SEOUL — South Korean President Park Geun-hye and Madonna have done it, so there was little reason for Robert Downey Jr. not to break into Psy’s infectious "Gangnam Style" horse dance for the local crowd during the kickoff event Thursday for the Iron Man 3 global promotional tour.
The actor arrived late Wednesday in Seoul, for the first time in five years since promoting the first installment of the superhero franchise in 2008. During photo ops flashes went wild as the star spontaneously broke out some “Gangnam Style” moves next to a life-size Iron Man figure.
The dance, however, was just one warm gesture the actor showed for Korea, as he reminded the audience that the world tour for Iron Man 3 kicks off here, in Seoul. The film will also open in local theaters on April 25 -- a week earlier than the United States.
“First of all I really want to thank the fans that came to the airport yesterday to greet me in Korea. I had a long flight and it was a very lovely surprise. It was like 10 o’clock and pretty late to be driving to the airport, and I just wanted to say I really appreciate it,” the actor told reporters. He was spotted signing autographs and flashing a wide grin to local fans that waited for him at Gimpo Airport the previous night.
“Sitting up here and we’re talking about this very successful franchise, and five years ago I really had no idea if it was going to be embraced by the public or not,” he said.
“And you know I play Tony Stark as this very brash, sarcastic, and confident guy, and I can be like that a little bit, but I find myself looking at these posters and sometimes kind of like wondering how this happened. My relationship with it has been one of a kind, with increasing humility and a lot of gratitude.”
He went on to stress how in the end it is the audience that shapes the film industry and that the first Iron Man movie’s positive reception in Korea five years ago shaped the success of the franchise -- by demonstrating that it had universal appeal in the then increasingly important international market. The first two Iron Man films drew 4.3 million and 4.5 million admissions, respectively, while Avengers drew 7 million, becoming the most-watched imported film in Korea last year.
The actor expressed confidence about the third installment, saying, “I’m a pretty tough critic on these things and I think this third one is really worth a couple of hours to spend to go to see at a theater."
While the upcoming film features more tricks by the technologically-savvy billionaire, Downey Jr. said it is different from the others in that it focuses more on the human side of Tony Stark.
“While we were talking about making a third Iron Man, I figured out we had to consider it in tandem with The Avengers,” he said, adding that he thought that it might be interesting and challenging if the hero was just a little bit traumatized by the experience from the attack of aliens in The Avengers.
“And also we figured it would be nice to get back to a little more of what we saw in the first Iron Man, which is Tony in the suit a little bit less, or only in parts of the suit, or developing a bunch of new suits for your viewing pleasure,” he added, with a characteristic quizzical smile.
Another big change is that the film’s setting moves away from the big cities of the previous series to a more provincial part of America, the actor said.
“I think a lot of what occurs in Iron Man 3 is that he actually goes to the parts of America that aren’t New York or Los Angeles. It is a road trip of sorts, and I think he gets back to an understanding that he is just a worker amongst workers and he is just another person, and I think that's actually very helpful to him,” he said.
Downey Jr. also celebrated his 48th birthday, Thursday, in Seoul, during a red-carpet premiere. His next stop will be a promotional event for Iron Man 3 in Beijing on April 6.