Terrence Howard Interview on the set of IRON MAN

     March 31, 2008

Back in June of ’07 I was able to go to the set of “Iron Man.” I just posted a report of what I saw, and now you can read an interview with Terrence Howard from the set of the movie. As always, if you’d like to listen to the audio of the interview click here.

While many other sites like to say they were the only ones there when posting an interview, let me be very clear…this interview was conducted with around 12 or 15 other online journalists. So if you see this interview on other sites tonight or tomorrow….that’s the reason.Sorry, it’s a major pet peeve of mine when sites like to say they’re the only ones there.

And about the interview…it’s quite funny and worth listening to.

Question: What do you want to drink?

Terrence Howard: Coca-Cola. Since I don’t have to be thin anymore, I can be fat.

Q: You can be fat?

Terrence Howard: You all have no idea. This has been murder.

Q: What attracted you to this role?

Terrence Howard: War Machine, the whole idea of being able to play a superhero so to speak. Being able to go up in jets, because the Department of Defense took me up in a T38 and a F16. They might let me go up in a B1. I hurled, like everybody hurls. All those ideas, that was it for me.

Q: Were you a fan of the comic book?

Terrence Howard: It was funny. I called my father and I asked him, because he used to be a big Iron Man fanatic and he loved the War Machine aspect of it. And I asked him. I said, “When you were reading it, when you were younger, did you have any idea that inside your loins would be the one putting that on?”

Q: How early on were you attached?

TH: About a year before they got it started. I got a great manager, Victoria Fredericks who was all over this a long time before. Me and Avi Arad had spoken at Mike Medavoy’s party, one of the parties he throws. He smiled at me like we were going to work together. Then about six months later, it all happened. I was taken by surprise by it. I’m still in shock by it.

Q: Did you tell your manager to look out for Iron Man?

TH: No, she was like, “I’ve got something I’m working on.” So for like a year and a half, she had been pursuing it because she knew that they planned on doing it. So I was lucky.

Q: What scene are you working on today?

TH: Today, this scene right here.

Q: What do you still have left to shoot?

TH: We’ve got the opening scenes of the movie still to shoot. That’s mostly what we’re doing, and a couple of scenes of me and Tony having conversations. And I’ve got a great scene with Gwyneth Paltrow coming.

Q: Have you done any big action stunt fights so far?

TH: We did a few things, but a lot of it I can’t say about.

Q: How about the m50?

TH: Oh, that was great. I got to shoot that m50, man. At one point when I was up at the – no, I can’t say that. I had some fun with the Air Force. The Air Force took me out on some of their real training stuff and let me play.

Q: Has there been a digital model of you?

TH: You’re very clever. They’ve done some stuff.

Q: What’s been the hardest part?

TH: The hardest thing for me is we got the use of, like if you remember in the comic book, Rhodes, even though he’s by the book so to speak, he’s a bit of a rogue in his own nature. But since we have the Department of Defense that we’re working with, it’s been having to pull back because of trying to appease them being so generous to us. So that’s been the hardest thing to be as true to Rhodi as the comic book and still satisfy the needs of the Department of Defense.

Q: What’s your character arc in the first movie?

TH: I think it’s pretty much a three picture arc, so we’re right in the very beginning of that, of him having to consider perhaps there is a different way. Even though my character starts off in complete disgust of how Tony lives his life, then he realizes perhaps there is a different way to live one’s life. So that’s where we are now. We are in the debates of who’s way of life is the right way. Is it the military and the strict disciplinarian way? Or is it being an independent acting and behaving individual. That’s where it’s at.

Q: Had you worked with Downey before? What was it like?

TH: No. I love him. I love him. My first film I ever saw him in was Weird Science, which I watched 400,000 times. So when I saw him, that’s all I wanted to talk to him about. I mean, he had heard all those questions before but to find that he was a fan of mine and I told him that the reason that I really wanted to do this movie, especially once I found he was doing it, was I wanted to work with him because I wanted to learn from him. I mean, he’s brilliant. Every day he rewrites his script. Every single day. We’ve got great writers but every day he will sit there and spend the first hour and a half making it perfect, making it better. He has this light, jovial nature about him that floats everywhere and floats everywhere. Therefore when he focuses in on something, it’s powerful. It’s magical. He’s really probably one of the best actors I’ve ever worked with in my life. I look forward to learning a little more from him as we go along.

