For many cast members of "Iron Man 3," Tony Stark's latest stand-alone adventure made for something of a class reunion: Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Jon Favreau and Paul Bettany all returned to roles they've played before. For newbies stepping into an established franchise, it could have be a little intimidating -- but for at least two of the newcomers, the first day in class felt like coming home.
"This team has a way of welcoming actors so warmly," said Ben Kingsley, who makes his Marvel debut as one of its most notorious supervillains, The Mandarin. "They're all great craftsmen and just so welcoming."
Despite being an accomplished Academy Award-winning actor who's been in the business for decades, Kingsley admits that he still "never sleeps before the first day of shooting. Actors always take risks with themselves -- it's never a breeze." However, he felt like a part of the Marvel family right from the start.
"I got a call from [Marvel Studios boss] Kevin Feige, and he was kind enough to come to my house and talk me through the arc [of the story]. [Director] Shane Black trusted me with [the character]. He just gave it to me and said 'It's yours.' The whole team just gave us this graceful confidence."
Now that the role of the Mandarin is indeed his, how does Kingsley feel to be a part of the Marvel Universe ... and at what's sure to be one of the biggest Hollywood premieres of the year?
"It's so thrilling to be here; it's so amazing to be welcomed by this community. It's beyond your wildest dreams," said Kingsley. "It makes me shake with excitement. When I was starting out, I would perform in this tiny little theater, with 14 people at the matinee, if you were lucky ... this is the polar opposite of that."
Watch Ben Kingsley at the 'Iron Man 3' premiere:
Guy Pearce, another new kid at the Marvel Academy, felt just as warmly welcomed by the production team ... and was particularly impressed with the constant sense of creative energy on set, most of which was encouraged by the film's star, Robert Downey Jr.
"Robert wants to have a good time and not get bogged down in things, but he also wants to elevate the film to the next level," said Pearce, who plays the villainous Aldrich Killian in "Iron Man 3." "He's always asking, 'What ideas do you have?' And I'm thinking, 'Oh my God, I thought this was already written!' There's a lot of pressure to make it good."
"Iron Man 3" is just the latest of many films in which Pearce makes an extreme physical transformation and disappears into his character, for which the actor humbly salutes the "great makeup team" more than himself. However, that great makeup team wondered if perhaps their work on transforming Pearce into Killian, particularly in the first part of the film, was perhaps too good.
"We were wondering if maybe we went a little too far," said Pearce, whom many audience members might not recognize upon his first appearance in "Iron Man 3." "We thought maybe the audience will be asking, 'Is that the same guy from the beginning [of the movie]?'"
You'll be able to see for yourself when "Iron Man 3" opens on May 3.