Shaun Toub might not be a household name, but you've certainly seen his talents in such films like Bad Boys, Best Picture winner Crash and most recently in The Kite Runner. Shaun portrays the important character Yin-Sen in the long-awaited Iron Man and I had the privelege to talk to the actor over the phone. Here's what he had to say.
When you signed on for this role, how familiar were you with the comics and what kind of research did you do?
Shaun Toub: Well, beforehand, I didn't know much about it, but when I was offered the role, I tried to dig up as much as possible. I remember something from my childhood in Iron Man comic books. I tried to dig up as much as possible, not that there's a lot out there, but I was able to get something. It's interesting that the information on the web was so different than what I thought my character might be like. I didn't want to do too much research because I didn't want it to influence me so much. I knew this was something that I had to create, because there wasn't much on paper and we were running against the clock, so I was trying to let my mind be free. It's just the way I work. It's hard to come up with characters, but it happens sometimes. It's interesting.
What can you tell us about your character Yin-Sen, and how it might differ from the comic book?
Shaun Toub: Yin-Sen is a very important character for Iron Man. He's basically responsible for saving his life and also sent him on his journey. He's a very pivotal character to the Iron Man story. He helps actually create, he has a hand in the creation of Iron Man. I don't want to give away too much, obviously.
Your last film was The Kite Runner and coming from an independent movie like that to this huge gigantic blockbuster, what was the transition like in going from a smaller movie to such a gigantic spectacle?
Shaun Toub: I take jobs as they are. I don't pay too much attention. I've been doing this for 20 years now. You kind of get immune to it in a sense that you don't want to get too excited too early on, because you never know how it's going to turn out. I mean, naturally, you have a feeling, the feeling is different, but I take all of them just as seriously, for me. I guess maybe I've been around for too long. Maybe early on I'd get a little more nervous and more concerned about the transition. Now, for me, it's all about the character, it's all about the script. I am just as proud of being a part of films like Crash and The Kite Runner than I am of Iron Man. Although, luckily I saw Iron Man last night.
Oh, you did?
Shaun Toub: Yeah. They had a private screening for us and I am happy to report that I am pleasantly surprised. This is a fabulous film. It's marvelous and I enjoyed the film tremendously.
That was my next question, actually, if you had seen the film.
Shaun Toub: Yeah, I just saw it last night so I'm fresh. I can be honest with you, the group I went with, we all came to the conclusion that we can't wait to see it again. I really am looking forward to seeing it again. It's that kind of movie that's so cool, people are just going to flip over Iron Man. Robert Downey Jr. is just excellent. The cast is very very good. Jon Favreau did a fantastic job and the action sequences are just phenomenal. They're just beautiful.
The supporting cast is just huge, but with your role in the film, did you work just primarily with Downey?
Shaun Toub: I am mainly with Downey. I'm basically in a good half hour of the movie and my character is very pivotal. It's mostly with Downey and it was really a wonderful experience. We really got along and, early on, Jon (Favreau), the director said it looked like we did 20 movies together. We just meshed, and we did off-screen and on-screen. We just really got along.
Yeah. I've been a big fan of his for awhile and it's great to see him get a big starring role for a change.
Shaun Toub: Yeah, Robert is fantastic in it. I heard earlier on people were saying, 'Why Robert?' but he's so good in it. He's so perfect.
It really just seems it was meant for him. He has the brash sensibility and it really seemed to fit him well.
Shaun Toub: Yeah. It was perfect for him. There will be many many more to come, I'm sure. I think that Iron Man the story will continue and Robert will do very well with it.
I actually just read something on the net that Robert was quoted as saying he'd be willing to do up to 15 more sequels if he could.
Shaun Toub: Oh yeah. He will. He will do quite a few sequels I'm sure and it just looked so good last night. You know, you're always anxious and you want to see what the finished product is like and even though I thought it was going to be great because I believed that Jon would do a fantastic job, it was really even better.
With Jon being an actor himself, is he more of an actor's director?