Q: What have you learned from him?

TH: Nothing looks so unnatural as an attempt to look natural. You start off, when you’re on the outskirts of the business and way over there, you’re able to do whatever you want to do because nobody’s really checking on you. But to get welcomed inside and then everyone expects so much from you, like for me personally, the last film I did I was so busy trying to be the good actor and not ruffle anything, that I don’t think I did the service that I was supposed to do to it because as an artist, you’re not supposed to fit. An artist is supposed to stand apart and have a different point of view. What I’ve noticed about Robert, Robert is just himself. He has no other point of view except his own. He believes in it whole heartedly and you’ve got to win him over with convincing argument. To have that type of backbone in a business where they remove your backbone slowly and surely, after he’s been through so much, I love him for that. That’s what I’m learning from him.

Q: What’s your take on improvising versus scripted atmosphere?

TH: Well, you’ve got to think, Jon Favreau as an actor, he’s an improvisational actor. So he brings those sensibilities to his directorial work. He trusts what the actors are going to, what they’re going to do. There’s one particular scene that just blows my mind in this movie where we were having a press conference and Robert just decided to tell the entire press to sit down on the floor. 400 people. After we had already lit it to shoot it with them standing. It was brilliant. Jon went with it. We relit and it just took the scene to a whole nother place. I didn’t know that Jeff didn’t like improvisation because Jeff is freakin’ brilliant.

Q: But Jon said don’t get the idea we improvised the whole movie.

TH: No, what we’ll do is we’ll start off in the morning and talk through what’s there. And we look around the room and say, “Who believes it?” And if we don’t believe it, then we’ll start having the conversation, “What would you say?” Sitting there and we have that conversation of what we would say and they have a little Dictaphone like this sitting around, another one that’s like this. We’re all listening too. The next thing you’ll know, they’ll come back an hour later and have written out everything that we were able to put into it. So it starts off with the structure, but then we let the plant grow and then we trim it down and it’s perfect. It ends up being absolutely perfect. But Robert is the king of improvisation because every single take, he will adjust a word or a phrase that just gets a little more closer to home. His light just gets brighter and brighter and brighter. I mean, everyone is sitting there watching him like he is a mad genius.

Q: Is this a contradiction to Crash and Hustle and Flow and stuff?

TH: Well, a great director said to me once, “Limitation brings about genius.” Those other characters I had, like in Crash I had an emotional breakdown. When you have an emotional breakdown, anything goes. Hustle and Flow, the character lived completely outside of society’s laws and regulations. Get Rich or Die Tryin’, that was a character that had decided to hate the world because of what had happened to him in his youth. For me to be limited by what the Department of Defense sets out in military guidelines. They set out with individuals to learn that discipline. I think in the long run will make me a much better actor. Even in this one, I mean, this one I sit back and I wait and wait and wait for those moments when I can get active and when they let me out, I’m so thrilled. But I find myself walking in this disciplined manner, from spending a month on a military base. I’m about to ask them to actually make me an honorary colonel.

Q: Will they go for it?

TH: They want me to be their spokesperson.

Q: Did you base any part of your character on people you met?

TH: General Thomas. He’s so insightful. He’s the chief of- – head of command at Nellis Air Force Base. He’s a black general. I had never heard of a black general in my life, so I was happy to meet him. But he’s so insightful, so sweet, very sweet but very direct about accomplishing. The first thing he told me, because I shook his hand respectfully, I thought strongly, and he slapped my hand away. He said, “You fly a $200 million aircraft. Act like it.” So I shook his hand and tried to break it.

Q: What kind of physical training have you done?

