I've been going to San Diego Comic-Con for awhile but I've only been covering it for GeekTyrant for the last 4 years. I've seen a ton of great stuff from the con over the years and it's been great being involved with all this geek awesomeness. One thing I've noticed over the years is how much Comic-Con has changed, it's gotten insane, but I've learned to adapt to it, and even though it's crazier than it's ever been, I still manage to have a blast. The most memorable and favorite Comic-Con panel experiences I've had since I've been writing for GeekTyrant has been with Jon Favreau. The guy always comes in a blows up the place and gets the fans pumped up, you can tell he really enjoys the experience of Comic-Con. In a recent article for THR he talks about his most memorable experiences at Comic-Con, and here's a few excerpts of what he had to say...
2005 Zathura (D.O.A.)
The first time I actually went to San Diego to participate in the convention was a few months before the film Zathura [starring Kristin Stewart] was to be released. I was all by my lonesome onstage in Hall H. I had brought the asteroid scene from the beginning of the film as some footage to show the crowd and mumbled on about practical effects and my collaboration with Stan Winston to a theater quarter-filled with people who were attending, for the most part, to keep their seats for the sexier panels to come. My presentation was met with the level of applause that one might expect after sinking a six-foot putt, and the experience of attending the convention was as disappointing as the box-office returns for the film that year. Nobody cared. To say that Zathura was released is misleading. It escaped. After the highs of the success of Elf, Zathura was sobering and, though it was well-received by the critics and I learned a tremendous amount about visual effects, the grim reality of the movie business hit me like a bucket of cold water.
2006 Iron Man (The Yawn)
Fortunately, in 2006, Arad (whom I'd kept in touch with since Daredevil) hired me to helm the first film from Marvel Studios, which had secured financing and partnered with Paramount to release its slate. Iron Man would define the new studio for better or for worse, and I was pleased and grateful that they took a shot on a director with a spotty record at the box office. This time it was my turn to attend Comic-Con with Avi. We had just begun preproduction; no cast was in place, nor did we have a script, per se. I knew in my bones that I wanted to do something special for the fans, so I reached out to Adi Granov, an artist who had recently redefined the look of Iron Man in the books, to create a collectible poster that we could hand out at the convention. It would be the first look at the design of the suit as it would appear in the film. We arrived at the dais in a much smaller room than Hall H... I shared the spotlight with Edgar Wright and Louis Leterrier, who were slated to direct Ant Manand The Incredible Hulk, respectively. The whole event was a bit of a blur. The only thing I had to announce as it related to the plot of the film was that the Mandarin was set to be the villain. Anyone who has seen Iron Man knows that this was not the case, and I learned a valuable lesson: Do, don't say. Even the best-intentioned bolus of information is more likely than not to fizzle into nonexistence before anything is ever accomplished. Walk softly and carry a big stick. I'm glad the fans forgave me for that snafu, and I wasn't about to repeat the mistake.
I remember that panel, and I was extremely excited that Favreau was directing the Iron Man film. I had no idea what to expect from it, but I knew that with Favreau on board it would be somthing special.
2007 Iron Man (The Hook)
Once again, I got that tingling sense that we had to do something that would make an impression on the crowd. None of the effects was done, but fortunately, with the help of the Paramount marketing team, we were able to sculpt a pretty impressive trailer thanks to a wealth of practical effects and suit work courtesy of Stan Winston Studios. I pressed ILM into service, and they were able to come up with a handful of flying shots as a big closer for the piece. I knew this was probably more than most films were prepared to show this early on, but I also knew that I had to make a splash because there was zero anticipation for the film at the time. To set up the clip, I filmed a piece in the editing room announcing that I could not attend but would be showing some unfinished effects work in progress. This was not uncommon at that time at Comic-Con. The audience is extremely cinema-savvy and very forgiving of unfinished work in progress if it is seen as inspired. The clip that I cut to, however, was Iron Man fighting the Mandarin from the old '60s Iron Man cartoon. At first the crowd was confused, then they chuckled. That's when I walked out onto the stage. I was met with polite applause of appreciation. I answered a few questions, and I mentioned that we would be showing some actual footage from the film Saturday at the Marvel panel. After answering a few more questions, I said: "What the hell. Can we roll the sizzle reel we were saving for Saturday?"
The energy hit me in the sternum like a wrecking ball. The feeling in that room created a flood of endorphins that took hours to dissipate from my brainpan. After showing the clip a second time, I ran off the stage, and a year before that movie ever made it into theaters, Iron Man was a hit. Any misgivings about the new studio, the director or the casting of Downey as Tony Stark seemed to evaporate in those few, precious moments. By the time Downey took the stage on Saturday during the Marvel panel, he was welcomed as one of their own. Those experiences are the most vivid memories that I have from the entire production and galvanized a friendship, as there are few who have ever experienced such a thing. I remember Terrence Howard and Gwyneth Paltrow beaming as they watched the footage and heard the applause. It is fair to argue that a favorable response at Comic-Con can be a false positive as often as not, but all I can say anecdotally is that I experienced a sea change there that translated in a very real way to the success of the film. If I were to have any qualm with the film business, it's that you never have a real-time, one-to-one relationship with the audience as a whole. You could slip into the back of a theater and watch them react in appreciation once the movie is out, but you never actually get to engage your audience head-on as they experience your work. Thanks to Comic-Con, this was no longer the case.
This was actually one of my favorite Comic-Con panel experiences, I jumped up and cheered after he showed us that sizzle reel! It was incredible and like he said, that room swelled with complete geek excitement. Iron Man was going to be a huge hit.
I don't want to post the full article here, so if you want to read the rest, which I suggest you do, please head on over to THR to read Favreau's article. He goes on to talk about his Comic-Con experiences with Iron Man II and Cowboys & Aliens. Favreau just seems like a down to earth cool guy, and I'm looking forward to seeing his film Cowboys & Aliens.
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