Where Are You in “Iron Man 2?”, and Other Reflections on the Film

During this past week, the top question I’ve received about my experience in “Iron Man 2” is:

“Where are you in the film? I didn’t see you.” To this, I have three responses:
1) That’s what it’s called background acting. 🙂 However, it is annoying cause I really am in the film! ha
2) I am actually in the Senate scene four times. You will see me on the left side of the podium as a Senate aide, but there is one scene where I and the Senator are the only people on the screen. I am briefing him with a folder, and it is a side shot (oh, great!) of me. I’ll buy dinner for the person who sees me all four times!
3) My work as a featured background actor was a serendipity. It is not my most substantial contribution to the film. You will see my real contribution in the credits at the end where I am credited as a “Senate hearing advisor.” This is much more important to me than my appearance in the film because it is a culmination of much of my career and life as it brings film and politics together in one role.

How did I end up on such a big film for my first experience? God, actually. And a life of preparation. It actually was because of my small group at church that led me to the opportunity. My friend in the group is in the production office at Marvel Entertainment. We had shared our journeys on the night before he called me about the film, and he took note that I had worked in Congress. The next morning, the Assistant Director of the Film asked him to find someone with congressional expertise who could serve as a Technical Assistant on the movie’s most lengthy scene which takes place in a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing. The director liked me, and so I received the job. I first met them at the studio last Friday to give advice on casting, art direction, and the script. I made substantial changes to the script over that weekend, several of which they adopted and are in the film. My primary contributions came on Monday morning when I helped to block the actors and give advice to the extras who were supporting the scene. I was surprised when the director called on me several times, and particularly when I spent the first part of Monday’s 14 hour day helping Gwyneth Paltrow, Robert Downey Jr., Don Cheadle and Gary Shandley rehearse their scene. That was amazing enough just to be in the room with those greats, and then to have them listen to me was overwhelming.

They decided that they liked my “look”, especially because I look “congressional” (not a compliment as far as I’m concerned, but I’ll take it). I was assigned to stand behind one of the Senators as his aide, and then I was profiled for the opening scene as I speak to him concerning Iron Man’s testimony. That’s the scene you will see briefly in the film.

How was the whole experience? Fascinating, tiring and surreal. I learned a lot about film production and its process from the directors and producers, and I was warmly welcomed into the process. I was struck by the difficulty of the work. The extras were there by 6 am in some cases, and even the lead actors were ready to rehearse by 7 am. We ended both days after 11 pm. As nice as it is to make the millions of dollars that these actors make, it does not take away from the fact that they work very hard. I was impressed by their preparation, their creativity and their professionalism. Gary Shandley was hilarious, and Robert Downey Jr. was brilliant, entertaining and friendly. The director, John Favreau, must be one of the nicest guys in Hollywood, and his humor and skill were first class. From the extras to the crew, this seemed to be a good group of people in a hard town.

I really enjoyed the film. My best advice is to “turn off your brain, and enjoy.” It does not have the textured symbolism and philosophy of “Dark Knight” or even “Iron Man,” but Robert is entertaining as Tony Stark, the film is visually stunning, and there are plenty special effects to keep us entertained.

I’m grateful for the opportunity because it opened the door for me to something that I love, and now is a serious hobby if not more. Thanks to Jon Favreau, Eric Hefron, and Guy Martin for the opportunity of a lifetime.

2 Responses to “Where Are You in “Iron Man 2?”, and Other Reflections on the Film”
  1. Chris Beasley says:

    Not the seen the movie yet, but I intend to. Quick question since I too think movie production is fascinating. You said it took two 17 hour days to shoot the Congressional Hearing scene. How long is the scene in the movie? The thing that’s incredible to me is the amount of time that it takes to get 5-7 minutes of time in the final cut.

  2. toddbouldin says:

    Thanks, Chris! It is the longest scene of the film around 6-7 minutes, and the script was 8 pages. That’s fairly typical. It was going to be the opening scene of the film, and it still is a critical scene because it sets up the whole plot of the film. This causes a director and the actors to be more careful and to experiment more, increasing production time. There also were a number of principals and over 200 background in the scene. All of that causes production delays. We worked about 14-16 hours both days, with only a 6 hour break for the crew.

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