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Interview: Robert Downey Jr. and Scarlett Johansson

The stars of Iron Man 2 on the battle of the on-screen sexes and additions to the Iron Man cast

While Robert Downey Jr. can be as elusive as Teflon when dodging enemies in Iron Man 2, pinning him down during a press interrogation can be equally daunting. Downey showed up in his more earthly form to seemingly deflect questions with his masterful notorious biting wit, and accompanied by flirty martial arts co-star Scarlett Johansson. Up for debate during this back-and-forth conversation were male versus female superpowers, neutralizing robots, kissing Gwyneth and keeping your cool when the banner behind you is falling down.

Q: Did you feel any pressure about coming out in a sequel that would be expected to be at least as wild as the first one?

ROBERT DOWNEY JR: Do you mean feel, as in past tense? I didn’t sleep last night!


Q: So who do you think can save the world better Scarlett, you and Gwyneth or the men?

SCARLETT JOHANSSON: We’re more organized. We’d just stack the robots! I don’t know, I think that with the brains and the muscle and the beauty and the blonde, I feel like we have maybe a greater chance. You guys can fight for yourselves. But we’re unstoppable. It’s true. Unstoppable. I don’t know, I feel like I could wield the guns and do all the karate chop movements. And she could like be the brains behind the operation. That’s her one superpower, she will out-think you!

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Q: Robert, did you ever dress up as a superhero as a kid, and who did you dress up as?

RD: Growing up, no. But in my mid-30s in Palm Springs, right before an arrest, yes! Underwear Man. It was a premonition.

Q: So what in your mind, is a hero, since you‘ve now played a few?

RD: I think a hero is someone who, if they’re abroad or traveling, they go to the Goop website to find out what restaurants to go to, what clothing shops they might enjoy, and what sights they should see. And they do that not fearlessly, but they do it in spite of their fear.

Q: OK…How about that big kiss scene with Gwyneth?

RD: I couldn’t get her off of me. It was embarrassing.

Q: How so?

RD: She said to me that I didn’t know what I was doing, like it didn’t feel good. I was like, “You know what? First of all, we’re all friends. So what would be creepy would be if I was coming off all sexy to you.” Which, by the way, I’ve done that in movies and it creeps them out. So what am I going to creep you out for? But despite what she said on set, she still thinks about it.

Q: What about the sexual stuff for you Scarlett, and getting to be a sex symbol and hopefully more in a movie?

SJ: Well, I’ve never really seen this kind of film in this genre. You know, where the female characters, that their sex appeal sort of came second. Of course they’re sexy characters. When you have a sexy secretary or a girl swinging around by her ankles in a cat suit, that’s innately sexy. But the fact is, these female characters are intelligent. They’re ambitious, they’re motivated and calculated to some degree. But to be just a pawn in a story of a whole bunch of men kind of fighting it out and rolling around and getting down and dirty, and there you are to be this sort of vision in a tight cat suit, would be a boring thing to me.

I think [Director Jon Favreau] made that really clear in the beginning. You know, that he felt, as far as Black Widow was concerned or that Natalie was concerned, she was mysterious and nuanced, and something to peel back the layers to. And that there was something there. He wanted that. I think that’s why this film is so much more dynamic for me as an audience member. I’ve never been a huge fan of this genre really, and I think because it was always sort of one note and very kind of explosive. But I think because Gwyneth and I are able to sort of be the brains behind the operation in some aspect, there’s kind of a happy medium there. And it kind of adds to the charm, and to the charisma of the finished product.

But it’s awfully kind of old fashioned actually, in the best sense of the word. It’s sort of like these characters are like those fabulous femme fatales of the golden age of Hollywood. And Bette Davis more than Jayne Mansfield. Which I think is so much more dynamic to watch.

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