Jon Favreau had a lot of friction with the Marvel higher-ups due to their constant intervention, to the point that they were having him rewrite the script as the film was still shooting. In particular, elements such as the increased prominence of the S.H.I.E.L.D. subplot were the result of a need to establish the greater Marvel Cinematic Universe, in preparation for The Avengers (2012), at the expense of the coherence of the film's own plot. These disputes got so bad that Favreau turned down directing Iron Man 3 (2013).
When Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) asks Natalie Rushman (Scarlett Johansson) if she actually speaks Latin, she responds with the phrase "Fallaces sunt rerum species", a quote from Lucio Anneo Seneca meaning "The appearances of things are deceptive."
A lot of Whiplash's identifying features were suggested by Mickey Rourke. He wanted to perform half of his role in Russian, and consulted on the character's tattoos and gold teeth, as well as having a pet cockatoo. In fact, Rourke paid for the bird and the gold teeth out of his own pocket.
(At around fourteen minutes) When first talking with Senator Stern (Garry Shandling), Tony Stark says he would gladly accept the position of Secretary of Defense. In the comics, Tony Stark actually was appointed the Secretary of Defense.
Samuel L. Jackson was promised that Nick Fury would be given more screentime by Jon Favreau. Jackson almost didn't return to play Fury due to problems with contract negotiations, but secured a landmark nine-picture deal to play Nick Fury not only in this movie, but in many other Marvel Studio productions.
Although Mickey Rourke spent several months on a treadmill and weight training, he initially was still unable to move around and use the whip prop in the Whiplash outfit test, due to its sheer weight. To get around this problem, Rourke would wear heavy vests in subsequent physical training sessions to accustom his body in moving while wearing heavy armor.
According to director Jon Favreau, the technology in this film was portrayed as more futuristic: "After the first film, a number of tech companies talked about how uncanny a lot of our depictions of technology had turned out to be, and how many different films and videogames ended up being inspired by the imagery we used. This forced us to go a bit further into the future, and try and change the nature of this technology. If we'd just duplicated what happened in the first one, we would be behind the curve. So now we're dealing with holograms, the interface within the suit, and the suit being upgraded too."
(At around twenty-two minutes) According to Jon Favreau, the Asian man who hands Vanko false papers, in order to get to Monaco, is a member of the Ten Rings, the terrorist organization Stark encountered in the first film. This organization is reportedly headed by Iron Man's nemesis, the Mandarin.
Numerous news clippings shown in the film show Tony Stark and Ivan Vanko when they were younger men. Most of these are actual photos of Robert Downey, Jr. and Mickey Rourke, both of whom came to fame in the 1980s.
To prepare for his role as Ivan Vanko, a.k.a. Whiplash, Mickey Rourke paid a visit to Butyrka Prison, Moscow: "I tried to incorporate the whole Russian philosophy. It's a culture of its own, and I really enjoyed doing the research, and meeting the people, and they were very gracious there at the prison." Rourke also commented that Vanko's dialogue is in a Slovakian accent.
(At around one hour and thirty minutes) The dance Sam Rockwell (Justin Hammer) does before presenting the drones at the Expo was improvised, and something he does to help himself get into character. It may also be a nod to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, who was known for his energetic stage presence.
According to Mickey Rourke, he carried out a lot of research in Russia choosing what tattoos Ivan Vanko should carry on his body. He wanted authentic Russian tattoos, which would represent Vanko's Russian heritage, prison societies, and special clubs he might be in.
Ivan Vanko originally had a tattoo of Loki on his neck. The film's producers feared it would cause confused fans to believe that Vanko would have a connection to this other villain from the same Marvel Cinematic Universe, so the tattoo was removed in post-production using CGI.
When Marvel first hired Samuel L. Jackson to play Nick Fury in the first two Iron Man movies, they wanted to keep it very secret. They actually drove Samuel's car onto the middle of the set, and they surrounded it with dressing trailers so that no one could see him get out of the car, and get into character, until Iron Man (2008) was released in theaters.
It has been confirmed by actor Tom Holland, who plays Peter Parker, a.k.a. Spider-Man, in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, that his character appeared in the movie, and was the little boy at the Stark Expo wearing the Iron Man helmet when the expo is attacked by Hammer Tech drones.
