Posted on Wednesday, May 14th, 2014 by Germain Lussier
When I look back at many of my favorite films, I often find a common thread. One in particular is Jon Favreau. The writer and star of my favorite movie Swingers got his start in another personal fave, Rudy, and went on to direct one of the most important movies of the past decade, Iron Man. Beyond that he’s made a holiday classic in Elf, starred on numerous iconic TV shows, directed TV pilots, the guy has done it all.
Recently, the failure of Cowboys and Aliens made Favreau go back to his indie roots and make Chef. It’s a small, independent film he wrote, directed and stars in that shows Favreau is still as passionate and skillful as ever. It’s really good.
Favreau recently took to Reddit to do an Ask Me Anything, and we’ve pulled news tidbits, fun stories, quotes and more. Among those are an update on casting his next film, Disney’s The Jungle Book, some stories about making Iron Man, Rudy, his thoughts on the cancellation of Revolution, Ben Affleck as Batman, restarting Dinner for Five, Ant-Man, directing a Star Wars movie, handing off the Iron Man franchise and making his new film, Chef. Read our Jon Favreau AMA recap below.
For the full AMA, which has much more, click here. Favreau’s answers to everything are here. Below though, are the links and quotes to just a few highlights. Click on the link in each question to see the full context.
The latest on casting Jungle Book:
We’re currently in the middle of a worldwide search for a Mowgli. We are in conversation with somebody extremely cool for Baloo, but I can’t mention who it is until it’s final.
On adapting the Shannara YA series:
I was familiar with the books, mostly through the artwork of the Brothers Hildebrandt. I love fantasy, and the idea of adapting so much material in light of the new long form offered by cable is exciting. The adapted scripts that I’ve been reading have been great, and I will update you through Twitter as new information becomes available.
What was it like filming Iron Man 3?
I wasn’t around for [the plane] sequence, all of my work was on the stage with Robert Downey Jr, and at Stark Industries with Gwyneth. My role was much different on the third film, as I was only an actor and an executive producer. It was really interesting being on a set of an Iron Man film that I wasn’t directing. I was really able to concentrate on having fun as a performer, and trying to be as supportive as I could be to Shane Black, who was the director of the third installment. I got to spend a lot of time in Miami, and I got to see cuban music performed in little Havana on my days off. That was (in part) what inspired the Miami sequences in Chef.
Will there be a 20th anniversary release of Swingers?
There’s no plans that I know of to do any kind of special release for the anniversary. I’m often surprised however, when things like that come out that I’m not aware of. They don’t always include us in their plans when a distributor reissues something or puts out a special edition.
Was there trouble casting Robert Downey Jr. in Iron Man?
Yeah. Casting Robert Downey Jr. was a pretty big fight at the time. He was not the obvious choice. And although everybody acknowledged that he was a man of tremendous talent, there was a lot of discussion behind the scenes as to whether or not he had the potential to be a movie star that could carry a Marvel franchise. I was pushing very hard for him, and he fought very hard to get the role. The final factor in him getting cast was a screen test that he did where he blew everybody away, and everyone was in agreement that he was indeed, Tony Stark.
What was his role as executive producer on The Avengers?
The credit of executive producer can mean a lot of different things. In my particular case on the Avengers, it was a result of my work on the Iron Man films in establishing the characters and the world, as well as being involved and available to Joss & the cast as they were making the movie. Joss and Marvel were definitely steering the ship on that one, and I was just happy to be a part of it and offer whatever advice I could based on my experiences on the previous films.
Thoughts on the cancellation of Revolution (for which he directed the pilot):
Let me start by saying that I’ve been in contact with Eric Kripke who is the executive producer and show runner of Revolution. He was extremely disappointed when he got the news that the show was being canceled, but wanted me to communicate to the fans through my social media presence that he was tremendously grateful for all of the fan support. I think the cancellation (and I’m just speculating) probably had to do with the ratings being borderline. Network television in general has been struggling over the last few years, because of all of the competition from different platforms and cable channels. It’s challenging to navigate all of these changes, and find a way to keep relevant content available, and to have it make sense for the people who are financing it. I’ve expressed to Eric how much enthusiasm there is for the idea of keeping the show going in another venue. These things are very complicated, because there are a lot of people who are involved, and any one of them can veto that kind of a move. That being said, it is not unheard of in this day & age for a show to pop up at a different network or online or in the movie theaters. Think about Arrested Development or Veronica Mars. I’m keeping an open mind, and I will be supportive in any way that I can. These are tricky waters to navigate, but I will express to Eric how much enthusiasm there is out there for his show to continue.
Will he ever do a horror movie?
Thank you for your compliments. When you direct a movie, you really have to immerse yourself in that world for a year or two. I suspect that if I worked on a horror movie, it would affect the energy of my day to day life in a way that I wouldn’t be comfortable with. I love watching a good zombie movie, and I enjoy clever horror, but I don’t think I’m the right guy to explore that genre because I don’t know if I have the stomach for it.
