have read the comics, you know who and what Jim is and what other character he may play in the future…

The great thing about the interview is that Terrance talks about everything and he even drops in a few things that I hadn’t heard before…like “Tony tracks down and fights a war lord in this.”

As always, you can either read the transcript below or download the audio of the interview as an MP3 by clicking here.

And with that…here’s Terrance.

Question: So how does it feel to actually be the first black super hero? I mean there was Blade but he’s not actually a super hero.

Terrance Howard: I feel like Sidney Poitier and Jackie Robinson right here. I got to do what they’ve pushed the envelope on for so many years to be held responsible at the same time for how that character is conducted because perhaps in the future they’ll green light other characters or other ethnicities will have a chance to do that based upon how this is accepted. I mean, it’s a lot of…I never thought about it like that. I didn’t recognize that.

Did you get a chance to step into the armor sometime?

You’ve got to remember, the reason that Marvel wanted to be independent on this project right here was so they would not have the constraints of the studio that was more concerned with marketing than with being concerned with the historical authenticity of the film, you know? That’s what’s more important to be true creatively and then because this is a very smart audience now. 30 years ago an audience if they didn’t like something they could be outspoken and they could have their voice heard through 3 or 4 critics. Now each person can get on and say I don’t recommend this movie because they forgot this and they forgot that, I mean we’re so much more accountable and we realize that the audience is so much more intelligent than marketing research shows.

Did you have any scenes with Hillary Swank or Sam Jackson?

Um, you know.

Can you talk about the fact that there are introducing other characters in this movie?

They’re more concerned with the future aspects of it. You know it’s like you can go and throw a bunch of preservatives in a piece of food and sell a million pieces of it but then two years from now when the scientific research comes out nobody’s going to buy it anymore. But if you stay true and start grass roots and touch on the imagination of this intelligent audience, then you’ve got a lifetime and that means great for me because it means I get to go and be in The Avengers, you know. Because I put on the suit and go to The Avengers. I get to be War Machine. I get paid man.

What did you find the most challenging to play a super hero?

Well, the most challenging thing is to find something super in you. To find something where you take a stand on something and then make a compromise because that’s what a super hero is. It’s not just a man that stands up. He’s gone beyond the call of duty. Beyond the call of humanity and say you know what I’m going to be a man today, a real live man. I’m going to sacrifice everything that I have and I’m weak in nature. I’ve got the same problems as everybody at this table. To stand up and say I’m going to be more than that. That’s the best part of it.

(inaudible question – something about putting on the armor)

Blasphemy. You’ve got to remember in the comic book James Rhodes puts on that suit and as a result of the neuronet pattern that Tony Stark had and has designed the suit according to the frequency of his brain it changes Rhodes thinking pattern. Whether Rhodes becomes smarter or not is left to be told. Rhodes changed from being a traditionalist to now a rebellious man, so I can’t say yes. I’m definitely not saying no.

In the movie, you start off as you said a Lt. Colonel?

Lt. Colonel in the US Airforce.

So what’s your interaction with Tony Stark?

I’m a liaison between the acquisitions office of the United States Air Force and Stark Industries. So on a day to day basis, Tony brings all of his new technologies or possible technologies to me first and then I say this has viability within the United States military, you know, whether it be—whether we’re going to move it down into the Navy, whether it be a Marine application or whether it actually be since and we also work with Boeing. So most of it stays with the Air Force but we also have us as going to M.I.T. together.

Did you do any special training for this film?

Just went up with the Air Force. Spent a lot of time with them. I got to fly jets. You just don’t go up in there and sit in there. The best thing about these jets let me tell you, you have nothing to hold on to in there except this joy stick and the only time they give you the joy stick—is the person up front will shake it and when he shakes it you know that he wants you to take it. You’re going 400 miles an hour in a jet but the wing man here and they’re telling you to roll it and I got to do that so we went through the flight simulators for a week and then finally I flew 3 or 4 times with the United States Air Force in T-38’s and F-16’s and F-15’s and I’m bad now dude. I can land a plane.

What kind of comics did you grow up with? Were you a fan?

I was a fan of X-Men. They made me so mad when they killed the Phoenix. I didn’t want the Phoenix to die for nothing. I thought there was other possibilities. Hopefully they’ll bring her back.

It wasn’t for nothing.

No but they…remember the young mutant who’s ability was to cancel out the mutant gene? Why couldn’t he come around her? Why did Wolverine have kill her?

You have a point.

They should have brought him right out.

Are you ready to see yourself immortalized in plastic as action figures?

I would like that.

Will you play with yourself?

Will I play with myself? I’ve done that once or twice before and now to have a little buddy to play with…little bullet. Yeah, I think I’m going to play with myself.

So we will see you soon in a movie with Jodie Foster?

Yes, The Brave One.

And in how many other movies?

Well, not too many more, you know. You can’t spread yourself so thin… I’ve got a film coming out with Richard Gere and another one with…

Richard Gere is it a real story or?