TH: Robert and his competitive ass, I almost tore my shoulder trying to keep up with him. Here I’m 40-50 pounds heavier than him, so I’m lifting and I put up, push up about 225, knock it out 10 times. Robert wants to go and do 235, and he did it. So I’m going to push it up to 245. I took him out running and gave him some nice cramps while we were in Lone Pine. He couldn’t walk for a couple days. That was really nice.

Q: Are you still doing five miles a day?

TH: I’m doing six now, but I found the best way to do it is not to do it straight. Do a mile and a half, that’s running for 15 minutes, rest for an hour, do another mile and a half, so you got the first three. Then in the evening, same thing. You can sprint it and it doesn’t hurt your legs or anything like that. It’s great now. I actually was able to pull off 100 pushups without stopping, without resting. We all do that, we all try to do it. I got to I can do 100 pushups without resting now, so I’m all right.

Q: Is this the best shape you’ve ever been in?

TH: Oh, yeah. I got titties. I don’t need my girlfriend no more. [Laughter drowns out rest]

Q: What about Jon?

TH: Oh, Jon, Jon is great. I watched him drop 70 pounds in the process of shooting this thing. He’s been eating 900 calories a day. That’s it, and directing this movie. He has completely slimmed down. Have you all seen him yet? Yes, and he’s still on it. He’s still on it. I think him and Vince, because you get a little money, you get a little comfortable, you can have it. Look at what I’m eating, but the six miles a day allows me to eat the salt and the sugar that I want.

Continued on page 2 ———->


Q: Working with Gwyneth?

TH: We’ve had a couple scenes but Gwyneth is hard to work with because she’s so beautiful. You try not to flirt with her. You don’t want to flirt but you’re hoping somewhere in your heart, “I’m hoping she likes me. I’m hoping that she likes me and that she’ll leave Coldplay to come and hang out with me.” I’ve got two more pictures to work on her. Let him mess up.

Q: Have you met him?

TH: Nah.

Q: Working with Jeff Bridges?

TH: Oh, Jeff, he surprised me because he is so good at improvisation. He’s so comfortable and just flows. He reminds me of Nick Nolte in that sense that they both just- – they’ve always been competing giants anyway, but he’s like that and we went, one of the first times when we got together, he took me in his trailer and we smoked cigars and drank some vodka and played guitar for four hours after wrap. He’s a brilliant musician, and a great songwriter. Jeff is beautiful and he kept giving me hints on how to play my character, which I loved.

Q: But you’ve been nominated for an Oscar.

TH: Yeah, but I think he’s been nominated a few times, and I love his work. So for him to tell me- – Gwyneth has given me points. Same thing with Robert. We all do that. Then you know everybody’s completely secure.

Q: Do we see the birth of war machine here?

TH: You read the comic book? If you read the comic book then you kind of know what happens, but you still have to wait because you all ain’t taking away my next two movies. You’re not taking my job. I like y’all, but man.

Q: Have you been able to get your dad out here?

TH: No, I just got my mom out here. My dad, he wanted me to buy him a boat so I told him to go build my house. Finish my house, he’ll get his boat, then he can come out here.

Q: How’d your mom like it?

TH: She loved it because she always thought Robert Downey Jr. reminded her of my brother. She went up to him and hugged him like he was her son.

Q: Are we getting closer to the Academy recognizing comic book movies?

TH: Well, when you look at the stuff that Robert does in this movie, I mean at the end of every take, someone is applauding. Someone is applauding and I’m not talking about, “Good job.” I’m talking about [claps]. He’s brilliant. He is brilliant, so if anybody ever gets an academy nomination for a comic book, I think Robert might be one.

Q: Have you started thinking about next projects?

TH: Well, I just finished up my album and I’ve written my own movie called Hold on Tight which I’m about to go into preproduction on. There’s a lot of stuff that’s offered out there, but sometimes you just kind of- – all these are safe jobs. They’re the safe things to keep me there and you stop being an artist. You go from being an artist to a celebrated artist to just a celebrity.

Q: What’s Hold on Tight?

