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Because Iron Man 3 sits in the precarious position of being the first Marvel Studios movie to be released after Joss Whedon’s 2012 blockbuster, one of the most common questions fans have asked about it since the start of development has been, “How will the movie be tied back to The Avengers?” And it’s a legitimate question. Writer/director Shane Black, star Robert Downey Jr., and the people at the studio obviously wanted to make the film stand as its own separate thing, but it would have been foolish to not only completely ignore the most beloved story the studio has come up with, but also how the character of Tony Stark over the course of it.
“We just wanted to play with that in kind of a binary way to be weird,” Downey Jr. explained to journalists at a recent press event held in Los Angeles. “It's weird when one movie that's connected to another doesn't reference that movie at all. You know what I mean? It seems like we were so busy trying to make our thing work that we didn't have space. So I think it would lack confidence if we didn't.”
But then there was the question of how to implement elements from Whedon’s film in a way that makes sense. Eventually it was realized that the best access point was Tony’s emotional fragility. In Iron Man 3, the character regularly experiences panic attacks, most frequently when little kids run up to him and try to get him to talk about the Battle of New York, as seen at the end of The Avengers.
“I thought it would be helpful,” Downey Jr. said. “I just like the idea of this kid kind of getting under my skin, and I like the idea of kids bringing their parents to the verge of an anxiety attack - and kind of going like, ‘Oh, what's wrong with you?’ once they push you there. And I thought that was a nice way to refer back to it. We needed reasons, and sometimes you can just look at the bigger picture with this kind of continuance of stories.”
Iron Man 3, which also stars Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Sir Ben Kingsley, Guy Pearce and Rebecca Hall, will be in theaters this Friday.