The Hollywood premiere for Marvel Studios’ Iron Man 3took place at El Capitan Theatre in Los Angeles, California on 24th April this year.  This, however, was a premiere with a difference.  For the stars of Iron Man 3, released nationwide on 3rd May, spent the evening walking a parallel red carpet to that laid out for the country’s real-life superheroes: the U.S. Military, stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Tacoma, Washington.

In an event sponsored by Skype, soldiers at JBLM watched rapt and listened live in a custom-built ‘Skype Suite’ as the celebrities arrived at 6838 Hollywood Boulevard, the location of Walt Disney Company’s restored movie palace.  The actors were then stood in front of ‘an over-sized monitor projecting a Skype video call’ and asked to exchange a few words with the long-distance viewers.

Yet, the primary purpose of Skype’s presence at the premiere of a movie about a billionaire playboy with a mind for advanced communications technology (and a superhero suit of armour developed from it) was to show America’s appreciation for the troops’ brave efforts by enabling family members of soldiers to stand in front of that same screen and say a public, and emotional, hello.

In a franchise which has seen Tony Stark, aka Iron Man, fight an image of evil that has changed from communism to terrorism, in a setting which has transformed from the Vietnam War, to the first Gulf War, and on into Afghanistan, Iron Man has always offered readers and viewers a glimpse, with a fantasy veneer, into the world which the ordinary men and women who fight for the United States inhabit.  As the original creator ofIron Man, Stan Lee, exuberantly claimed, “You people are wonderful!”

Jon Favreau – previously director of Iron Man and Iron Man 2, but executive producer of Iron Man 3, and playing Tony Stark’s (Robert Downey Jr.) head of security, Happy Hogan – said in his statement of gratitude that, “I can speak for myself, for Robert, for everybody involved with Iron Man, we love you, we’re with you, and we really appreciate you.”

Gwyneth Paltrow, who plays Tony Stark’s secretary, Virginia ‘Pepper’ Potts, was greeted with rapturous applause by the soldiers, and the actress spoke to the screen with open arms when she said, “Thank you all so much.  We appreciate what you’re doing”.

Of course, the event would have been less meaningful without the appearance of Iron Man himself.  Robert Downey Jr. arrived in his red sports car and gave a passionate speech to the soldiers: “What you’re all doing is giving us the freedom and the ability to live the way we do, and it just means the world to me.  I admire each and every one of you so much.”  He finished with a salute, and big kiss for the entire room.

El Capitan Theatre has been called ‘Hollywood’s first home of spoken drama’.  On an evening full of display of honest human emotion, no truer appellation could have been given.