Yes. It’s a story of what took place in Serbia and Croatia and Bosnia with the war lord that had been—it’s almost like Iron Man in a sense—because the same way Iron Man jumps up and makes himself available to handle things that most governments will not touch because of their political duplicitous actions. I mean I get to go in and shut down a war lord and that. Tony tracks down and fights a war lord in this. We’re doing some socially conscious things now.

Is Nicole Kidman the girl in the movie?

In the Richard Gere movie? But no she wasn’t in that. She wasn’t in that one.

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How was it working with Robert?

Well, Robert—I’m sure you guy interviewed with him already. There’s a bit of magic that he has to him. There’s a fearlessness but a vulnerability at the same time. So for me I learned that nothing looks more natural than an attempt to look natural. You can just be the character. It’s ok to be uncomfortable at times because that’s what we are. I learned to be a real actor working with him. I learned how to be spontaneous. I learned how to stand up for the authenticity of the script and the story, you know, because there were time when we had a great script but we had surpassed what was written on the page and the things we had done previously and they had already had the set up and you’re looking at $2 million days–$3 million days that we’d go and sit down and re-write the whole character. Re-write that script for the day and spend 5 hours and not get our first shot off for 5-6 hours because someone had integrity. Robert has the most integrity I’ve ever seen in an actor. The most.

Did you guys hang out at all off-set?

Our hanging out is off-set. We’re a weird collection of molecules, me and him. We get together and there’s a comradery. There’s a brotherhood that’s formed. I don’t know from where. I don’t know. Yeah, we hung out a lot.

What did you guys do?

We went running, we went shopping.

You two went shopping together?


Where did you go shopping?

Up in Lone Pine in department stores and grocery stores. We were real people. We talked about life’s issues together and you know he’s had similar situations with a new wife and an ex-wife that he’s fiducially responsible to and emotionally responsible to. I have the same thing, you know and we’ve traveled down so many parallel roads, you know that I love that man. I love him.

How great is it when a movie gives you so much beyond the script and shooting?

Well, that’s Jon Favreau that gave us that. Because of him being an improvisational actor, he directed it in an improvisational way. He’s a brilliant man and he can think at the speed of light. But he’s also humble enough to recognize the genius of other people. When Jeff Bridges would have an idea and immediately Jon’s like if it’s great it’s viable we’ll spend 3 hours making it work. With Robert, the same thing. With Gwyneth the same thing. With me little ideas that I thought wasn’t even important, he would rally behind and do whatever they had to do to make it work. No ego. No egos on this film.

What did you think of the footage?

I thought the footage was incredible because it was real. It was realistic even without the special effects beyond the CGI of him flying and everything else was pretty much straightforward. Now I can’t wait to have the CGI into that.

I hear you’re working on some music right now. Can you talk a little bit about it?

Yes, oh, God, that’s my album. It’s called Terrance Howard and the Band of Kings. We’ve gone about trying to bring music back to where it’s supposed to be. It was honest and truthful and every instrument is live and no plug in drum machines. It’s going to be great. We bring it out this fall. I think it will be called a little bit more like me.

Do you listen to all music?

Yes. Like me I’m still stuck on Paul Simon. I’m still stuck on those…you know we went wrong somewhere down the way. We lost our responsibility because music is the highest form of communication. It’s the one language that bridges all languages. I’ve sat in the middle of Moscow playing guitar with a French horn player and a saxophonist and a zither player from Russia and I don’t speak a bit of Russian and we played for 6 hours straight. By the end of it I still remember everything they said with their instruments. You were understanding everything they said even if you don’t speak Russian. Music literally is the voice of the world. If you want to reach the world, you have to speak to them through music.

Did you have any scenes with Jeff Bridges?


What was it like working with him?

You guys remember the film he did with Robin Williams?

The Fisher King?

The Fisher King. I loved him from way before that and after that and I just watched him. We sat up in his trailer and smoked cigars and played guitar. He’d play for 3 or 4 hours at a time. He’s a brilliant songwriter but as an actor he knows exactly what’s needed and he’ll change and adapt. He will change your position as an actor. He’ll put his arm around you and be like you know I was thinking over here if you played your character a little more duplicitous at this moment it will work perfect for me.

Did you guys give each other tips all the time?

Oh, completely. There were times when Robert would be stuck and I’d be like you know what do this right here. Just try it. Because I’m watching from the 3rd person, I don’t have the pressure of making a decision and Robert would do the same thing with me. You know what you should do right here –dah dah dah dah. Just go, just do it and I’ll follow you. Same thing with Gwyneth. Gwyneth remembers everything right away. Photographic memory, so she can look at the new pages that we wrote that we spend 6 hours re-writing these 3 new pages, she would read it once and not miss one word getting up in front of the camera. Shortest takes in the world.

Did you make it on the soundtrack?

We’ve got 10 months and they gave me the criteria for what they want. We’re going heavy metal. We’re going to change the world again.

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