Rebecca Hall (Dr. Maya Hansen) most recently starred in Susanna White’s 'Parade's End,' a five-part HBO-BBC miniseries set during the First World War, written by Oscar®-winning screenwriter Tom Stoppard and also starring Benedict Cumberbatch. HBO premiered the miniseries on February 26, 2013.
Additionally, she will star for director John Crowley in his international suspense thriller 'Closed Circuit,' opposite Eric Bana, in theaters later this year and in Patrice Leconte’s romantic drama 'A Promise,' set in 1910 Germany just before WWI. Also upcoming, Hall will be seen in Wally Pfister’s directorial debut 'Transcendence,' opposite Johnny Depp and Paul Bettany.
- Introduce your character and how she fits into the storyline.
I play a character called Maya Hansen who is an incredibly smart scientist who has developed some very cutting-edge technology, which is one of the principal components that drive the story.
She is involved in the whole Iron Man world because she met Tony Stark a long time ago when she was an M.I.T. student being funded to do research in a certain field that he’s also a specialist in.
- What was your first exposure to the Marvel universe and particularly Iron Man?
My first awareness of Marvel films and everything they do was the first 'Iron Man' movie. I remember thinking, 'Oh, Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Jon Favreau. This is interesting. What’s going on here?'
I went to see it having no expectations of anything, not really knowing anything about Iron Man or their comic books or any of it, and had a ball. I loved it.
- What is it like to come into such a big franchise now in the third part of it?
It’s interesting to come into something that is already so iconic and has so many images that everyone knows and has become culturally very apparent.
It’s thrilling to walk on set and see the suit and see the glowing hand and how it all works. It’s really exciting stuff.
- Can you explain Extremis and how the technology is used in the film?
Extremis is a formula that my character Maya Hansen has developed that essentially reprograms your genetic code so that you can re-grow your body to be however you want it to be, essentially so you can become superhuman. But it’s got some issues and problems.
- Do you think the story stays somewhat grounded in reality?
It’s a fantasy movie; it has to be fantastical and over the top and extreme. It’s not grounded in reality but of course there are elements.
There are people walking around in lab coats developing formulas and genetic modifications and all those sorts of things; there is a certain element of close-to-the-bone nature there, but I don’t think anyone’s developed anything quite like Extremis, so it’s fantasy.
- What’s it been like working with Robert Downey Jr.? What is it about the character of Tony Stark that you think draws people in?
I have loved working with Robert Downey Jr. He is a real force and he’s very energizing to work with because he’s very unexpected. He knows this character; he knows Tony Stark inside out.
He understands him so completely. I think what’s particularly charming and wonderful about Tony Stark, and what Robert’s done to create it, is his great wit.
He’s very funny and he shows his intellect through his wit. And that’s pure Downey Jr.; that’s not really anything else; that’s just him, and he is quick-witted like that.
So it’s very thrilling to work with him because you have to give as good as you get, which is a great challenge and fun.
- Talk about shooting the flashback scene where Maya meets Tony.
The flashback scene where Maya and Tony meet is on New Year’s Eve 1999 at a science conference. Maya Hansen, Tony Stark and Happy Hogan all end up in Maya’s hotel room, which was a very funny scene.
We had a fun time shooting it because it was funny on the page, but somehow the three of us started getting more and more ridiculous with it and got a lot of jokes out of it.
There’s a lot of fun to be had in doing something set in 1999 too. You kind of think, 'Oh, it’s not that long ago. How period can it get?'
And you realize actually that the haircuts were really specific and there are certain cultural references that you can really milk like Jon Favreau dressed up like John Travolta in 'Pulp Fiction.' It’s kind of great.
- Explain the relationship between Killian and Maya and how that plays out throughout the film.
Maya is discovered by Killian because she’s one of the most intelligent and brightest, biochemical scientists in the world, so she gets recruited by him.
By this point, she’s already well on the way to creating what she thinks is going to be the single most revolutionary discovery of mankind because it will essentially cure human beings of all illness, but she needs the funding to complete it.
So she sells it to the highest bidder, who is Killian, and he funds her research.
- What’s it been like working with Guy Pearce?
Guy Pearce is just a fantastic actor, whom I’m always very much in awe and admiration of and have known for a while. I was really excited to get to work with him on this, and he’s great.
- How does Maya’s past with Tony Stark affect her relationship with Pepper?
The thing I really like about this storyline is that everyone assumes, 'Oh, this is going to be some sort of love triangle, and it’s going to be some massive cat fight between Pepper and Maya,' and it was never that on the page.
Instead, they did what the 'Iron Man' franchise has nearly always done, which is sort of subvert expectations and stereotypes and actually made it about two very smart women who understand this rather eccentric figure, Tony Stark.
There is a sort of bonding that happens between them because of that, and they are very funny about it. It’s not at all what you expect, which I think is much more true to life and was refreshing, frankly.
- What is it like to come in as such a powerful woman and add to these powerful storylines?
There are no two ways about it. It is really, really fun to play people who are much smarter than me. I get to try and convince the world that I might be as smart as that, and I am really not... but don’t let anyone know.
- What has it been like working with Gwyneth?
Gwyneth Paltrow is great. I think that she is a really talented, funny, brilliant individual, and I have hugely enjoyed working with her. She makes it easier and we get on really well, so it was fun.
- What is the coolest aspect of the Iron Man suit?
The coolest aspect of the Iron Man suit, in my opinion, is the shoes. You don’t really see them that often, but they’re like these incredible kind of full-on power shoes.
But I think the most interesting part about the suit is probably the glowing hand and seeing how they do the glowing stuff in the eye.
Because I assumed, in my sort of film naiveté, that you do all that stuff in post but it actually glows on set and that’s quite exciting.
- What do you think it is about Tony Stark that makes him relatable?
Tony Stark is charming and has all the hallmarks of a great hero. He is at the top. He is rich, he is brainy and all the rest of it, but he is tragically flawed and human.
The fact that you can make someone, who is in essence not very easy to relate to, so incredibly sympathetic and warm and charming that you just want to be his best friend, is what makes it. That’s the payoff, really.
- Is there a particular scene or sequence that you’re most excited to see?
There are lots of scenes that I am excited to see but I think the flashback ones are particularly fun.
I am looking forward to seeing all the stuff in 1999, how that all looks when you have it all together and whether we have captured a bit of a ’90s nostalgia throwback moment.
Iron Man 3 is released 25th April.