Most people know Jon Favreau as an independent filmmaker who worked his way to the top of the Hollywood ladder to helm one of the biggest superhero franchises in cinema history. However, the Iron Man director is also an accomplished actor, writer, and producer.
Without Favreau, the Marvel Cinematic Universe as we know it may not exist today. As Marvel Studios' first director, he had the weight of the burgeoning superhero world on his shoulders. He helped set the tone for Marvel and show the world that the dark mood of Batman Begins was not the only way to tell a superhero story.
Favreau has been in show business since the early 1990s - and even after nearly 30 years in Hollywood, he's still money. Here’s a look at a few things you might not know about the born-and-bred New Yorker - how he got into the game, how losing weight actually cost him acting roles, and which career-definining sitcom role he turned down.
- Photo: Batman Forever/Warner Bros.
In Favreau's First Superhero Gig, Val Kilmer Was Batman
Jon Favreau will forever be known as a staple of the modern superhero era, having kickstarted the MCU with Iron Man and Iron Man 2. He's also continued to work with Marvel as both a producer and supporting actor. But he's been in the superhero business long before he ever stepped behind the camera. For one, there was his role as Franklin "Foggy" Nelson in 2003's Ben Affleck-starring Daredevil movie.
Before that, Favreau was in the DC world. In 1995, Favreau had a small role as Bruce Wayne's assistant in Batman Forever. Back then, Val Kilmer was the Caped Crusader.
However, Favreau quickly realized his minuscule part in the film would not see the light of day. ''On Batman, they kept pushing me into the background for masters,'' he said. ''Pretty soon I was finding myself behind the lights for the shot and knew I wasn't going to be in the movie.''
Favreau does appear in the film in the background, but it didn't exactly land him on the radar of comic book fans. That wouldn't happen until more than a decade later.
- Photo: Friends/NBC
He Was Almost Chandler Bing
Now, it's nearly impossible to think of anyone other than Matthew Perry playing the sarcastic Chandler Bing on the mega-hit series Friends. However, the part was reportedly originally offered to Favreau, who turned down it down.
Friends casting director Ellie Kanner most likely offered the part to Favreau because Perry was already signed on to a sitcom based in Los Angeles International Airport called L.A.X. 2194. The actor would have played the role of a "futuristic baggage handler." When the show failed to get picked up, Perry was then able to take on the role of Chandler.
Favreau did eventually make it into a few episodes of Friends. In 1997, he played millionaire business mogul and Ultimate Fighting Champion-wannabe Pete Becker for six episodes. His character fell in love with Monica. However, when she wanted him to give up UFC fighting, he refused to stop and she broke up with him.
Favreau Wrote A Western About A Hasidic Gunfighter
Jon Favreau helmed the western/sci-fi mashup Cowboys & Aliens in 2011. However, if the director had his way, he would have made a totally different western in the 1990s. He got the idea for a movie about a Hasidic Jewish gunfighter called The Marshal of Revelation. He described the story as "Unforgiven meets Yentl."
''I grew up half-Jewish, half-Italian,'' said Favreau. ''The Italian side has been mythologized with all those tough-guy movies. And then there's the Jewish side, which you're sort of embarrassed about. So I decided to take on the stereotype and write a movie about a Hasidic gunfighter. He's the baddest man in the West.''
Favreau explained why the western's lack of commercial viability hindered its chances of ever getting made:
The studio definitely felt a limitation to the upside of what they can make commercially on it, moreso than it was a Hasidic Jewish gunfighter than it was a western. They can't pre-sell westerns in foreign. Even a film like Unforgiven, that won Academy Awards, has a very difficult time commercially. It's funny; I wrote it because when I was talking to Doug Liman on the set of Swingers, we were shooting so much at night on so much expensive film stock in low light levels, and he was like, 'If you ever write another script, make it exterior day the whole movie.' So I was like, 'A western - it would be cheaper to shoot.' Little did I know.
- Photo: Rudy/TriStar Pictures
Losing Weight Actually Cost Favreau Acting Roles
Favreau's first real Hollywood role came in the inspirational sports movie Rudy. The actor played Rudy's best friend and biggest supporter. Following Rudy, Favreau did land a few more small roles, predominantly being cast and sent to audition for "fat guy" movie parts. The actor thought he needed to lose weight to find success both on the big screen and in the bedroom. He put himself on a "cigarettes and fingernails" diet that resulted in an 80-pound weight loss.
The dramatic weight loss turned out to be negative for his acting career. "People would see Rudy, want to have me come in and read, and then not hire me because I wasn't fat anymore,'' he said.