Mickey Rourke ‘can hold his own’ with Downey in ‘Iron Man 2’


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Tony Stark breaks all the rules (even the one that says superheroes must keep a secret identity), and he always seems to comes out on top -- that’s why we love him. But now comes ‘Iron Man 2,’ a film about secret dangers, the sins of the father and the nasty price of modern celebrity. The movie lands May 7 in the U.S., and every day until then, we’ll have behind-the-scenes scoops on the summer’s most anticipated film and a look at all things Iron Man.


The first time Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) gets to speak to a mysterious new nemesis named Ivan Vanko, the posh billionaire surveys the burly Russian’s grim dental work, assortment of prison tattoos and dishrag mane and makes an easy deduction. “You,” Stark says, “look like you have friends in low places.”

Vanko, portrayed with muttering menace by Mickey Rourke, is a complete stranger to Stark when he first attacks him during the Monaco Grand Prix, but the billionaire superhero soon finds out that his own past is intertwined with this hulking mad genius.

“It’s revealed to Tony that the underlying technology that Iron Man suit used, the arc reactor, was not just invented by his father, as he had thought, but something his father collaborated on with a Soviet scientist named Anton Vanko. Anton Vanko defected but then was sent back and lived in squalor and disgrace. So Mickey Rourke’s character, Ivan, has grown up the son of this pariah who lay dying penniless while the Starks have immense wealth. It’s a story about legacy and, in both cases, the sins of the father.”

The younger Vanko uses his father’s work to create a wearable weapon very different from Stark’s sleek armor -- it’s an exoskeleton with two sizzling whips that can slice through walls and cars -- and Favreau said his bruising and very public assault on Iron Man leaves the hero reeling. “Just like anybody super-famous in our society, once they stumble it’s ‘the agony of defeat’ and the nature of fame and public support and how they turn.”

Rourke flew on his own to Moscow to research his role by spending time with prison guards and longtime prisoners and immersing himself in the dark culture of the gulag. Rouke, the only method actor in the ‘Iron Man 2’ core cast, came back with requests that his character speak mostly Russian, have a pet bird and flash a lot of Eastern Province body ink.

“His character has lived a long tough life and been scarred, and Rourke really found ways to tap into that,” Favreau said. “The real challenge for us was finding someone who could hold the screen opposite of Downey, who has so much presence. If you just hired one of the usual suspects among the young and upcoming actors, they’d just get blown off the screen. When I saw Mickey in ‘The Wrestler’ and thought back also to ‘Sin City,’ I thought to reach out to him. I knew this was a guy who could hold his own.”


-- Geoff Boucher


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Photo credits: Industrial Light and Magic