Writer Shane Black recommended that Tony Stark's characterization be inspired by J. Robert Oppenheimer, the scientist who led the team that developed the atomic bomb. After witnessing his creation's destructive potential, Oppenheimer defamed himself as "the Destroyer of Worlds" and sank into depression.
In the comics, Justin Hammer was a shrewd but elderly businessman. He was re-worked as a younger character in the film, to make him a contemporary rival to Tony Stark. The original purpose of the character in the comics was to explain why the various enemies Iron Man fought somehow gained unique and extremely advanced weapons, but usually kept them for themselves to commit violent crimes instead of making money by bringing them to market. Iron Man eventually discovers the reason is because Hammer gives the weapons to various criminals as part of their contracts to become his mercenaries, with the agreement that they hand over a percentage of the loot from their crimes.
In the comics, Tony Stark possesses a suitcase containing a portable suit of armor. This famous "suitcase armor" has been revised for the film. The suitcase converts into a series of plates that slide over a wire framework.
Terrence Howard was replaced with Don Cheadle in the part of Rhodes for no perceived reason, with the actor claiming that his original three-picture deal and matching salary wasn't honored by Marvel. Entertainment Weekly later claimed that director Jon Favreau had not been happy with Howard's performance in Iron Man (2008), often re-shooting or cutting his scenes. When it was time for the sequel, Favreau and co-writer Justin Theroux purposely reduced Howard's screentime, which led Marvel to ask Howard (who had been the best paid actor in Iron Man) to accept an 80 percent pay cut (although Marvel supposedly maintained it was because they didn't consider Howard vital for the film's commercial success). Howard refused, claiming that the real reason for the pay cut was to meet Robert Downey Jr.'s reported 2000 percent salary increase. Cheadle was then sought as replacement, and Rhodes' role beefed up again. Although Howard initially blamed Downey Jr. for "[taking] the money that was supposed to go to [him] and push[ing him] out" (especially since he had recommended Downey Jr. for the title role), both actors would later make amends.
A tattoo on Vanko's torso shows a Russian schooner bordered with Russian script reading "Give me a blonde, a bottle, and a boat, and I'll sail away..." This particular tattoo is Mickey Rourke's favorite.
(At around one hour and twelve minutes) Hammer says, "If it were any smarter, it'd write a book, a book that would make 'Ulysses' look like it was written in crayon." Author James Joyce's eyesight was failing so badly during the writing of "Ulysses", that he had to write in large letters with a crayon on huge sheets of paper in order to see what he was writing.
(At around fifty-eight minutes) Near the end of Tony Stark's fight with Rhodes, he says "You wanna be the War Machine? Then take your shot!" This is an homage to War Machine, Rhodes' superhero alias in the comics.
According to Don Cheadle, he tried to make the role of Stark's right-hand man Rhodes his own, but eventually stole as much as possible from Terrence Howard's performance in the first film to bring him to life.
Inspired by their use on The Dark Knight (2008), director Jon Favreau considered the possibility of shooting some scenes using IMAX cameras, but eventually decided against it, as he figured that the film's visual effects would not look convincing at such high resolution.
(At around one hour and twenty-nine minutes) When Hammer starts berating Ivan for failing to complete the drones, Vanko replies in Russian to Hammer's frustration. Vanko's comment roughly translates to "you talk too much."
The character of Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke) is a combination of Iron Man's enemy the Crimson Dynamo (Dr. Vanko, who wears weaponry and armor that can control electricity), and the supervillain Whiplash (who possesses a specially designed razor and acid whip). In addition, the character is portrayed as the son of Anton Vanko, who was the original Crimson Dynamo in the comics, and assumes the identity of B. Turgenev (Boris Turgenev, in the comics, the second Crimson Dynamo).
(At around one hour and one minute) When Director Nick Fury first shows up, the numbers 91:5 are written in the dust on the sidewalk. Psalm 91:5 reads: "Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day."
