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Iron Man Screenwriter Ready for the Red Carpet

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A few weeks ago, kung-fu adventure The Forbidden Kingdom, scripted by Morristown's John Fusco, conquered the opening-weekend box office and gave moviegoers an early taste of summer fun fare. Now comes Marvel Studios' Iron Man, which ushers in the new season of warm-weather action with a huge coast-to-coast release this Thursday evening.

Iron Man is a superhero movie - but it's not a typical superhero movie, says Hawk Ostby of South Burlington, who co-wrote the screenplay for the $135 million film directed by Swingers star Jon Favreau. For one thing, said superhero is played by Robert Downey Jr., best known for his intense Method acting and drug busts. Speaking on the phone from the airport - he's on a press tour - Ostby admits the casting was unexpected. But "as soon as I met [Downey], it became the obvious choice."

The Iron Man character is a Howard Hughes-like billionaire weapon designer who discovers his calling late in life, when he constructs a set of armor that's ideal for fighting bad guys. "He's an interesting character in that he's far less than perfect," Ostby says. "He has no superpowers. It's really about a guy who's looking for his heart."

A cult favorite, the Iron Man comic books have been in some sort of movie development since 1990. Ostby and his L.A.-based writing partner Mark Fergus "knew the comic, but we weren't rabid fans," he says. They were, however, experienced adaptors who received a 2006 Oscar nom for their work translating the novel Children of Men to the screen.

On Iron Man, Ostby and Fergus worked in parallel with another pair of writers: "We wrote two separate drafts, and Jon [Favreau] cherry-picked and brought a new draft out of that," he explains. More collective brainstorming and rewrites followed. When shooting started last March, Ostby and Fergus spent plenty of time on the set. "It was an awesome experience - for a writer to have that access is so unusual," Ostby says.

Right now, Ostby and his wife Monica are headed for the movie's L.A. red-carpet premiere on April 30. What's next for the writer and his collaborator, who brought out their own indie drama First Snow last year? Ostby says he and Fergus are "working on something very fun for DreamWorks" - another graphic-novel adaptation called Cowboys & Aliens. He describes it as "an honest Western where aliens show up - not a spoof!"

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