Chris Fenton, former president of the Chinese-based DMG Entertainment Motion Picture Group, has written a book, Feeding The Dragon, looking at his career, getting American movies into Chinese markets, notably Looper and Iron Man 3. I recently read it, and can confirm it is quite the page-turner, and there are so many nuggets to share. You can follow along with a few of the stories I'm sharing with this link.
Bleeding Cool has already run some of Fenton's attempts to appease the Chinese on Iron Man 3, as well as the casting of Wang Xueqi in the rapidly diminishing role of Dr Wu. But then they were faced with filming scenes in China without the lead actors, producers or director, without making it appear that way. Especially when director Shane Black had said he wasn't shooting in China. Oh yes, and they only had half an Iron Man.
The Beijing shoot for Iron Man 3 was so crucial. Not only did we have to get good footage for the global cut of the movie, but we also had to make it known that we were there. The film's production in China was indeed happening, despite what Shane Black said. People needed to know that. There were cameras and crew on the ground. And we had some of Marvel's decision-makers there. We also had a fantastic young Marvel executive, Brad Winderbaum, directing the Chinese production. We also had our Chinese actors, Fan Bingbing and Wang Xueqi. Both had massive star power, which made the Chinese production so much more meaningful. Additionally, we had the top half of the Iron Man suit and the extremely skilled stuntman who wore it.
Brad Winderbaum assembled a skeleton team under Feige's supervision to capture what we needed from China. His crew of a dozen combined with DMG's much larger team to get the job done. Even though it was technically a "second unit," meaning no lead or supporting actors or even the director, there were still some pretty complicated scenes.
At the end of shooting that day, we took a photo to leak to the press. In it was Wang, Iron Man, at least from the waist up, and the ancient Chinese gate. To make it look like a shot from production, we added into the frame the top part of one of the production cameras. Additionally, we put everything a little off-center. We wanted the image to look like someone snuck a photo from the set—the reality of which was close to impossible because of massive security fencing surrounding the area. Marvel took secrecy very seriously. They wanted no public access to their sets, and the China portion was no exception.
When the leaked production photo went to journalists, it was immediately posted. Even in the US, the staged photo received lots of coverage. Most importantly, the photo served its purpose. Our intended audience in China saw that part of Iron Man 3 was being shot in Beijing. It was the truth too. Wang worked hard in those days. So did Fan Bingbing. We had Chinese crews, we had Chinese backdrops, and we used Chinese soundstages. Whether Robert Downey Jr. was actually in the suit or not during the shooting in China didn't much matter.
And no one thought to ask.
It's like Mark Millar was taking notes, right? More on Iron Man 3 and the rest in Feeding The Dragon by Chris Fenton, published by Post Hill Press and distributed by Simon & Schuster.