Jon Favreau, he of Swingers, Elf, Iron Man, and the upcoming Chef, stopped by reddit to answer some questions.
Were you involved at all in the casting of Robert Downey Jr. in Iron man?
Yeah. Casting Robert Downey Jr. was a pretty big fight at the time. He was not the obvious choice. And although everybody acknowledged that he was a man of tremendous talent, there was a lot of discussion behind the scenes as to whether or not he had the potential to be a movie star that could carry a Marvel franchise. I was pushing very hard for him, and he fought very hard to get the role. The final factor in him getting cast was a screen test that he did where he blew everybody away, and everyone was in agreement that he was indeed, Tony Stark.
After helping Kickstart the Marvel Cinematic Universe - How do you feel as to where it is right now? Do you wish to direct again for Marvel and possibly revisit Iron Man?
I’ve been very impressed by the variety of directors they’ve chosen for their various franchises. I like the fact that they’ve maintained the tone of Iron Man, while allowing each individual director to express their own personal tastes and styles. I never could have imagined that this collection of films would result from a movie that was essentially made as an independently financed negative pickup and was the first film of a newborn studio. I congratulate the team at Marvel for being so successful and keeping the ball rolling. I also admire the emphasis placed on casting. I think it’s the great actors that have served to elevate the genre. And as far as directing again? I have no plans as of now, but I enjoy working with the Marvel family a great deal.
How’s The Jungle Book coming along? Has Mowgli and Baloo been cast?
We’re currently in the middle of a worldwide search for a Mowgli. We are in conversation with somebody extremely cool for Baloo, but I can’t mention who it is until it’s final.”
My biggest question is, what do you find is the biggest difference between a studio picture and an indie, that most people would never consider?
The biggest difference is the budget. The lower the budget, the greater the freedom. I enjoy working on the big budget movies, but the appeal has to be more global. For a film like Chef, the smaller budget allowed me to have complete freedom when it came to the script, where I filmed it, who I cast, and the final cut of the film. I really wanted to depict the culinary world in an accurate way, which required dicey language at times. And I wanted to make sure that the casting reflected what a real kitchen was like. It was really fun to return to the scale of an independent film after starting out in that world at the beginning of my career.
If asked, would you direct one of the new Star Wars movies?
Star Wars? I love Star Wars! Who wouldn’t want to direct a Star Wars movie? What, are you kidding me!?
“For right now, I’m excited to see what JJ’s come up with, I think he’s the perfect choice and he seems to be making all the right decisions. I will be first in line to see Episode 7.
Vince Vaughn did an AMA few months ago and I asked him if he ever played Dungeons and Dragons with you. He said that he never did but he knows you have a great imagination. Have you ever offered to play D&D with him? Maybe he’s just not into it? And next what kind of campaigns or gameplay do you do with D&D?
One of my favorite scenes with you was in The Replacements where you were told to get Gene Hackman the ball. Did you and Gene ever crackup while filming this? It was hilarious and what was it like working with Gene?
Lastly if Ricky and Bobby from Made met Mike and Trent from Swingers do you think they’d become friends? Thanks again Jon!
Okay, there’s a lot of parts to this question, I’ll take ‘em one at a time.
First of all, I haven’t played D&D since high school. I was really into role-playing games at that time in my life. I lived in NY, and there was a great store called The Compleat Strategist, near the Empire State Building. I would also go to a store called Forbidden Planet. As a matter of fact, I just stopped by the last time I was in town for the Tribeca Film Festival’s premiere of Chef. It was really cool to see collectibles in the showcases from movies I had worked on, from being there as a fanboy when I’d cut class in high school.
Gene Hackman in Replacements was one of those moments when I was pretty starstruck. He would come in and out of town to shoot his scenes, and he had his yacht piloted to a harbor in Baltimore, so it could be close by for him. It was pretty surreal to have such a legend on our set. The scene you’re referring to was not scripted as it appeared, and we improv’d back and forth: improvising with a great actor is like playing jazz with a great musician. It’s one of those moments I’ll never forget. Gene Hackman never cracked while filming, and wasn’t a guy who laughed much. But he took his work very seriously, and it was an honor to have met him.
Ricky and Bobby might get along with Mike and Trent, but if they didn’t, Ricky and Bobby would have no problem kicking Mike and Trent’s asses.
Big fan of your work, especially dinner for five which is like a predecessor of podcasting. Any chance of bringing it back?
I talk about it from time to time. I feel the same way you do about Dinner for Five’s relationship with podcasting, and I feel that there are a lot of outlets that now give you that same access or in-depth conversations about the business. I’ve listened to podcasts every day, and there’s nothing like the long relaxed conversation with somebody that I’m curious about.
