When Jon Favreau took the stage at the Highball, the swanky bar/bowling alley/karaoke joint owned by Alamo Drafthouse mogul Tim League, we expected him to get behind the DJ deck and play two or three songs. Over an hour later Favreau finally left the stage, and left everybody in the Highball sweaty and tired and danced out and happy.
Paramount flew me to Austin Texas for the Iron Man 2 fan event at the legendary Drafthouse last night; I knew something special had to be in the works since I had already seen the movie and putting me on a flight to Texas just to see it again didn’t make much sense. When I arrived in town yesterday afternoon rumors swirled, but most people agreed on one thing – Jon Favreau wouldn’t be showing up, since Quint from Ain’t It Cool had done a phoner with him just the day before; if Favreau were coming to Austin he would talk to Quint in person.
The packed theater at the Alamo was buzzing as the lights finally went down and a videotaped introduction from Favreau and Robert Downey Jr played on the big screen. The banter was light and fun and took some shots at the nerds, but that wasn’t enough. On screen Favreau stood up and walked off camera… right into the Alamo. A moment later, Downey followed him.
People went nuts. The pair did a quick intro, which you can see below, and then the movie started. Just about two hours later Favreau retook the stage and gave a great, thoughtful Q&A moderated by Harry Knowles. And then it was off to the Highball for the afterparty.
I sat down in a booth with Favreau for a couple of minutes at the Highball; I tried to tape the conversation but the booming bass rendered the digital file unlistenable. It’s too bad because Favreau, loose after seeing a crowd enjoy the film, talked openly about his future with the franchise. He’s interested in coming back for Iron Man 3, but he seems to be wary of the fact that after this film he’s no longer playing in his own world; any future Iron Man movie will involve characters and concepts that impact and sometimes originate from other movies.
Every time I talk to Favreau the conversation returns to Queens; I spent my formative years in the New York City boro, and Favreau used to be an usher at the RKO Keith theater in Flushing, which is where my mom would take my brother and me to see big event movies (everything else was seen at the Main Street Twin). Iron Man 2 makes excellent use of a Flushing landmark, the old World’s Fair grounds. In the movie it’s the location of the ’74 Stark Expo, but in real life it’s a place many a Queens kid visiting. Favreau told me that he worked a personal landmark in the film – after the final battle at the Stark Expo, Iron Man lands on a nearby rooftop, which just happens to be the building in which Favreau grew up.
After chatting with me and some of the other web folks Paramount had assembled, Favreau took over from the ‘professional’ DJ. And he kind of kicked ass. At one point Favreau asked the crowd ‘Do you like rock? Do you like old rap?’ When he got enthusiastic yeses to both, he said ‘Then you’re in luck tonight.’
And that was the truth. He started off with A Tribe Called Quest’s Can I Kick It and immediately took it to Queens with Run DMC’s My Adidas. He worked some AC/DC in there – hey, it was an Iron Man 2 afterparty! – but he mixed it up in a way that a kid who grew up in New York in the 80s felt very much at home. My favorite segue? Going from Kansas’ Carry On My Wayward Son to the theme song from Sanford & Son.
What was especially fun was watching Favreau have a good time; someone later dismissively referred to the set as ‘wedding songs,’ and maybe he wasn’t playing the most cutting edge dance tracks or the deepest cuts, but he was playing to a crowd that really was loving it and was having a blast with it himself. It was a scene that reminded me why I’ve always liked Jon Favreau as a person even when I wasn’t crazy about his work. He’s a real Queens boy who was just having a blast; Favreau’s only ‘Hollywood’ request was that nobody take pictures of him during the set. And since he looked kind of endearingly dweeby hunched over the decks in his plaid shirt and huge headphones, I get why.
24 hours after I got to Austin I was back in LA. Favreau slipped out the back door of the Highball when his set was over and I didn’t have a chance to tell him how much I dug the evening. Or to ask for his card and find out if he’s available to do birthdays.
Read my review of Iron Man 2 right here.