(At around twenty-seven minutes) When Tony Stark meets Elon Musk, he remarks admiration for Musk's "fantastic" Merlin engines, which are the propulsion engines SpaceX uses on its Falcon series of rockets. Musk replies that he's considering a concept for an "electric jet", a concept that he began revisiting in late 2015 to early 2016.
The layout, and many of the buildings of "Stark Expo 1974", were based on the 1964-65 New York World's Fair. In the Expo promo film outtakes shown in the movie, young Tony Stark picks up the Bell System Pavilion.
(At around one hour and one minute) When brainstorming the location for the scene when Nick Fury meets a hungover Tony Stark eating donuts, Jon Favreau wanted something that was distinctly Los Angeles, as Stark is the first on-screen Marvel superhero on the west coast. Favreau was figuring out where a character like Stark would visit after being hungover from partying all night, and figured Randy's Donuts, the twenty-four hour Los Angeles donut shop with the giant landmark donut on top was perfect. Favreau was relieved that Stark wasn't going to be on a giant sign belonging to a national chain restaurant. When meeting with the shop owner, who liked the idea, the owner initially suggested Stark fly through the donut.
(At around one hour and fifty-five minutes) The medals presented to Rhodes (Don Cheadle) and Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) at the end of the movie are actual military medals: Rhodes is awarded a Meritorious Service Medal, and Stark is awarded the Army's Distinguished Service Medal.
Curiously, every instance of the word "Russian" was made inaudible in the Chinese version. No explanation was given as to why, although theories abound in the comments, ranging from China thinking viewers would be distressed by a Russian villain, trying to lend a courtesy to their longtime ally nation, or instead, trying to distance themselves from Russia, by obscuring all mention of it.
During the climax at the Stark Expo, Tony saves a young boy wearing an Iron Man helmet from one of the robotic drones. Several fans have speculated that the boy may have been a young Peter Parker, better known as Spider-Man. Since the Spider-Man franchise was owned by Sony Pictures, the character could not be explicitly used in any Marvel film at the time. However, a deal that was made later between Marvel and Sony enabled Spider-Man to feature in Captain America: Civil War (2016) and Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017). Given the fact that the Stark Expo was held in Queens (where Parker is from), and the boy seemed to have the right age to be a teenager by the time that Captain America: Civil War (2016) occurred, the theory grew stronger. Spider-Man performer Tom Holland confirmed the theory shortly before the release of Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017).
(At around thirty minutes) At the start of the Monaco racing scene, Ivan Vanko is wearing an orange jump suit with the name "B. Turgenov", which is in reference to Boris Turgenov, the Crimson Dynamo. Boris' armor was designed by Anton Vanko. He was also a partner of Natasha Romanov a.k.a. Black Widow.
This is Scarlett Johansson's third foray into comic book films. Her previous comic book films were Ghost World (2001) and The Spirit (2008), in which her character worked for the Octopus (played by Samuel L. Jackson). In this film, Johansson is again working under Jackson (as Nick Fury). Johansson had earlier expressed interest in playing the Marvel supervillain Moonstone.
Howard Stark's (John Slattery's) presentation of his idea for a futuristic city is heavily influenced by Walt Disney's television revelation of his new EPCOT Center, and the accompanying Florida Project. The 3-D map of the city closely mimics that of EPCOT's, and the posters behind Stark are from World's Fairs, in which Disney had a great influence, like Stark may also have been. In addition, one of the very few real-life 1964 World's Fair buildings included in the Stark Expo is a replica of the General Electric pavilion, which famously featured Disney's Carousel of Progress. Richard M. Sherman contributed the song "Make Way for Tomorrow Today" to the movie, a song similar to "There's a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow," which Richard and his brother Robert B. Sherman composed for the Carousel of Progress, among many other classic Disney tunes.
The 35mm prints were shipped to U.S. theaters with the code name "Glow". There were three separate cans shipped. Can number three held reels one and eight, and was locked. The combination to the lock was not sent until a few hours before the midnight premieres.
Justin Hammer's company logo resembles an exterior picture of Thor's home world, specifically the Great Hall. This, and the company name, could be a foreshadowing of Thor's involvement in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
(At around one hour and eleven minutes) When Hammer pitches his weapons arsenal to Rhodey he calls the Minigun "Puff the Magic Dragon". Aside from the movie and song references, during the Vietnam War, the Douglas AC-47 "Spooky" attack plane was armed with similar Miniguns, and was nicknamed "Puff the Magic Dragon".
