Gwyneth Paltrow back again in Iron Man 3

Robert Downey Jr alongside Robert Downey Jr. Picture: PA
Robert Downey Jr alongside Robert Downey Jr. Picture: PA
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GWYNETH Paltrow was recently hailed ‘most hated celebrity in Hollywood’, beating the likes of Anne Hathaway and Kristen Stewart to the dubious title.

The accolade, if you can call it that, does seem a little harsh given that (bar the tearful Oscar acceptance speech way back in 1999 and a rumoured desire for depriving her children of carbs) the girl has done nothing to warrant such animosity.

Perhaps it’s her predisposition to do annoyingly well at anything she turns her hand to.

There are the indie films (Sliding Doors, The Royal Tenenbaums, Sylvia), the singing (Glee, Country Strong), the lifestyle website Goop and subsequent cook books and the news that she’s set to star opposite Antonio Banderas in the Spanish film 33 Dias. She is, of course, fluent in the language.

All this and she still manages to boast a gym-honed body and the picture-perfect family in the shape of Coldplay’s Chris Martin and their two children Apple, eight, and seven-year-old Moses.

You just don’t want to like Paltrow - but then you come face to face with the Hollywood actress and she seems really rather sweet, nervous even.

She might not relish interviews but needs must when there’s a movie of mega proportions such as Iron Man 3 to promote.

In this third instalment of the franchise, she returns as redhead Pepper Potts opposite Robert Downey Jr’s billionaire-inventor-superhero Tony Stark, aka Iron Man. She hadn’t even heard of Marvel’s Iron Man until the actor Jon Favreau approached her with the idea in 2007.

“I’d taken a few years off and was at home having kids, and there was no script so I was really flying blind,” recalls the actress, who divides her time between London and the States.

“I didn’t know anything about comics or the movie we were going to do but Robert and Jon talked me into doing it.”

She admits she’d never thought of herself starring in a comic book superhero movie “and now I’m so glad it’s been my main job for the last six years”.

This is the first movie that’s technically a sequel to two films (Iron Man 2 and The Avengers Assemble) and places Iron Man and Pepper, who’s now his live-in girlfriend and the CEO of Stark Enterprises, opposite super-powered humans.

“There’s a lot of comfort between them now, so it’s not the kind of tentative relationship they had in the first two films,” says Paltrow, who’s understandably grown close to Downey Jr over the last six years.

“Robert and I have always had a really great working relationship and it’s nice to phase it into something new,” she says, before adding: “Robert definitely keeps you on your toes.”

You sense Paltrow’s no walkover and she jokingly berates her co-star for moaning about the Iron Man costume.

“Robert used to complain about it all the time but let me just tell you he is a wuss because it’s very easy to wear,” says the actress, who also dons the iconic suit this time.

“I really liked being in it. It felt very superhero-ish, very strong,” she says, laughing.

Iron Man 3 boasts everything you’d hope from a summer blockbuster, a stellar cast including Sir Ben Kingsley and Guy Pearce, eye-popping action sequences and brilliant special effects.

Even Paltrow was impressed with the final result, having watched it the night before with her family and friends. “Everybody loved it, including myself. I was really surprised,” she says.

While each movie in the franchise has been “great in its own way”, Paltrow reveals she had the most fun shooting this one.

“Pepper really steps into her power this time. She’s incredibly strong at work, you see her really as an equal partner with Tony and then she gets involved in all sorts of action so this one was the most fun in terms of where she is in her life.”

Like any businesswoman worth her salt, Pepper can work a power suit and Paltrow, who’s known for her red carpet style, had a long meeting with the costume department about achieving the right look.

“Any time you put me in a Tom Ford suit I’m very happy,” says Paltrow, looking slender in a printed black and white dress and fierce five-inch black heels.

In the flesh, she’s as you’d expect, all glowing skin, barely there make-up and poker straight blonde hair. It’s incredible to think she turned 40 in September.

“When I was 39 I was freaking out about it but when I woke up on my birthday I was like, ‘Oh this is fine, yeah I like this,’” she says, smiling.

It doesn’t hurt that she’s in such good shape, and she gets to show off her washboard stomach in the movie.

A devotee of personal trainer Tracy Anderson, who she met through Madonna (before the actress and singer fell out), did she feel the urge to take her training up a notch in preparation?

“The real answer to that is no,” she admits. “I work out all the time and my trainer’s really strict with me and I’m very disciplined about it.”

Review: Iron Man 3 (12A)

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ONE of the early blockbusters of the year is Iron Man 3 in which Robert Downey Jr returns as the billionaire-inventor-superhero Tony Stark, aka Iron Man.

Directed and co-written by Shane Black, the man behind the Lethal Weapon movies and hailed as a pioneer of the action genre, it’s a real romp of a movie. This time, the film-makers have gone for a back-to-basics feel in which Stark is forced to find a way back to being a superhero when all his money and toys are stripped away.

Technically it’s a sequel to Iron Man 2 and The Avengers in which Iron Man and a roll call of Marvel comic book heroes united to protect Manhattan from aliens. Stark hasn’t coped so well since and we find him a nervy insomniac prone to panic attacks.

He does at least have his former assistant-turned-CEO Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) on hand to soothe him as the pair have moved in together.

It’s not long, though, before their domestic bliss is thwarted by a two-pronged attack - the arrival of biologically advanced super-powered humans and the mysterious figurehead of a terror group known as The Mandarin.

Downey Jr gives an entertainingly jittery performance as a superhero on the edge, while his jaded one-liners raise a laugh.

In any other film, Stark’s relationship with the young boy who discovers him recuperating in his shed would be played for schmaltz - but not here.

Instead, Downey Jr delivers acerbic lines to great comic effect.

While Guy Pearce as the founder of a brain-trust organisation, Don Cheadle as Stark’s ally and Rebecca Hall as his former lover all put in charismatic performances, a special mention has to go to Sir Ben Kingsley as The Mandarin and a turn of events that feels truly inspired.

Fun for both fans and newbies to the comic book world, the movie may be a lengthy 129 minutes but it doesn’t feel like it.

That’s a bonus as you won’t want to leave your seat before you’ve seen the end-of-credits surprise.