Robert Downey Jr. Says 'Avengers 2' Won't Fall Into The Third Act Formula [Set Interview]

On June 12th 2014, I visited the London set of The Avengers: Age of Ultron. Today we'll be posting a couple of the interviews we conducted while on set. The first is with Robert Downey Jr, who is reprising his role as Tony Stark, aka Iron Man. You can listen to or read the whole interview after the jump, but I wanted to lead off with Downey Jr's explanation of why Avengers 2 won't fall into the superhero/blockbuster formula of an action-heavy not-so-interesting third act:

There was a Rubik's Cube to how to make these things have an Act Three — that you're just going I really hope you like Acts One and Two because now we've just gotta do all this stuff. To me, and I think it was the same thing in Iron Man 3, Act Three was the strongest act. I think that this is really gunning for that sort of thing. Because I love movies. I love these kinds of movies. I feel like I'm just a very tolerant kind of consumer with these things, but I also feel like the half-life of — if you noticed just how flooded the market is becoming and likely to become potentially even more so. I think that there has to be a bit of a transcendence of formula. And so without giving too much away, and why I generally just stamped it when the first draft came in 'cause I thought, "Oh wow, it didn't fall into that trap." And I read the last page and I got chills, for a reason I definitely can't explain. [LAUGHTER] ... This is gonna be very cool.

Read or listen to our whole Robert Downey Jr Avengers 2 set interview after the jump.

Avengers: Age of Ultron: Iron Man in the mountains

The following interview with Robert Downey Jr. was conducted on the London set of Avengers: Age of Ultron on June 12th 2014. There, I participated in with in a roundtable with a group of movie blog colleagues.

Click here to listen to the full interview!

Question: Talk a little bit about your reaction when you first got the script from Joss and how it's changed since you first got it?

Robert Downey Jr: Sure. First of all, he's a good writer. So I always tend to think, generally speaking, is this a movie I wanna see 'cause, all the fine points are gonna get worked out. And there's a lot of, you know, at this point — as the Mayor of Marvel, [LAUGHTER] — um, I don't know. There's gonna be so many squeaky wheels along the way. Many of them practical and others just creative departures or differences or whatever. And to me this kinda started with the third Iron Man which is like alright, I'm gonna read the script. Who wrote it? Shane Black. I like it. [LAUGHTER] And this time I think that from the jump I thought wow, this is really what Avengers: Age of Ultron should be. But I was done with the first draft and I said, "Cool. I like it." Kevin [Feige] was like "wait, what did you just say?" [LAUGHS] I'm sure there was a bunch of iterations and things that changed over time. But then I read the second and then the third draft. And he's continuing to write even as we're setting up shots he's going, "oh, I wanna — I want it to be or bringing back in a line that was in the first draft" or whatever. But I always love —  you'd think this was the ingredients to that salad dressing that makes girls go into labor. [LAUGHTER] I'm guessing it is. [LAUGHTER]

Question: Joss mentioned he had a lot of ideas for the second Avengers movie even before he took on the first Avengers movie. Were you kinda privy to that at all about where he wanted to go with Tony, with vision and Ultron and everyone?

Robert Downey Jr: Not really. Honestly I didn't really even get to know Joss until we started this movie. Because, you know, Avengers was so I — I don't wanna say disorienting, but it was a very kind of well-managed compartmentalized attempt to do something unprecedented. And I didn't feel necessarily the stress of it. But I could tell that it was a little bit of a different approach to the process. And I remember the first time saying too like, "Look, scene one should be Tony." And he was like, "Alright, scene one isn't Tony." I was like, "But it should be." [LAUGHTER] And as it turned out it was really smart the way it all worked out for everyone.

Avengers: Age of Ultron: Tony Stark with an Ultron prototype in his lab

Question: Where's Tony now at this point because by the end of Iron Man 3 there's a real sense that he doesn't wanna wear the suit and he doesn't wanna be the physical guy doing it.

Robert Downey Jr: Right.

Question: So how are you now playing this role as this progresses?

Robert Downey Jr: Yes. Well I would counterpoint that by saying that I thought that the third Iron Man was about transcending his dependence on the merits of continuing to wear your wound. And I thought that that was kind of what Shane [Black] and I thought was the real win. Was that he throws that thing that had become a dependency away because that was the question I was always asking: why doesn't he get those shards out? It's dangerous. So it kinda reminds me of all that stuff particularly as you get a little older or if you have any existential queries whatsoever. It's like why aren't I dealing with that which is going to destroy me any second anyway? And then the armor was kind of an extension of that. And also there was just so many suits. But I think he realizes that tweaking and making all the suits in the world still didn't work for that thing of his, kinda his tour of duty that left him a little PTSD. So his focus is more on how can we make it so that there's no problem to begin with. That there's a bouncer at our planets rope. That's the big idea.