TH: When I was doing the film Hustle and Flow, I wrote a song beyond the other rap songs that I didn’t want to put my name on. I should have because I would have had an Oscar, but I wrote a song called Hold on Tight. Then I wrote a movie around it. That’s the basis of it, a father and daughter that’s been apart and he’s a songwriter. She’s spending the summer with him and learning how to write songs herself. It’s really an honest movie. An honest movie.

Q: Thinking of directing it?

TH: Yeah, I’m directing it.

Q: So that’s next?

TH: Yes.

Q: Do you have a cast?

TH: I’m in it. I’ve got a lot of friends that say they want to be in it. They kind of encouraged me to do it so we’ll see. We’ll see who signs the paper.

Q: Is it easier to get financing now?

TH: It’s great but they want you to promise- – they’ll give me the money to direct it, they’ll give me the money to star in it, but they want to make sure that they can tie me into a couple of their projects later on down the line. There’s always these attachments to it, but the best thing that happened with this movie is it’s a company called Apollo Diamond. They contacted me after they found out I was doing the movie. They said they had a way. They’re growing diamonds and there’s a way to make the suit smaller to where- – and it’s true. They’re actually growing these huge diamonds in wafers. I don’t know if any of you guys are aware of them. Look up Apollodiamond.com. That’s the best thing that happened because they didn’t go public so I was able to jump in and get a great investment too.

Q: Been paying attention to the fan community?

TH: I mean, what I keep seeing the most is what they’re waiting for is what I’m sure a lot of you guys are waiting for. Will Iron Man follow the full course that the character did, because you gotta remember when the comic book came out, to have a character that was an alcoholic and all of that and all those troubles, that was a big thing in the ’70s. So is that here? Do you see that in this movie or not? To see troubled people, all those things? All that is what they’ve been asking. I’m glad that they’re concerned and I can’t wait for them to come and see the movie and find out what happens. That’s what I just try to do, encourage them. I think this may end up being one of Marvel’s best movies because they were able to stay true because they were doing it themselves.

Q: Talk about your character?

TH: Well, my character is a young man that grew up in the military, went to college as a result of the military. Father was in the military, grandfather was in the military. So I am truly a son of the USA. Sometimes a son wants to leave home just to venture out, but then he always makes his way back. That’s my character.

Q: Coolest thing you’ve done action-wise?

TH: One day when we were up in Lone Pine, the freeway, I don’t remember, the 14 freeway was blocked because there’s all this wind coming down. So they blocked it off. I’ve got to be on set. Set is about 20 miles away. I know we’ve got the Department of Defense working with us. There’s an Air Force base nearby. So I’m like, “I’m not going to make it to work for the next two hours.” And I called them, and I was like calling the Air Force and tell them to send a helicopter for me. They sent it. I got to arrive on set with this huge- – we landed on top of a sand dune. That was the coolest thing.

Q: When you stepped out, did you have sunglasses and looking cool?

TH: I had the whole thing. I had the whole thing. And saluted as they flew off.

Q: What is the deal with your album?

TH: It’s incredible. That’s all I- – it really is. It’s the best thing I’ve ever accomplished in my life. I wrote and produced everything on it and if you guys get some time, I’ll let you all come by the car and listen to a couple of the tracks. I know you’ve got some other people to do in here but I’m going to be here for a little bit.

Q: Any collaborations?

TH: No, I just wanted to do it myself. Because you’ve got to. I want to throw the first punch. If I get knocked out, then somebody else jump in and help me.

Q: How do you describe the music?

TH: It’s cinematic sound. That’s the only way. You come out to the car and you’ll hear it.

Q: Will you be on this soundtrack?

TH: Of this movie? I’m like y’all, I’m waiting to see. I’m waiting to find out.

Q: Gotta wrap him.

TH: Wish I could tell you more. I’m in the parking lot.

And if this interview wasn’t enough for you…here’s some links to interviews I did at last year’s Comic-Con for “Iron Man.

Jon Favreau Comic Con interview, Robert Downey Jr.Comic-Con interview, Kevin Feige – the President of Production at Marvel interview, Gwyneth Paltrowand Terrance Howard. Finally,if you want to see some images ofthe Mach 1 from Comic Con, click here.

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