How did he cast Will Ferrell in Elf?
Will Ferrell was attached to the project when I was hired. So I wasn’t involved in casting him. I can’t imagine anybody else playing that role.
How did the idea for Chef and love of cooking come about?
My first experience that hooked me into chef culture was reading Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential when it first came out. There was a rumor circulating that David Fincher and Brad Pitt were working on a movie version of it, and I was really excited to see what that combo would come up with. Years passed and that never came to light. But I think that my curiosity had been piqued, and I had watched a lot of documentaries and foodie movies, as well as every season of Top Chef.
After years of ruminating on an idea of doing something chef-related, the idea for the film Chef popped into my head. And I wrote it in a matter of weeks. It’s the most fun I could ever remember having on a movie and I’m extremely proud of it. I’ve never had a movie that was such an accurate depiction of the first version of it that popped into my head.
What does he think about Ben Affleck as Batman?
Ben is a very smart guy, and a great director. He’s in a position in Hollywood where he has a tremendous amount of freedom when it comes to what projects he wants to pursue. If he has chosen to take on this role, I’m sure he has something really interesting in mind for how he’s going to depict the Caped Crusader. He impresses me more and more each year with how he’s grown creatively, and I am extremely curious to see how that will affect the way that he inhabits the role of an iconic superhero.
Would he direct a Star Wars movie?
Star Wars? I love Star Wars! Who wouldn’t want to direct a Star Wars movie? What, are you kidding me!?
For right now, I’m excited to see what JJ’s come up with, I think he’s the perfect choice and he seems to be making all the right decisions. I will be first in line to see Episode 7.
What movies does he revisit?
You can never go wrong with the Godfather. Seven Samurai is like a 3 hour film school. Visions of Light is a really good doc that I check out from time to time, as it offers insight into cinematography.
Thoughts on video game adaptations:
Oooh. Video game adaptations are very tricky, because the basic experience of a video game is much different than a linear film. Clearly there’s wonderful storytelling in video games, and now you can portray video game imagery in a movie very effectively. When you really roll up your sleeves and try to figure out a way to develop a good video game into a movie, it’s surprisingly challenging to transfer the storytelling. There are a lot of films coming out in the upcoming years and I’m looking forward to seeing how other directors have found a way to crack that nut.
Any stories from filming Rudy?
I remember we were filming on the campus on the second floor of the library, I was doing a scene with Sean Astin where we were studying together, and David Anspaugh was directing us. In the middle of rehearsal, we heard a loud noise from outside, and we all rushed to the window. One of the condors that was holding a light had toppled over. Everybody was buzzing around and everything had stopped. David asked if everybody was okay, and after he was assured that nobody had been hurt, he pulled the 2 of us back into the scene, and calmly continued directing us. It was a real lesson in directing for me. I realized that he was concerned about this crew, and wants to make sure everybody was okay first and foremost, but he realized that everything was okay, he created a calmness and a focus so we could get back to work. And he was unfazed by the chaos that was swirling around him.
I realized it was a director’s job to create a mood and to reassure the people around him. It was a real lesson in leadership as well, and it made me feel very lucky to be working with a guy like him.
On the incredible cast of Chef:
When you do an independent film, you have to rely on the generosity of others. Both in front of and behind the camera, extremely talented people worked for a fraction of what they would get on a bigger movie. Robert Downey and Scarlett I knew from the Iron Man films, and they agreed to do the project after reading the script. I have known John Leguizamo and Bobby Cannavale for quite some time and they agreed to be int he film as well. Dustin Hoffman and Sofia Vergara were two people I was a fan of but I didn’t know them personally. I sent them scripts with an offer and after meeting with me they agreed to do the film.
Thoughts on his I Love You, Man co-star playing Ant-Man:
I love Paul Rudd. I can’t get enough Paul Rudd. I ate soup out of Paul Rudd’s mouth, I love him so much. I can’t wait to see Ant Man.
Would he relaunch Dinner for Five?
I talk about it from time to time. I feel the same way you do about Dinner for Five’s relationship with podcasting, and I feel that there are a lot of outlets that now give you that same access or in-depth conversations about the business. I’ve listened to podcasts every day, and there’s nothing like the long relaxed conversation with somebody that I’m curious about.
Thoughts on the growth of Marvel:
I’ve been very impressed by the variety of directors they’ve chosen for their various franchises. I like the fact that they’ve maintained the tone of Iron Man, while allowing each individual director to express their own personal tastes and styles. I never could have imagined that this collection of films would result from a movie that was essentially made as an independently financed negative pickup and was the first film of a newborn studio. I congratulate the team at Marvel for being so successful and keeping the ball rolling. I also admire the emphasis placed on casting. I think it’s the great actors that have served to elevate the genre. And as far as directing again? I have no plans as of now, but I enjoy working with the Marvel family a great deal.
Do you know you’re money?
I’ve been told, thank you.