Avengers: Age of Ultron: Thor goes after Tony Stark

Question: Joss was telling us yesterday that one of the big themes of the entire film is being destroyed by power. And I'm curious how you think that applies to Tony and his story.

Robert Downey Jr.: How does it apply to Tony? Oh.

Question: Do you have a witty remark otherwise? [LAUGHS]

Robert Downey Jr: Well I mean honestly I think thematically it's probably the best thing Joss decided to go after. Because, you know what I mean? It's a very kinda typical gung-ho western iconic thing to be like there's nothing wrong with me. Now let's begin, you know. And so it's kind of like an objective, um, introspection at the whole idea. And I think he always thinks about it. Like he says, alright, let me just pretend I'm being pro-offered this narrative at first glance. What do I think? Alright, they're nuts, you know. It keeps doing a bit of the Noam Chomsky approach [LAUGHS] to Avengers in retrospect which I think is healthy. And I think it also it just opens up a whole other avenue of creativity for it. That's what I really notice is there's a lot of dots that could have connected a certain way. But because there's that theme of could it be that we're the problem and therefore a bad guy if you wanna call it, I can't really say there's a bad guy in — I mean it's hard to call Jimmy Spader a bad guy. But he's it's scary and he's bright and hurting and all that. But his thought is like, I see what's wrong here. And guess what? It's y'all. [LAUGHTER] You know.

Avengers: Age of Ultron

Q : So Tony throws a party for the Avengers in this movie in his tricked out Stark Tower. How does an Avengers house party differ from a normal house party? [LAUGHS]

Robert Downey Jr: OK. Well Tony's every — it was so funny. We were on that stage a couple days ago. And I just see it's leveled. [LAUGHTER] And I go this guy "just can't throw a party." [LAUGHTER] Um, and I don't know why that never gets old. Maybe it would get old if it happened again. But this time it still feels like it's now the norm. There's just like when McLean has to run over the broken glass thing, you know what I mean? It's just that. And probably in a lot of ways god bless [Charles Wood], the best production design there has been, in my opinion. Yes. Save for the fact that the entirety of the walking, running, sliding and stunt surface is not just like ice. It's like future ice. [LAUGHTER] Which to me is the great ah-ha of every time I go like, alright, I'm gonna run through this then I'm gonna jump through that sugar glass then I'm gonna roll and then the wire will go and then you go alright, but I have no footing here [LAUGHTER] because they didn't put a step there. "OK, and rolling." Nope, can we just put a step there 'cause I got — I really got plans for Christmas. [LAUGHTER] Um, anyway.

Avengers: Age of Ultron: Ultron, Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver stand in the wreckage of a lab

Q : Can you talk a little bit about Tony's relationship with Ultron is? You said that he's sort of they're the problem. Is he kind of a reflection of Tony's dark side is there a father/son?

Robert Downey Jr : Um, no, it's not really that. It's more, — I always revisit the concept that every impulse starts off as a positive impulse. Even an impulse to kill starts off as an impulse to change, to rail against, to challenge the authority of in a very direct and permanent solution to a temporary problem kinda way. And I think because Tony's solution is what becomes the problem in a way that's really kinda interesting, and also ties in to The Vision. So again that to me was a rubik's cube to how not to make these things happen in Act Three — that you're just going I really hope you like Acts One and Two because now we're just gonna do all this stuff, and to me I think it was the same thing in Iron Man 3, Act Three was the strongest act. I think that this is really gunning for that sort of thing. Because I love movies. I love these kinds of movies. I feel like I'm just a very tolerant kind of consumer with these things, but I also feel like the half life of if you noticed just how flooded the market is becoming and likely to become potentially even more so. I think that there has to be a bit of a transcendence of formula. And so without giving too much away, why I generally just stamped it when the first draft came in 'cause I thought, "Oh wow, it didn't fall into that trap." And I read the last page and I got chills, for a reason I definitely can't explain. [LAUGHTER] But there's a lot of new talent coming in, with Aaron Taylor Johnson and obviously Lizzie Olsen. And just even seeing Paul Bettany within a thousand miles [LAUGHTER] on set where we're shooting is just like wow. This is gonna be really cool.

Question: That was amazing yesterday to see him, and you can recognize him as the Vision but there were like little Iron Man touches like the gauntlets look kinda like your suit. There's something really fascinating about having Bettany finally in this and have you have some roll in his creation.

