LOS ANGELES — Iron Man 3 is about to open with a boom this weekend.
It’s not just the reverberation from last week’s international release of the film starring Robert Downey Jr. as the Marvel superhero, which generated a thunderous $198 million at the box office.
It’s also the sound of the palatial Malibu home of billionaire Tony Stark (Iron Man’s alter ego) being destroyed by missiles sent from archvillain The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley).
The destruction, visible in the movie’s trailer, is simply the latest chapter of Stark’s residences taking abuse.
“The guy is tough on his properties. I don’t disagree,” says Downey, running through a quick checklist. “I guess we could have left the house alone.”
Not likely. The streak started small in 2008’sIron Man, when Stark was perfecting his flying superhero suit and poked a few holes in the ceiling. In 2010’s Iron Man 2, Stark battled Col. James Rhodes (Don Cheadle) in full superhero gear, causing an explosive end to a house party. The Avengers. Stark’s grand penthouse condominium (complete with helicopter pad) was the scene of the final battle. The stone floors took a particular beating when the Hulk repeatedly slammed offending demigod Loki into submission.
Not so this time around for the Malibu mansion. Everything from foundation to rooftop falls into the surf below. There is reasoning behind it.
“That house so represented Tony Stark. It’s all about the perfect piece of real estate, the perfect art on the walls, the perfect workshop. He’s a prisoner of his own paradise,” says Downey. “We wanted to take him out of his element and sort of level the playing field so that he was starting over with a blank slate.”
Producer Kevin Feige goes deeper, suggesting the destruction brings Downey back to his lowest level since his Afghanistan-captive days in the original film. “Metaphorically speaking, we wanted to put Tony Stark back in that cave from Iron Man where he was stripped of everything and he was forced to use his mind,” says Feige.
But a simpler explanation might be that moviegoers like the fantasy of seeing impressive things — especially those owned by billionaires — destroyed. There’s no actual harm done. The lavish detail of the house exteriors, and especially the devastation, is achieved through computer-generated graphics.
“So many people would tell me how they love the house and ask if it is ever going on the market,” says Downey. “I have to tell them that it’s actually on two or three zip drives.”
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