Rhodey isn’t Tony Stark’s only sidekick in Iron Man 3. In the threequel, Tony, while stranded in a small, snow-covered Tennessee town, gets some help from a science-savvy kid named Harley, played by young actor Ty Simpkins. As seen in the EW exclusive photo above, Harley encounters Tony when his suit is rather worse for wear.
When EW met up with Simpkins on the Disney lot to talk about Iron Man 3, the 11-year-old donned a T-shirt covered with Stormtroopers on skateboards, and tucked back on his head was the pair of Stark Industries 3-D glasses he got at the movie’s premiere. “I got all of them,” he proudly declared of his Marvel-themed 3-D glasses collection.
Read on to learn more about the real-life alter ego of Iron Man’s kid sidekick.
1. He’s been acting for a long time. Simpkins made his first TV appearance at just three weeks old on One Life to Live and hasn’t slowed down since then. There’s a good chance you’ve seen Simpkins in something since then; his movie roles include War of the Worlds, Little Children, Pride and Glory, and Insidious. He’ll next appear in the sequel to Insidious, which opens this September. Simpkins offered this SOMEWHAT SPOILERY tease of what’s to come in Insidious Chapter 2: “Me with a baseball bat and my dad [Patrick Wilson] getting beat up by it.”
2. He finds time with a baseball bat off-set too. Obviously, in a more traditional all-American manner. Among Simpkins’ hobbies are playing baseball, fencing, and creating LEGO stop-motion videos.
3. He could hold his own acting opposite Robert Downey Jr.’s frequent improvisation. Downey is known for keeping the cameras rolling to capture improvisations. But Simpkins wasn’t daunted by that. “Robert did do a lot of improv,” he said. “I take improv classes, so I’m prepared for that.” Simpkins said he really enjoys taking those classes with other young actors because “I get to make kids laugh.”
4. He can keep a secret. Iron Man 3 had a few tricks up its sleeves, and even Tony Stark teaming up with Harley was a fun surprise, an unexpected element of the film that wasn’t highlighted in marketing. At first, Simpkins was kept in the dark about Iron Man 3‘s plot details. He didn’t get pages from the script until he showed up for the audition. And even when he got the part, he was given only his lines in the movie. But things became clearer when he got to set in North Carolina. The actor recalls learning the truth about the Mandarin from Iron Man 3‘s star: “Robert told me on set. He’s like, ‘I’m gonna tell you a secret that you can’t tell anyone.'” Though some of Simpkins’ friends bugged the actor for spoilers, they had to wait for opening weekend like everyone else.
5. He’s a real fan of all this stuff. If the Star Wars T-shirt and 3-D glasses weren’t enough of a givaway that Simpkins loves his geeky entertainment, then listen to the way he talks about superheroes. Asked who his favorite superhero is, he’ll immediately reply Iron Man and insist that the Armored Avenger was his favorite even before he was offered the part in Iron Man 3. Asked why, Simpkins launched into a detailed and enthusiastic thesis: “Because he doesn’t have any superpowers,” he explained. “The Hulk has an awesome superpower. He turns into this giant monster that can eliminate several dudes at once. Then Captain America can take out five bad guys just going like that” — he slices his arm through the air as if holding Cap’s most iconic accessory — “and throwing his shield. But then Iron Man — he can take out even more guys with those little missile things that come out of this shoulders. He can fly and he doesn’t have any superpowers. He’s smart. He has a suit, and it’s really cool.”
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