Robert Downey Jr : Yeah. It's really cool. Again that to me was a another one of those things and in my opinion there's been a lot of movies that even if they didn't entirely work they headed towards something that was new territory. Whether it was Watchmen or the second and third Matrix. I always feel like if you're a fan of the first one, I don't wanna hear anything bad about the next seven. That might be a bit extreme. [LAUGHTER] But there's a lot of elements without being derivative of other groundbreaking films in this genre that are reinterpreted in a way that's really cool. Back to Bettany, there is no one I would rather have the delight of seeing in the extreme discomfort [LAUGHTER] than Paul Bettany.  Because when he's doing his Hamlet moment.  And literally like I'm just used to it 'cause I just did a movie with Janusz Kaminsky as director of photography. He'll just walk in while you're weeping and go, "Asshole, bring the light over here." [LAUGHTER] "More smoke! More smoke!" [LAUGHTER] So I'm just kinda like hey, should I just keep crying or do you need a minute? [LAUGHTER] But it started to happen. And Bettany literally was just like, "Ah, I'm sorry. I'm sorry. Will you be done in a moment?" [LAUGHTER] Yeah. And he's just like "do we have five seconds? Good." Put more glue on Paul's neck for no reason 'cause we're literally gonna CGI the whole thing. Just to make sure he's hurting. [LAUGHTER] As I call it glue gun Garry Glen Ross. [LAUGHTER] It's the Brit approach to being boiled alive which is just very like I apologize, my skin is sloughing off. [LAUGHTER] Do you mind? But five degrees less.

Avengers: Age of Ultron: Captain America runs as cars flip

Question : In the first Avengers Stark is maybe a little skeptical. Are they suspicious of SHIELD and Nick Fury and I'm curious how he react to what happened in Captain America 2 and how that plays into the reunion of the Avengers?

Robert Downey Jr.: Right. Well regardless of principles, there is a personality factor there that was represented initially in Coulson and then in [Nick] Fury that are friendships that developed under bizarre circumstances that are kind of genuine. So, while they might have seemed as some kind of inevitability I think that if you think about it, the last time he goes alright I've actually dealt with one of my 50 core issues and now I feel, rather than him kind of like putting it all down, he was just kinda saying, alright, job one roughly taken care of. And I think this is job two. Job two was go back east and get people organized and do what I can. And I love that Tony's not one of those superheroes who's ever lost his money. [LAUGHS] Which is great. He's never lost his dough. The stocks have gone down. But anyway, so I think what he's trying to do is kind of set up shop where eventually this can be, it's like with our vis effects guy, It's like eventually you just gotta hand this over to the vendors so they can finish the job. And I think that's kind of what Tony's thinking.

Question : Tony is very much a man of science and technology, how does he reconcile some of the things that one this character can do which is very much not of this world.

Robert Downey Jr.: Right. Uh, which character?

Avengers: Age of Ultron: Scarlet Witch

Question: like Scarlet Witch, she's got some different kind of abilities than we've really seen from any one.

Robert Downey Jr:  I know, I love it. Just personally as an artist, I think it's just one of those things that like you can't have, once actors start complaining about something, there's no end to it. So I've honestly this time just try to be like that's a given. The given is people can get inside your head. So I just think of it as a kind of a metaphor for relationships. And she's like that gal from college who was crazy or whatever.  [LAUGHS] To me Quicksilver and the way that they've been put together and their kind of origins take on Joss's behalf to me is just like "dude, I never would have thought of that." And that's the absolute coolest way you could have done it. Is just a guy who's everybody was always the fast gun at something when I was growing up. And he's that. And I think also he's a very kind of mature actor from what I know of him. I just like him and he seems really kind of like wise beyond his years. But he's just youth, you know. And as I'm pushing 50 now I realize like youth is just an incredible advantage. [LAUGHTER] Whether you use it or not is another matter.

Question : In Iron Man 3 we saw a lot of Tony Stark. We got to follow his journeys more than Iron Man in some ways. In this movie obviously you could have Iron Man be in the water scenes 'cause a lot of fighting and stuff like that. How much of Tony versus Iron Man in this one?

Robert Downey Jr.: Well it's funny, and I'm happy to do it for Joss 'cause I trust him. There's a lot of times where we're standing around talking about the plot. But I would rather do that now than do it in November when the first test screening and said we need you guys standing around talking about the plot more. But to me it's always a trade off too. So actually as far as action goes, this time  I got my beak wet to the point of shutting down production for a couple months last time, which I enjoyed. And this has been really just more of a fluid thing of being in the relationships because he's the guy who is the kind of technologically a possible superhero. I think that Joss is leaning on me a little bit, to mean like if this is credible to you even if you snark about it a little bit, then other people are gonna buy it. And I'm like that's true. He goes, "Great. Here's the scene I need you to do." And I go, "OK." But he's also, this time around I just wanna say in summary it's been fun. And we all have become close. You know, last time was kinda like, you know, Thor's in. Cap's out. Tony's in. Everyone's together...twice. Because that's all they could manage 'cause it was like working with mercury and herding cats. [LAUGHTER] And this time it's that but we're all really are genuinely developing relationships with each other. So I think the start and end of it is in trusting Joss. That he kinda really, really knows what he's doing. And that in the broad strokes  – this movie's gonna be great. I really think so.