Similar to Hall, Black found himself drawn to the project not only because it gave him the opportunity of reuniting with his "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" star Robert Downey Jr but because it presented him with the opportunity to direct a highly-commercial movie that never lost sight of its characters.

"We got to be more character-centric, and [go] basically back to basics," said Black. "That was very appealing to me. So to make it more of a thriller, and to make it more about Tony and less otherworldly, and just sort of ground it more. That was our intention."

Interestingly enough, the film also takes place during the Christmas season - an element common to several of Black's past filmmaking efforts including "Lethal Weapon," "The Long Kiss Goodnight" and "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang."

"I did 'Lethal Weapon' back in '87 and we [set it during] Christmas, and [producer] Joel [Silver] liked it so much he put 'Die Hard' at Christmas," said Black. "It's a time of reckoning for a lot of people, where you take stock as to where you've been [and] how you got to where you are now."

"Plus, there was a kind of 'Christmas Carol' thing that we wanted to bring in for Tony as well --" began Drew Pearce.

"Meaning the Ghost of Christmas Past," interjected Black, "in the sense that Harley [Ty Simpkins] is kind of [Tony] as a young boy. Just encountering all these different things that come to him almost like a fever dream when he's at his lowest point."

Indeed, Tony's life falls apart in spectacular style in "Iron Man 3," culminating in an attack on his hillside mansion that leaves the billionaire genius reeling - and also involves a mysterious bearded adversary known as the Mandarin (Ben Kingsley).

"If you're gonna do something that involves a terrorist in [the] modern world...why not say something about the entire experience of what it would take, for instance, to create a myth that was all things to all people?" said Black, who was initially resistant to the idea of using the Mandarin before coming up with a whole new spin on the character. "Why not make an uber-terrorist and then play with the idea of that? Of a corporate world full of think tanks whose assignment, let's say, was to cobble together the ultimate warfare specialist. And then have that man's sole unifying characteristic be his undying hatred for America, such that he attracts to him these acolytes and disciples who respond to the myth? We thought that was an interesting idea, regardless of his ethnicity."

Want more "Iron Man 3"? You can check out a full report from the earlier press conference with stars Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle and Ben Kingsley here.

"Iron Man 3" hits theaters on May 3.
 
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