Iron Man 3 actually isn’t the first Marvel film that writer/director Shane Black has been connected to. At last year’s San Diego Comic Con it was revealed that Black was actually called by star Robert Downey Jr. (with whom he had previously worked on Kiss Kiss Bang Bang) during the production of the first Iron Man for tips and advice. But when Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige selected the filmmaker he wanted to make the second sequel in the Iron Man franchise he introduced Black into the Marvel Cinematic Universe officially. And the result is one of the best films that the studio has put out.

With the new superhero film rolling into theaters this weekend, I recently had the wonderful opportunity to speak with both Black and Feige at a press event in Los Angeles. Check out our conversation below, in which the filmmakers talk about Christmas time, using genre-within-genre, introducing new characters to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and much more.

I actually have a tradition where I watch every single one of your films at Christmas, so even when I first heard that Iron Man 3 was going to be set during the holiday season that alone got me excited. But I have to ask why so many of your films are set at Christmas. How is it a factor for you when you’re looking at the stories you’re writing?

Shane Black: I remember one of the first films I saw where I noticed the presence of Christmas in the movie was Three Days of the Condor and I just liked it a lot and then later with Lethal Weapon we had done that and then Joel [Silver] repeated it for Die Hard. There’s just something about the presence that it invokes for lonely people who are lonely at Christmas. It’s a time where the character is on a psychological journey. They take stock of where they are. They take reckoning of how they got to this place and where they’ve been in their life. So, it’s a point where there’s a sort of collective hush in which everyone gets this sense of being involved in it together. It’s a great staging point where you can always find bits of it that add to a scene and serves as a backdrop which unifies a cast of characters and so, for me, I don’t know much, I can’t even really quantify it except to say that it’s neat.

And it totally works in this one too. Also, just to talk Iron Man 3 from the macro perspective, this is an important film for the studio, simply because it’s not only the first post Avengers film. It’s also the first film in your Phase Two plans. From a structural point of view, are there plot points that you guys are working on that you feed to the writers and the filmmakers that guide it towards the direction of where you guys want the story to go leading in Avengers 2?

Kevin Feige: Well, sometimes. The truth is, every one of the phase one movies and so far almost every one of the Phase Two movies are built purely for the individual movie, and with Iron Man 3, the idea, before we even started shooting Avengers, the idea for Iron Man 3 was a return to the single character story line. We didn’t want to keep the universe building directly after we built to The Avengers, so the notion of taking Tony back to basics of metaphorically putting him in similar position to when his convoy explodes and he was thrown to the cave, that’s what so much of the movie was inspired by - to take him back to that level. Frankly, it’s much more the other way that as we started to develop this movie and seeing where we wanted to take Tony and where we were leaving Tony, is talking to Joss and saying, “Here’s what you’re inheriting,” and then he would take that forward. When Phase Two is all said and done, I’ll talk to you about what is the over, over, overarching thing is, that will end up threading through, of which there are threads in it here, but it won’t necessarily be apparent until the whole thing comes together.

Shane Black: Yeah, if it’s not apparent to me, then it’s not apparent. [laughs]

Kevin Feige: I was just going to say, there’s stuff that not even Shane might know, not in the movie, that his movie has inspired.

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