While we were in LA for the Iron Man 3 movie premiere we had the opportunity to learn about the making of Iron Man 3 Suits and Arc Reactors. When I think of Iron Man movies, the first thing I picture is Robert Downey Jr all suited up as Iron Man with the glowing Arc Reactor. It was really interesting to learn the behind the scenes steps taken create the Iron Man suits and Arc Reactors.
We met with Chris Swift from Legacy Effects. Who is the on set coordinator for the Iron Man Suits. He was great to talk with and really gave us a behind the scenes look at the making of Iron Man 3 suits. He said that for the first Iron Man movie it took about three months to make the first prototype. He made sure to remind us that the first prototype had legs to it. Iron Man is supposed to be about 6’4 to 6’6 depending on who you asked. Chris said “Roberts doesn’t quite fit the bill. He is just about my height so about 10 inches to short. So we can’t really stick Robert in a full suit with those legs” They had stunt guys that were tall enough to fit the suits but it didn’t make sense to have Robert Downey Jr in the full suit.
They ended up making/creating the suits around Robert Downey Jr. They created a full upper body and would digitize the legs from waist down. Chris Swift said they started this practice on the second movie. The first movie was the only movie that actually had full practical suits all the way down to the feet.
Chris said that every time they make the Iron Man suits they make them better, they figure out the problems. He said the first Iron Man suit was a nightmare. It was really heavy and it was hard to get into and it killed the actors and stunt guys trying to get into it.
We asked Chris now that they are on Iron Man 3 and have some practice making the suits how long it takes to make them. He said it is hard to answer how long it takes because every time a Iron Man movie is made they redesign the Iron Man suit. He said the designers do an awesome job of designing things, but they’re designers, not practical builders. He said you have to take the design that looks so great and decide how do we make it move. How do we re-engineer this suit and re-figure it to maintain the look and still make it practical to where somebody can wear it and move around in it.
Chris said if you look a the new Iron Man 3 movie and the 42 which is the newest suit “It took us a bit to calculate how to make it a practical moving suit. I would say we spent more time in the computer trying to figure out how to make it move and engineer it from the design than we did actually building it.” He said it was probably a good two months working on the computer to get the design and functionality of the 42 created.
Then once they start actually physically building the 42 they work all of the problems out. Chris said the suits went together pretty quick. They design them on the computer and build it on the computer. They then send the computer file out and there’s a machine that takes the pieces they engineered and builds them. They come back as fully finished pieces.
When the finished pieces come in they take them and clean them up. They go through an entire process so they all fit together like a puzzle at this point. Chris said if they have done their job right meaning him that all of those pieces should fit together really easy. It should come together like a toy.
We asked if Gwyneth Paltrow has her own suit made for Iron Man 3. Chris told us Gwyneth wears Robert’s suit. He said Gwyneth fit the suit really well because Gwyneth is actually quite tall and she’s really super built and strong and all that kind of stuff.
Chris was really surprised that it fit her so well. He shared a funny story that everyone bet him that he was not going to get Gwyneth in the suit because it’s a bit iron lung kinda suit. He was determined “cause that was like everyone…every fan wanted to see Gwyneth in the suit”
Chris was determined to get her into the suit. Chris said he went and talked to her about it and she was so cool! Chris said Gwyneth was a bit hesitant but once she got in it she had a ball. Gwyneth told us the same thing during our interview with her. She said that she loved wearing the Iron Man 3 suit and it made her a cool mom.
Chris said once he got Gwyneth into the Iron Man suit he couldn’t get her out of it, she had a ball. She was running around playing with her kids. Chris said Gwyneth was the “belle of the ball in the suit” You could tell how much Chris loved this moment on set from his smile and tone as he told us the story.
Now when I watch the Iron Man movies I keep thinking about the amazing behind the scenes work that goes into creating the Iron Man suits. I also think about how many hours must be spent digitizing the legs of Iron Man in each scene.
A huge thank you to Chris Swift for taking the time to talk with us and share his passion for Iron Man. It was wonderful hearing from Chris the making of Iron Man 3 suits and everything that goes into creating the movie as we see it.
Thank you to Disney for arranging our interview with Chris. All opinions expressed are my own.