After wowing the Comic-Con faithful Saturday during the public "Iron Man 2" panel, Tony Stark himself, Robert Downey, Jr., stepped out of his suit and tie and sat down to talk about the highly anticipated sequel.  He was seemingly blunt and coy about many aspects of the film's plot, but his enthusiasm over the just wrapped production was evident.

Q: So, do Iron Man and War Machine go head to head?

Well, I got that sense from the footage. (Laughs.) But, it could be a misdirect.

Q: Can you talk about...

I think what's really going on -- if I had to piece together what is going on in that footage, I would say that at a certain point probably in act one or two, Tony is approached by Nick Fury who is wondering what it's like for him to not have any backup. And Rhodie has always been 'Come try and work with us,' but can see he's under pressure from the Senate to essentially turn over the weapon that he designed when he was under contract with him.  The truth is, he didn't design it for a government contract. He designed it to save his life.  So, he had an argument there. The funny thing is in what I'm saying right now, I'm going right back to our original vetting sessions six months ago when we were not just reminding ourselves of the obvious, but trying to think if this was really happening what would be the most interesting, entertaining and honest way to move forward.  And we took the risk of exploring -- Tony goes on a much more perilous journey when all he had to do was save his own ass.

Q: How did you guys welcome Don in as the new kid in the cast?

Ah, well, speaking of tight nit groups, then there is just a certain brother and sisterhood of talent in otherwise what is sort of a small town.  So, everybody knows Don and has seen the incredible work he's been doing over the years and I just had this problem where I tend to go up to people if they tend to join projects partially due to the fact they figure you're part of what made it work last time was my direct involvement.  I feel beholden to say to them, 'I promise you we will work our asses off to really pay this character off and really give you what you would expect for coming to join us.' And I guess the problem or the challenge was this time, I was essentially saying that to three or four new people. Jon and I were telling Mickey you weren't just going to play a two-dimensional nemesis. We were thrilled to get Scarlett and we said you're not just going to be some kind of like y'know be a 'Marvel spin-off story thing' because we want a hot chick kicking as in this movie. I think we managed that.  And with Sam, y'know, he's such a gifted guy that to come in and obviously now it's no secret that he's filling the space [as Justin Hammer] that Tony has evacuated because he's not going to make weapons anymore, so what is it like to be quote on quote a 'wannabe' Tony Stark and how does that add up to what his conflict is and that stuff.  But the real one was Don was saying if no man is an island thing how is his part not just 'Tony you really don't need to go it alone.' But, I think underneath it all too I always got from comic books that Tony and Rhodie were hanging out and it would be a tossup which one of them would get laid first. (Laughs.)  And I think that in Don with his wit -- we were just standing outside screwing around a little bit just entertaining ourselves at each other's expense, he's someone I feel I have real repartee and he's not intimidated by me in any way.  So, I wanted to bring that to the screen as much as possible while still having him have his own arc and trajectory.

Q: You said you had to speak to Mickey about taking the role, did you have to convince him to come on board?


The thing is that 'Iron Man' sold itself here two years ago.  And then, contrary to numbers crunchers, it wound up being a rousing success economically.  So, it was kind of a win-win situation if I had never been involved in it and my agent was pitching 'Iron Man' and here are the opportunities.  But, I think the convincing or rather the conversation really centered more around it's not uncommon to be sold a bill of goods and for one reason or another -- usually not lack of intention -- it doesn't pay off. And I've been in that position dozens of times. So, I think Jon and I, Kevin and the Marvel folks, everybody who was there last time, we knew that as a creative coalition we really tended to be able to make good on what we hoped we could provide. 

Q: Sounds like you have a real responsibility to the character and the franchise at this point.  Almost ownership of it.  Do you reconcile with the fact you're just a cog in this giant Marvel machine in that respect?

I do, but rarely. I tend to just think of it as something that is really kind of unspoiled arena of activity in a very, heartless, wonderful, treacherous industry. 

Q: One of the things that always haunts a super hero franchise is you spend a lot of time in the origin story setting up who he is. Now, you are on the second one.  How are you liberated from that? What could you and Jon do with this movie that you wanted to do with the first one, but you didn't have time or space?

I'll end with this.  It's six - one - half a dozen or another.  Usually the origin stories are the most interesting story because you get to see someone becoming we love them once they are.  And, so, again we just upped the stakes. He has to be dealing with things more pertinent than his immediate survival. And he has to be exposed to things that are beyond the realm of easy understanding even for someone as bright as he is. And those were all there.  So, we didn't really have to reach creatively.  You can't tell a story any better than the way it really happened, so we, looking back at the stories that have been done, kind of made an amalgam of those and we didn't take ourselves seriously at all but we took the storytelling really, really seriously. 

Q: Really nerdy pitch, there was an episode of 'Star Trek' where they conjectured that Spock was descended from Sherlock Holmes.  Could Tony Stark possibly find future lineage in a future film?  Combine the franchises together?

Then that could be a third franchise and I guarantee you that would be one no one wanted to see. (Laughs.)

"Iron Man 2" opens nationwide May 7, 2010.