(At around four minutes) When showing Vanko's collection of covers and articles about Tony Stark, there is one article about Iron Man stabilizing East and West relations that has the byline attributed to "Rob Down", a reference to Robert Downey, Jr. The text of the article is actually an obituary for Howard Stark, Tony's father.
On June 26, 2017, it had been confirmed by Tom Holland that the little boy with the Iron Man mask at the Stark Expo, played by Kiana Prudhont, is a young Peter Parker, making this the first appearance of the Marvel Cinematic Universe Spider-Man.
(At around one hour and twenty-nine minutes) When Hammer yells at Vanko, "I don't speak RUSSIAN!", the Russian phrase Vanko had just spoken (after Hammer's lengthy speech) was "Slishkom mnogo govorish." This translates as, "You talk too much." Vanko uses the familiar "you" form of the verb, suggesting he doesn't respect Hammer, or see him as an equal.
This film has cameos for two actresses that co-starred in movies based on Marvel Comic characters. Kate Mara plays a U.S. Marshal that serves Tony Stark with papers. She played Susan Storm in Fantastic Four (2015). Also making a cameo is Olivia Munn, who plays the television show presenter at the Stark Expo. Munn starred as Psylocke in X-Men: Apocalypse (2016).
The vintage automobiles seen in Stark's private collection, the 1953 Cadillac Series 62 Coupe by Ghia, once owned by Rita Hayworth (a present from Prince Aly Khan); a 1949 Mercury "lead sled" customized by Sam Barris (brother of George Barris, was provided by the Petersen Automotive Museum. The 1932 Ford flathead Roadster belonged to director Jon Favreau.
During Stark's birthday party, partygoers begin throwing items into the air for a drunk Stark (suited up as Iron Man) to blast. One girl throws a watermelon, and Stark comments "Oh, you want the Gallagher?" This is a reference to Gallagher, whose famous Sledge-O-Matic comedy routine splatters produce (usually juicy items, like watermelons and tomatoes) onto the front rows of the audience.
(At around forty-six minutes) Pepper Potts' (Gwyneth Paltrow's) line "The fundamentals of our company are strong", regarding the Stark Technology stock crash, is a reference to Senator John McCain's comment, "The fundamentals of our economy are strong," made after the 2008 stock market crash, which is widely believed to have contributed to McCain's loss of the 2008 United States presidential election.
(At around one hour and twenty-four minutes) Tony Stark creates a new arc reactor with an item that resembles Captain America's shield. This shield was seen lying on a desk at Stark's office in Iron Man (2008). This is an easter egg to reference Captain America, who was a founding member of the Avengers along with Iron Man in the films (although Captain America didn't appear in the Avengers comics until issue three, when they found him frozen). In the movie, Nick Fury refers to something called "The Avenger Initiative". Contrary to popular theory, it is not actually the shield of Captain America.
(At around one hour and thirty minutes) As Justin Hammer is introducing each group of Hammer Drones, the anthem of each respective branch of the military plays in the background: The U.S. Army's "The Army Goes Rolling Along (The Caisson Song)", the U.S. Navy's "Anchors Aweigh", the U.S. Air Force's "The U.S. Air Force (Into the Wild Blue Yonder)", and the U.S. Marine Corps' "Marines' Hymn".
Five authentic vintage formula one race cars were used in the Monaco race. Among them is a 1976 Lotus type 77 owned by collector Chris Locke. In the starting list of drivers shown on the television, one of the drivers names is Locke while another is Chapman, after Colin Chapman, founder of Lotus and their F1 team manager until his death in 1982.
In the comics, Tony Stark drove on a racetrack and suffered a car crash, from which "Happy" Hogan rescued him. This event was replicated in this movie, with the minor change being that Whiplash's attack causes the crash, and Hogan saves Stark by getting him his suitcase armor.
