Jon Favreau and Scarlett Johansson Talk Failure and How ‘Transformers’ Inspired ‘Iron Man’

The 2017 Tribeca Film Festival is underway in New York City, and unlike other film festivals some of the more sought-after events at Tribeca are the conversations they host between artists. The first one this year was a fantastic talk between Jon Favreau and Scarlett Johansson, close friends who’ve collaborated on three projects to date (Iron Man 2, Chef, The Jungle Book).

Johansson played more of the interviewer in this case, throwing Favreau questions that ranged from how he managed to get Swingers made back in the ’90s to how he found Iron Man to what happens when you direct a big blockbuster and it fails. Fandango was on hand for the talk and we rounded up some highlights below.

Here’s Favreau on how Michael Bay’s Transformers movie convinced him that CGI had arrived at a point where something like Iron Man could be made, thanks primarily to the advancement in creating more realistic hard surfaces.

Jon Favreau on how it was TRANSFORMERS and @RobertDowneyJr that convinced him to do IRON MAN #Tribeca2017pic.twitter.com/Ef5WqbxJrW

— ErikDavis (@ErikDavis) April 21, 2017

On Favreau’s 1996 cult hit Swingers (which he wrote, but did not direct), he spoke about how they had to stage readings of the script in conference rooms in order to convince people not just that it was worth making, but that it was worth making with this specific cast of relative unknowns.

Watch him talk about that below.

Jon Favreau tells Scarlett Johansson how they staged readings of SWINGERS in conference rooms to convince people to make it#Tribeca2017pic.twitter.com/PRpLyR5hIf

— ErikDavis (@ErikDavis) April 21, 2017

Favreau and Johansson then spoke about mid-level movies, and how they don’t really exist anymore. Well, they exist, but now they’re on television. Favreau compared the recent surge in television production to the rise of indie film in the ’90s with stuff like Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction, and how streaming platforms like Netflix are the new Miramax.

Perhaps the most interesting moment of the conversation came when Johansson brought up failure, and specifically the failure of a big movie. Favreau remarked that he would never have developed as a filmmaker without failures like Zathura and Cowboys & Aliens. “You don’t learn from success; you learn from failure,” he said.

Watch a little of that dialogue below.

What happens when a big film fails? Scarlett Johansson: “I just had that experience!”

Good question, interesting answer#Tribeca2017pic.twitter.com/VLsM3ZGhVL

— ErikDavis (@ErikDavis) April 21, 2017

Next up for Favreau is a live action adaptation of Disney’s classic The Lion King, which the writer-director compared to bringing back a Broadway show in that audiences “have certain expectations” that you have to live up to. Favreau said he’s approaching Lion King much in the same way he approached The Jungle Book, by going back through the original and really dissecting each moment in terms of why it works and why people love it, and then trying to bring it to life in live action form. The Lion King currently does not have a release date.

“It’s like bringing a Broadway show back because people have certain expectations for it.” Favreau on his LION KING movie#Tribeca2017pic.twitter.com/YObGmqydXg

— ErikDavis (@ErikDavis) April 21, 2017

Meanwhile, you can next see Scarlett Johansson in the R-rated comedy Rough Night, in theaters on June 16.

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