Shaun Toub: You know, every director I've worked with, they've had their own system, their own way of working. Jon allows you to bring your talents and your opinions to the role. He was very open with us and he allowed us to fly, especially with my character. When we got there, Robert and I basically started together. We had a two-week rehearsal and we were still writing and changing. The look of my character, I came up with two days before the shoot. It's a strange thing that happens to me, but I get a feel for what the character is like. It happened in Crash. There was something there that I just wasn't quite comfortable with and all of the sudden it came to me two days before. I don't want to give it away, but the look of this character, we basically put it together two days before we started shooting.
This movie has been getting buzz aplenty, even before they started production. Have you guys been, while you were working or shooting, was there a sense that people on the set were following the online buzz about the movie?
Shaun Toub: I was shocked at how many sites had my name up there. They were always trying to keep my character quiet, as much as possible. They really weren't putting what I was doing on the film, but it got out and once it got out, they had all types of scenarios of what I'd be doing. I'm going to be playing a Mongolian character, I'm going to be Asian, you know. It was really funny. They had Shaun Tolb has done it all and now he's going to play an Asian character (Laughs). It was just really interesting. We had to keep it hush-hush so I wasn't talking about what I was doing.
I read that one of the sites had a spy picture from the set and that picture was used in a newspaper in the movie. It was on the trailer and someone pointed it out that they used the picture from the net and used it in the movie. Were you aware of that at all? I thought that was hilarious.
Shaun Toub: (Laughs) No, I didn't, but I guess in this business anything is possible. Turned the tables, you know? 'OK, you want to take the picture? We'll use it.' (Laughs).
Yeah, it was on the new TV spot and they must have Tivo'd it and freeze-framed it or something.
Shaun Toub: Was it of Robert?
Yeah, it was.
Shaun Toub: In a tux?
He was in the suit, I believe.
Shaun Toub: That's interesting because we were very protective of it, whenever he was coming or going from the set. Even I would always have a long coat on, trying to not give it away of what I'm wearing. These guys, sometimes, they're sly. They'll catch you when you're not looking.
Now that you've seen it, how would you say this stacks up against other comic book adaptations that are out there?
Shaun Toub: I'd like to not be biased, if I can (Laughs), but I, and everyone I watched it with last night, really truly believe that it's up there with everything else. It's really something very different. The way it's done is different. The storyline is different. The characters, we are quite different from the norm and I think Robert brings a different angle to this comic book hero. He has this comedic touch and Jon Favreau definitely brought a lot into it as well. One of the people with us is just a huge comic book fan and he was like, 'Oh my God. This is right up there with the best I've seen.'
Do you have anything that you're working on right now that you can tell us about?
Shaun Toub: Actually, as I'm speaking to you right now, I'm on my way out to the set in Valencia in this crazy Friday night traffic here in Los Angeles, to do a photo shoot. I've started a series with Simon Baker for Warner and CBS called The Mentalist. I have really enjoyed doing film, but there are really good people involved, the creators of Rome is involved and the great director David Nutter. It's an interesting storyline and I said, 'Why not. Let's give it a shot.'
So, you're shooting the pilot right now?
Shaun Toub: Yes. We're shooting the pilot now. It's really a good one.
Finally, Iron Man is the summer movie kickoff, which is usually a big deal. Do you have any sort of box office prediction for the movie? Maybe break some reacords?
Shaun Toub: (Laughs) I don't know. People on the net have been saying that this is going to break the Spider-Man 3 record, so we shall see. We shall wait and see. It's fine if it doesn't, but I believe it will do very well. I really believe that the box office opening weekend is gonna kick some butt. If I was another movie, I would not wanna go against Iron Man (Laughs). I would move the date.
Well that's about all I have. I can't wait to see the movie, Shaun. Thank you so much for your time.
Shaun Toub: My pleasure. You will enjoy it. It's a wonderful, wonderful film and you'll definitely have a good time. It's a great ride. Enjoy it, and thanks for talking to me.
Iron Man gets the summer movie season started on May 2.
Iron Man was released May 2nd, 2008 and stars Robert Downey Jr., Terrence Howard, Jeff Bridges, Gwyneth Paltrow, Leslie Bibb, Shaun Toub, Faran Tahir, Clark Gregg. The film is directed by Jon Favreau.