The final confrontation takes place in the Oracle dome. The decor resembles a Japanese tea garden, including a Japanese gate (that gets destroyed). Oracle's CEO, Larry Ellison, has a well-known affinity for all things Japanese, especially landscaping and decor.
(At around one hour and thirteen minutes) The names seen on the blueprints for the arc reactor that Tony removes from his father's box are the names of crew members associated with the Iron Man movies, William J. Law III, Sharon Davis, and Walt Hadfield. They all worked in the art or construction departments.
Sam Rockwell (Justin Hammer) and Leslie Bibb (Christine Everhart) have been in a relationship since about 2008. In this movie, they play against their real-life romance, as journalist Everhart is especially unimpressed by Hammer, both as a potential romantic partner and as a story for her magazine.
(At around fourteen minutes) Tony is surprised to see Rhodey (Don Cheadle) at the Senate hearing. Rhodey says to Tony, "Look, it's me. I'm here. Deal with it. Let's move on." This is not only Rhodey speaking to Tony, but could also be perceived as Cheadle speaking subliminally to the viewers making a fuss about Rhodes being re-cast between Iron Man (2008) and this movie.
The action sequence of the Historic Grand Prix of Monaco had to be shot at the parking lot of the Downey Studios in California, as (now former) F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone (who had initially granted permission) retracted permission to film at the Grand Prix circuit. By the time permission was retracted, one Rolls-Royce Phantom was sent there, where driving sequence on the circuit was filmed.
The character "Rumiko Fujikawa" was initially going to appear in the film, with Marvel reportedly wanting Ziyi Zhang for the role. Her part was cut, due to the film already having too much going on, but viral marketing, showcasing her Stark-Fujikawa subsidiary, was still used to promote the movie.
According to the January 2012 Air & Space Magazine, Tony Stark's character was also inspired by South African-born (SpaceX and PayPal co-founder) Elon Musk. A statue of Iron Man, complete with company ID, "stands guard" at SpaceX, along with a Battlestar Galactica (2004) Cylon.
(At around one hour and twenty-four minutes) When Tony (Robert Downey, Jr.) is building the arc reactor, Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) pulls out a circular piece of metal that has a partial star, and red, white, and blue on it, like Captain America's shield.
(At around one hour and thirteen minutes) The slate on the film of his father that Tony watches lists "Johnny Libatique" as the cameraman. Matthew Libatique is a cinematographer on the Iron Man movies.
(At around one hour and twenty-four minutes) Tony Stark refers to the government, who wants his suit technology, as the "Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers". This is a reference to a 1970s underground comic called "The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers", a drug culture comic, with three brothers named Phineas, Franklin, and Fat Freddy.
The Navy Hammer drones are marked "VX-23". VX-23 is a U.S. Navy Aircraft Test Squadron out of Naval Air Station Patuxent River, that conducts research, testing, and evaluation of fixed wing tactical aircraft, and UAVs.
The film's plot has a resemblance to a storyline in the comics called "Armor Wars II", which was published in 1990. In the comic, a man named Kearson DeWitt accused Tony Stark of stealing his father's designs, and uses technology given to him by Desmond and Phoebe Marrs, owners of the Marrs Corporation, to infect Tony with a techno-organic virus, and eventually battles Stark in a large armored suit. James Rhodes also helps Stark in the final battle. In the film, DeWitt is replaced by Ivan Vanko, and the Marrs siblings are replaced with Justin Hammer. The comic story also utilized remote-controlled empty armored suits, which appear in Iron Man 3 (2013).
(At around one hour and twenty-eight minutes) Ivan (Mickey Rourke) tells Hammer (Sam Rockwell) that the drones will make a "salute" at the show. The word salute is very similar to the Russian word for "fireworks".
Stark's Grand Prix racer was partially based on a 1978 Walter Wolf Formula One car. Of the nineteen built, two were running models, powered by a 320 base horsepower, 350 cubic inch Chevrolet V-8 engine.
(At around fifty-five minutes) In Stark's mansion, Alberto Giacometti's bronze sculpture titled "L'Homme qui marche I" can be seen. On February 3, 2010, the second edition of the cast of the sculpture became one of the most expensive works of art ever sold at auction, to Brazilian philanthropist Lily Safra, who paid $107.3 million for it.
