Described as “Tony Stark’s Russian alter ego, a heavily tattooed bruiser who is in the arms trade and battles Iron Man in his own nuclear-powered armored suit”, the character of Ivan Vanko in the Iron Man universe is sort of the Yin to Stark’s Yang.
An imposing, hulking villain, he’s a brilliant weapons designer who works for Stark International Cincinnati but then goes rogue designing weapons for himself.
Who to play the part in the film? Why, Mickey Rourke, surfing a comeback wave after the successes of The Wrestler and Sin City.
In January 2009, Variety broke the news that Rourke had signed onto Favreau’s sequel to play Whiplash (real name the aforementioned Ivan Vanko), the character who first appeared in Tales Of Suspense #46.
But, as was becoming trend for Iron Man 2, reports of monetary negotiations muddied whether or not Rourke had actually signed.
According to the trades, Marvel’s starting offer to Rourke was $250,000, which seemed a little low for somebody whose profile had been raised demonstrably by The Wrestler.
Come February, Rourke told Vulture that “right now, we’re not doing Iron Man 2,” with a face as grim as the reaper. Which hinted that he wanted more money than Marvel were stumping up.
Then in March 2009, just before shooting was originally set to commence, Rourke finally signed the dotted line.
Deadline reported the news, adding that the actor had landed a “significant” payload. Learnt anything from this, Marvel?
In typically Rourke fashion, the actor then went on to spend time in Russia researching his role in a real life prison, leading fans to speculate that his character would be doing some hard time in Iron Man 2.
“With Mickey Rourke, I didn’t want to just have two guys in robot suits hitting each other again,” Favreau revealed of his plans for the character.
“I wanted to have a different type of villain that used the same technology, existed within the same framework and rules of our world, but that was going to present not just a challenge physically but also in how dark he was and also how he’s related and how his fate and Tony’s fate are connected.”
Adds Robert Downey Jr: “How bad-ass was Mickey Rourke with those whips?”
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