Robert Downey Jr. at the press conference of "Iron Man 3." [Photo: chinesefilms.cn]
"I have been longing to come to China and it's a dream that has come true," said Robert Downey Jr to his Chinese fans at a press conference last Saturday morning in Beijing.
The Hollywood star, who plays genius billionaire playboy philanthropist Tony Stark in theIron Man franchise as well as the super sleuth detective title role in the Sherlock Holmes series, now has traveled to China to promote his new movie Iron Man 3.
Last Saturday's press conference was an opportunity for Chinese entertainment company Dynamic Marketing Group (DMG Entertainment) to celebrate its co-production with Marvel Studios and The Walt Disney Company.
On his first visit to China, Downey Jr said he has been interested in Chinese culture and movies for a long time. When asked to name three favorite Chinese films he quipped, "I could name 300. How much time you got?"
But the Oscar-nominated actor had a serious message to deliver as well: "In the West we think we understand China but we don't. What we see on TV, what we get from news, we assume that's our experience, [but] it's incorrect.
"So I made it my business to pay attention to what's going on culturally and also some of the other traditional aspects of Chinese culture. I am very interested in martial arts, and I am very interested in traditional medicine."
Together with Downey Jr, Wang Xueqi, the Chinese actor who plays the role of Dr Wu in Iron Man 3, attended the conference. Wang explained his somewhat small but pivotal role as that of a scientist who knows Western medicine, Chinese medicine and has certain knowledge of ancient Chinese culture. Ultimately, Dr Wu leads his old friend Tony Stark back onto the right path.
Downey Jr added that the film shows two meetings between Stark and Dr Wu, "once in the past and once in the present." While trying not to reveal too much about the plot, Downey summed up the importance of the role by saying, "Dr Wu is kind of the reason that Tony Stark is still alive at the end of Iron Man 3."
Downey Jr did not think language was a barrier when co-acting with Wang. "Working with Mr Wang is like… You can work with somebody and never connect with them [even though] you speak the same language." But with Wang, Downey Jr said, a "twinkle in his eye" lead to understanding.
According to DMG president Wu Bing, the role of Dr Wu was specially created for Iron Man 3 and has been added to the character library of Marvel. Now as part of the Marvel universe, this Chinese doctor may appear in other Marvel movies such as The Avengers, Thor, or Captain America.
For Wang, going to Hollywood is one of his life-long dreams. "[I think] it is the dream of all actors. This role makes me feel pride unlike before Iron Man 3 and can hardly duplicate in the future."
More Chinese elements can be seen in the character of Iron Man's arch nemesis, The Mandarin. A huge poster at the press conference showed The Mandarin, played by Oscar-winner Ben Kingsley, bearing dragon tattoos and dressed in an embroidered camouflage robe with symbolic dragon statuary in the background.
The character's non-Chinese heritage is in contrast to both his name and comic book history. But the choice to make him more like Colonel Kurtz from Apocalypse Now (best picture Oscar, 1979) is viewed as a smart move as it avoids the comic book's offensive Chinese stereotypes.
When asked about the romantic side of Tony Stark, Downey Jr humorously said that while most Hollywood super heroes have to be single, Tony Stark is very lucky to have a long-time relationship with Pepper Potts. It makes the character "a little more grounded," and he believes this characteristic of the film is one of the reasons that the Iron Man series is so successful with the female audience.
Along with DMG, recent years have seen more and more Chinese movie companies looking for international cooperation. Xiao Wenge, Chairman of DMG acknowledges that close interaction with the advanced ideas and mature business models of Hollywood is helpful for the overall improvement of the Chinese movie industry.
"A year ago, DMG officially announced its cooperation with Marvel on Iron Man 3. Those on the outside have paid close attention to whether we could do what we said. Today, we did it. Iron Man 3 is the first Hollywood blockbuster to be made with Chinese capital throughout the entire industrial chain," Xiao said with enthusiasm.
In fluent Chinese, the American CEO of DMG, Dan Mintz, spoke of his 20-year partnership with Wu and Xiao: "I personally think the three of us embody [the international cooperation] of Iron Man 3."
Iron Man 3 will go into general release in the Chinese mainland in late April or early May, but an exact date has not yet been set.