‘Iron Man 3′ Breakout Star Ty Simpkins on ‘Uncle Bob’ Downey and What That Metal Super-Suit Is Really Made Of
We have a feeling you'll be hearing lots more about Ty Simpkins after "Iron Man 3."
Starring as Harley Keener, the 11-year-old fifth-grader serves as the pint-sized straight man for Tony Stark's best one-liners while helping the fallen hero repair his badly damaged suit.
Despite Simpkins's epic Hollywood résumé -- "Insidious," "Revolutionary Road," "War of the Worlds" -- he still attends public school. We caught up with him after school and got the lowdown on his key role in the summer's first blockbuster.
How was your school day -- is it hard to concentrate with so much going on? And how are your friends dealing with your super-heroic fame?
It was a little hard to sit still. One kid keeps tapping me on the shoulder and telling me how many days until the movie comes out. And some others asked me a bunch of questions. They all want to go and see it with me: one, because I'm in it and, two, because it's "Iron Man."
Are you taking your whole class to see it?
Not my whole class, just a lot of my friends.
You have a great rapport with Robert Downey Jr. on screen. I've been hearing him called RDJ; what do you call him?
I call him three things: Robert, Mr. Lord of the Universe, and Uncle Bob.
When did you first meet Uncle Bob?
We went on the first audition, and a second and a third. The third audition was a chemistry read and that's where I met Robert. We started talking and I was, like, every day I say: "I'm going to get this. I'm going to get this." During the read-through, I asked a question and Robert got really mad about it and he threw a Sharpie on the floor.
What question did you ask to get such a violent reaction?
In the script, instead of Tony, it said Jerry, and I asked, "Who's Jerry?"
Was Robert real mad or pretend mad when he threw the Sharpie?
Everyone wants to know if you got to keep any of the toys or gadgets from the set, like that potato gun [which he confronts Stark with upon their first meeting]?
No. We didn't get to keep anything but, on set, there was a beer cap on the barroom floor and my mom and I kept that.
In your first scene, we see Stark repairing his battered suit after he fell from the sky. You saw close up: does it look real?
It looks like a real suit but you know it's a fake because it feels like hard plastic, like Plexiglas.
Will your character return in future Avengers movies?
I hope so.
[Related: The Major-League Minors of Summer 2013]
Is Harley based on a character in the comics?
No. I think he was the writer's idea and maybe Stan Lee's.
Have you met Marvel creator Lee?
No, but I saw him on the red carpet.
If you had a superpower what would it be?
I would probably fly -- and read minds
Who made you laugh the most on set?
Probably Robert because I think he's really funny.
And what was your biggest challenge?
I had this line where I had to say, "retro reflection panels." That was so hard to say. I kept messing up. I got frustrated but I laughed, too.
You've been in three movies with your 15-year-old sister, Ryan. Was she on set with you?
No. she was filming her own movie, "Space Warriors."
You're a total pro: you've worked for directors Steven Spielberg in "War of the Worlds," and Sam Mendes in "Revolutionary Road." You've played the son of Leonardo DiCaprio, Patrick Wilson and Colin Farrell. Now, your movie is going to crush this weekend, but the following weekend it competes with Leo in "The Great Gatsby." If you bumped into Leo in Hollywood, what would you say to him?