How was your time working on the show FRIENDS?
I started off as a guest star, and ended up doing six episodes. I think it’s kind of funny that Monica was a chef, and one of my episodes was about me installing a killer kitchen for her. Everything seems to have come full circle with me playing a chef now. The cast was great, I remember playing Super Mario Kart with David Schwimmer in his dressing room during our downtime. It had a real family feel and I’m still amazed at how many people recognize me from that show, even kids who weren’t even born or old enough to see it at the time who are only aware of it through syndication.
What was it like playing yourself on The Sopranos?
I was really honored to be invited by David Chase to play myself on the Sopranos. I wanted to make sure that when I depicted myself that I wasn’t playing it “too cool: because if the real Jon Favreau met the real Sopranos, he would not be very comfortable at all. The original script that I received had me playing it off as if I was one of the guys. I had given David the note that i wanted to be really uncomfortable and scared, because although everybody likes the romantic idea of gangsters, if you ever meet them in real life, it could be extremely off-putting.
Congratulations on being on the longest Nerdist podcast! That was such a great episode. Anyway, I wanted to say thank you for being such a cool role model for people, including myself. I also wanted to thank you for all of cool stuff you make. I remember you saying on the podcast that you really liked when something you made affected somebody in a positive way. So I was wondering what fan interaction has meant the most to you?
That’s great to hear. I was really concerned that we went on too long when we actually taped that interview. I had a great time talking to Chris & the gang, there were so many topics that we shared a common interest in. We could talk geek culture, we could talk comedy, we could talk movies, it was easy to lose track of the fact that you were being recorded because it just felt like a conversation. On the drive home, I was worried that we went on too long, but I’ve been getting really good feedback via Twitter. And I’m happy that I was able to have such an in-depth conversation about subjects that were so important to me.
It’s interesting how the various platforms of social media inspire different types of feedback from the people who are reacting to my work and my press. I’ve been at Twitter for about 5 years, starting on the set of Iron Man 2, but this is my first time on reddit. My son, who’s 12, is an avid fan and reader of reddit, and is constantly laughing to himself as he’s reading off of his computer screen. Every once in a while, he even includes me in one of his discoveries that he finds on reddit. It’s tough to seem cool to your kid no matter what you do for a living, but being on reddit is definitely a step in the right direction. I promise next time I do something like this that I’m going to let him type for me. A whole different generation.
As far as fan interaction goes, I get just yesterday, somebody told me that when he was getting over a bad breakup, his friends drove him to see SWINGERS in the theater. This is close to 20 years ago, so the fact that he remembers it so vividly and went out of his way to tell me that says it really made an impression on him, and that makes me feel really good.
I also love how many tweets I get at Christmastime quoting ELF
One movie in particular that you were involved in was especially awesome for me. That movie is Elf. A few years ago I was doing some Cyber Monday shopping and came across an Elf outfit and it was about $20…so I figured…might as well. So I got it, and went to NYC around Christmas where my sister lives and recreated some scenes from Elf. Also I’m 6’9” so that helped the hilarious.
At the risk of having you soil your tights…I am pleased to inform you that I had already seen this video, and was a fan.
I was asked earlier in this AMA what special moments from fans have affected me. This is one of those moments when you realize that your work has made such an impression on somebody that they’ve gone out of their way to be creative and be inspired by you. And a word of advice, if I may be so bold: holding your camera in landscape mode would be much more cinematic and allow for it to be viewed on both television and computer screens in a more flattering aspect ratio.
Consider the tights sufficiently soiled. That’s awesome!
And ah yes, the person who filmed me doing these things apparently was holding her phone vertical the entire time which I didn’t know of until she sent me all of the files after our day of going around filming. It was a disappointing realization opening all of the files and seeing that they were all vertical.
Looks like you need a Kickstarter for a reshoot.
She probably chose vertical because she ran into the same problem we did on the set; how do you keep a 6 foot tall Elf’s pointy hat in the frame? We constantly ran into that problem while we were filming, and I had constant conversations with my cinematographer Greg Gardiner about this very issue.
You were in Daredevil with Ben Affleck, how do you think he’s going to do in the new Superman/Batman movie? since everyone seems upset about this choice
Ben is a very smart guy, and a great director. He’s in a position in Hollywood where he has a tremendous amount of freedom when it comes to what projects he wants to pursue. If he has chosen to take on this role, I’m sure he has something really interesting in mind for how he’s going to depict the Caped Crusader. He impresses me more and more each year with how he’s grown creatively, and I am extremely curious to see how that will affect the way that he inhabits the role of an iconic superhero.