To keep various aspects of the production secret, the official fake working title from Marvel Studios was "Rasputin". Two more fake titles were also used during additional photography: "Murphy's Law" (named after John Francis Murphy, the recently-deceased father of Susan Murphy) and "The Adventures of Angus McDonald" (named after William Angus McDonald, the great-great-grandfather of Scott Trimble).
When Justin Hammer finishes his dance to the podium he exclaims "That's what I'm talking about!" Sam Rockwell uses the same line twice when introducing the crew of the Protector in Galaxy Quest (1999).
(At around one hour and twenty-four minutes) When Agent Coulson visits the lab with the under-construction accelerator, part of the coils are sitting on a generator marked "Lincoln Electric". Coulson worked with a character on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (2013), with electric powers named "Lincoln".
Like Scarlett from G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra (2009) (Played in the movie by Rachel Nichols), Natasha Romanoff has red hair, wears a black suit and is a trained martial artist and works for an government agency.
(At around one hour and thirty minutes) Sam Rockwell can be seen on-stage presenting and introducing the drones at the Expo. He was also seen on-stage introducing the crew of the N.S.E.A. Protector in Galaxy Quest (1999).
Sam Rockwell, who plays Justin Hammer appeared on the live action movie adaptation of Charlie's Angels (2000), and Justin Theroux, who wrote the script for Iron Man 2, appeared on Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle (2003).
DJ AM: (At around fifty-three minutes) The D.J. at Tony's birthday party is DJ-AM, who died after principal photography had wrapped, making this his last film project. During the end credits, the film is dedicated to him.
Larry Ellison: (At around ten minutes) The CEO of Oracle Corporation (a billionaire playboy, who has often been compared to Tony Stark) is glimpsed briefly at the Stark Expo. While leading Tony out of the Stark Expo, Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau) says, "This is Larry". Stark replies, "Hey, the Oracle of Oracle." Oracle's brand is prominently placed at several points in the film, including the climactic showdown at a fictional "Oracle Biodome".
Seth Green: (At around ten minutes) While Tony is leaving the Expo and meets "Larry King" and Larry Ellison. Seth Green made several spoofs of Iron Man (including "Little Iron Man") in Robot Chicken (2005). Green made another cameo in the Marvel Cinematic Universe as the voice of Howard the Duck during the post-credits scene in Guardians of the Galaxy (2014).
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
In Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014), Garry Shandling reprised the role of Senator Stern. In Winter Soldier, it is revealed that Stern is a sleeper Agent of Hydra, which explains why the character was trying so hard to take Tony Stark's Iron Man suits and technology in this movie.
Scenes in the film explicitly foreshadow The Avengers (2012): -When Tony goes through his father's case, an old Captain America comic book can be seen inside. Later, he uses Captain America's shield (a prototype) to build a reactor. -When Tony is watching the old reels of his father, and going through his notebooks, one of the sketches is of a Tesseract, drawn in the form of a so-called "Schlegel diagram". The Tesseract is a very important item in Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) and The Avengers (2012). -News report of The Incredible Hulk (2008)'s campus battle is seen near the end of the film. -Stark and Fury discuss Stark's membership throughout the film. -Agent Coulson finds Thor's hammer in a crater in the post-credits scene.
The map locations on the monitors in the S.H.I.E.L.D. Headquarters at the end, correspond to characters and events from the Marvel Comic books. The location in Africa, is a reference to Black Panther. Other locations refer to Thor, Captain America, Hulk, and others.
The film's basic storyline (Stark must cope with the government confiscating his armor, and a mid-life crisis of depression and alcoholism, with his manipulative rival Justin Hammer scheming to ruin him) is inspired by the Iron Man comic "Demon in a Bottle".
Hammer's Ex-Wife missile is ineffective against Vanko's new armor. This is played as a joke; however, bunker-destroying missiles need to be operated at long range, while Rhodes used it incorrectly (at a nearby target).
In the original ending, Whiplash is revealed to have survived the explosion, and attacks Tony and Pepper before being killed by Rhodey. The ending was changed to a more ambiguous situation, in case Marvel wanted to bring back Whiplash for future movies.