How did you get in such fantastic shape for this film? Thank you! I got a parasite in Japan and I just ran with it. Why do you think the audience feels such a connection to the character of Iron Man? [Director] Jon Favreau and I are naturalists. I’m not saying we collect butterflies or discover new species, but we like playing things as though they might really be happening. That’s why I love films like The Matrix and Jurassic Park – because they are just within the realm of possibility. Also, we have this sick sense of humour and people seem to like that.
What can you reveal about the plot of Iron Man 2? Well, we set ourselves up for this one by having [lead character] Tony Stark reveal he was Iron Man [at the end of the last film]. So you have a story at the end of which you give away the trump card, and I think we got a lot of brownie points for that because it was unexpected. And we keep doing the unexpected by going deeper into the reality of what it would be like if you were that guy and you had said you were Iron Man. I’d probably feel invincible and really high on myself, like I had it all going on, but there are some really serious threats looming from inside Tony, as well as from outside.
Was it easier to come back to the character a second time? Any time I’m offered new work, my first reaction is to snarl and then recoil…
Are you essentially playing yourself as Tony Stark? I really have to play a far cooler version of myself. I was in the elevator recently with some guys and they said, ‘Hey man, you play Tony Stark so smooth. You’re so cool…’ And I was like, ‘I’ve just seen a lot of cool guys in movies and on the streets growing up.’ I saw Paul Newman movies, Marlon Brando movies.
Are you lined up to do more Iron Man films? The Avengers and Iron Man 3. There’s also talk of a Sherlock Holmes 2.
How does it feel to be involved in two massive franchises? The real issue comes down to quality control. On an ego level the feeling is great, but on a work level I just feel much more responsibility.
After you were nominated for an Oscar for Chaplin, you went through a fair few personal problems. Now you’re back on top. What’s the sweeter success: the first time round or the second? I love that you snuck that in there – the rise after the fall, the phoenix metaphor [laughs]. Did I burn by trying to fly too close to the sun? I’m just a guy wearing a purple vest. I’ve never, ever been happier in my career [than now] and I have never enjoyed the people I’m working with more. Iron Man 2 is in UAE cinemas now. Check out the trailer at www.timeoutdubai.com