Iron Man: Location Sites

The production moved north to Lone Pine, California to shoot the films ambush scenes, where Tony Starks convoy is attacked by a group of insurgents following his companys demonstration of its newest weapon, the Jericho missile. The convoy attack sequence finds Downey running through a flurry of explosions in order to escape from his would-be captors, requiring perfect timing and precision, which was orchestrated by stunt coordinator Tommy Harper and special effects coordinator Dan Sudek.

The convoy attack in Lone Pine was a lot of fun to shoot, says stunt coordinator Harper. First of all, we shot it on Movie Road, a historical place where a lot of famous Westerns and other films have been shot. We blew up six or seven Hummers and completely destroyed them, but the pivotal part of the sequence is when Tony Stark gets out of his car and is running for cover as multiple explosions and landmines are going off a few feet away from him.

Downey reflects upon the sequence. Shooting a sequence like this is always a trust game and when you work with guys like Tommy Harper and Dan Sudek who are at the top of their field, you just say in your mind, That thing is going to blow up behind me and Im going to be okay. I always felt very safe and was shocked by how much we were able to accomplish at such close proximity. Ill tell you one thing, though it definitely helps you kick up some dust when you know that what youre running away from is about to explode three feet behind you.

Robert did a fantastic job in the scene and was just fearless, says producer Feige. It really sells the action, because when you see Robert running through this extremely intense crossfire with explosions going off everywhere, it really ratchets up the tension in the scene.

When the production moved a few miles south to the Olancha Sand Dunes, the cast and crew had to endure two days of 40 to 60-mile an hour winds that almost shut down production. For Favreau, the adverse conditions turned out to be a blessing in disguise for the look of the film.

The Olancha Sand Dunes are an extension of a dry lake bed between two mountain ranges, he explains. The first day we were hit by 40-mile an hour winds as we were shooting Robert walking through the desert just before he is rescued by Rhodey. We just roughed it and it worked out well. The second day, when we tried to shoot Raza and his men recovering the pieces of the Mark 1 suit, the winds were so violent, we couldnt really use any equipment.

The director continues, We were almost swayed to go to cover set and not shoot, but cinematically it had such a great visual quality that if you wrote it into a script you could never really achieve those conditions artificially. With movies, you have to take advantage of those accidents and incorporate them whenever you can. So we put goggles on all the bad guys, and wrapped them with scarves and just let it play out. It looked like a wind-swept hell a very haunting image.

Despite the miserable conditions, Downey was grateful for the opportunity he had been given. I will never forget laying there buried half- alive in the middle of an intense sandstorm, he says. I could barely see out of the Iron Man helmet, but I felt this great moment of gratitude towards the elements and what a privilege it was to be playing Tony Stark with the caliber of people I was working with. I just said to myself, Wow man, what a cool deal, what an amazing suit, what a great crew, what a blast!

While the first unit production team of Iron Man was being blasted by wind and sand, the second unit, a few miles away in the mountains, was forced to stop shooting when, astonishingly, it began snowing.

We were shooting an enormous action sequence where Iron Man escapes from the cave in the Mark 1 armor, recalls second unit director Phil Nelson. We had done a few takes when suddenly it got cloudy, the wind kicked up and the temperature dropped about 30 degrees. We stopped for a moment to see if the clouds were going to pass, and to everyones amazement it started snowing. It was pretty surreal, one minute its 60 degrees and sunny and the next its snowing and youre shut down for the day.

Despite the challenging weather in Olancha, the production continued on schedule and headed south to Edwards Air Force Base in Rosamond, California.

For more than 50 years, Edwards Air Force Base (home of the Air Force Flight Test Center) has been the home of more major milestones in flying history than any other place on earth. Covering nearly 301,000 acres, Edwards is located in the Mojave Desert, adjacent to the largest dry lakebed in North America — Rogers Dry Lakebed. Edwards’ focus today, and in the future, is summed up in the Air Force Flight Test Center’s motto: Ad Inexplorata Toward the Unexplored.

With the military having a strong presence in the script, the filmmakers felt it was vital to obtain DOD (Department of Defense) approval for the film. Producer Feige explains the process: When you get DOD approval on a film, you get access to lots of cool planes and vehicles and other military assets. To obtain DOD approval, there is a submission process in which the script is submitted to the government and they read it and give you notes. Their main goal is to ensure that the characters associated with the Armed Forces, or the movie in general, personify the military in a somewhat favorable light. Obviously conflict is inherent in drama, but we were lucky to have the character of Rhodey in the film, a grounded, high-ranking Colonel in the Air Force who is upstanding and very heroic.

As part of obtaining DOD approval, the production was assigned Air Force Capitan Christian Hodge, who served as the departments officer on the film. Getting DOD approval for a film is huge thing, explains Hodge. When you have that kind of support from the military, it really takes the film to the next level because it allows you to film on active military bases and shoot in actual planes and vehicles, as well as use real military members as background. The production also gets an on-set technical advisor, which helps a great deal in making sure the film is realistic and accurate.

Since the character of Rhodey is an active Air Force Colonel in the film, one of Hodges most important tasks was educating Howard about being a ranking officer in the United States Air Force. Marvel Studios and Jon Favreau really wanted us to provide assistance and guidance for the character of Rhodey, explains Hodge. They wanted to make sure the dialogue was correct and he looked and acted the part. We took Terrence on several research trips to Edwards Air Force Base and Ellis Air Force Base. He spent time in an F-22 simulator, did combat skills training and spent time with officers flying in various Air Force jets.

For actor Howard, training with the men and women of the United States Air Force was a rewarding experience and provided a few special perks as well. All the training really helped me find the nuts and bolts of this character, but my favorite part was the opportunity to get up in the air, says Howard. I went through the flight simulators for a week, and then I flew with the United States Air Force pilots in F-15s, F-16s and T-38s. Im not talking about just going up there and sitting in the seat, because in these jets the only thing to hold onto is the joy stick and the pilot up front will shake it when he wants you to take it. Youre going 400 miles an hour in a jet and when I took over the controls for the first time, it was an experience I will never forget.

While Downey, Howard and Paltrow were bringing their comic book characters to life against a bustling backdrop of high-tech aircrafts that included an F-22 Raptor, bulb-nosed Global Hawk and a C-17 cargo plane, Favreau reflected on his experience at Edwards Air Force Base: Edwards Air Force Base is the best back lot you could ever have,” he asserts. “We had so many great assets at our disposal and every angle we shot in looked completely authentic airplanes, desert, dry lakebeds, hangars. It really did a lot for the authenticity of the film.

I remember looking at the frame and I said to one of the other producers, My God, in the deep background theyre towing an F-16 through our shot, adds Billingsley. Normally you might have a car or some extras crossing in the back of your frame to add a little production value, but because we had DOD approval, we have F-16s. We also had actual members of the Army, Air Force, and Marines who were extras, which was great because it adds so much to the believability of the film. Christian Hodge was so valuable in that regard, because he would always keep us on track and ensure that what we were doing was in line with the normal operations on the base or in the cockpit of an F-22.