It’s a staple of the Hollywood action comedy — some lucky actor swoops in for a single scene and ends up stealing it right from under the movie’s leading star. For Iron Man 3, that actor was Adam Pally (perhaps best known as Max on ABC’s Happy Endings). Pally plays Gary the cameraman, a Tony Stark superfan who helps Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) hack into the mainframe of an evil corporation via Gary’s local news satellite truck. As you do.
As it happens, in real life, Downey has been something of a mentor to Pally — the global superstar even personally gave Pally the news that he was in the film. The 31-year-old actor shot his scene for roughly three days in Wilmington, N.C., but when BuzzFeed spoke with him last week about the experience, his name had yet to appear on the movie’s IMDb page (an omission that has since been corrected).
You’re not on the IMDb page right now for Iron Man 3, so it was a nice surprise to see you in the movie.
Adam Pally: I don’t know if they know that I’m in the movie. It kind of feels like I snuck in, but it’s totally fine because I heard I’m in the movie, so that’s good.
How did you come to be in the film at all?
AP: I was fortunate to work with Robert Downey’s production company for a web series about three or four years ago. I just started writing with them and then was writing some stuff for Robert, and we hit it off. I think he liked me. Then I heard they wanted to see me for that part, I went in, I read it once, next day I got a call that I was going to be in Iron Man. It was pretty much like that.
What was the web series that you were working on?
AP: It’s nothing that ever came to pass. It was more just cool to get to go and sit down with Robert Downey. One of the ideas we had tossed back and forth was the idea of him teaching me how to be a better actor, because I’m clearly a mess, and also not, in his eyes, a great actor. (Chuckles) We would meet a couple times a year and talk about some ideas that maybe could work on a couple different platforms. His staff would cook lunch and it was fucking awesome. It would be such a thrill to spend hours improvising with Robert Downey. A dream come true. He’s a total hero of mine.
Did you know when they called you in for Iron Man 3 what the role was going to be?
AP: No. I read some [audition] sides that were probably from Iron Man 2 or something. Drew Pearce had seen a lot of my stuff — he co-wrote it with [director] Shane Black — and he kind of helped draft it to me a little bit. When we got down there, we improvised a lot of it. That was it.
Did you know when you showed up to set that your character had modeled his look after Tony Stark?
AP: I knew something like that was going on because when I got the part, Robert called me. I think it was like 4:30 in the morning, which is not strange. He was like, “Congratulations—you’re gonna be in Iron Man.” I was like, “Thanks.” He was like, “You’re gonna be great, you’re gonna be terrific. Grow a Van Dyke.” I was like, “What? What did you tell me to do?” “Grow a Van Dyke. All right, talk to you later.” And he hung up. I didn’t speak to him again until I saw him on set. I showed up with a Van Dyke. I had an idea that I was gonna be some kind of Tony Stark fan. I think the bummer for him is that I look pretty good in a Van Dyke. It’s not a silly as he thought it would be. Joke’s on him.
What was it like being on set?
AP: For being Iron Man 3, it was such a normal, easygoing shoot. Robert gave me the yerba mate on set. There was no gossip. It was like working a normal job.
Wait, what did he give you?
AP: Yerba mate.
What is that?
AP: An organic tea that’s, like, way better for you than coffee. I drank it for a day and then I went back to coffee, but it was good.
So obviously IMDb doesn’t know that you’re in the movie, but were you allowed to tell other people that you were in the film? Did you tell your friends and family?
AP: I told some friends. I probably shouldn’t say this — I signed a lot of NDAs, I don’t know what that means. But I told some friends and family and my wife. I didn’t spread the word around town. Also I knew from being in some big movies before that there’s a chance you get cut, and I wanted to not put myself out there and then get cut from the movie.
I hear what you’re saying, because from a plot standpoint, they could have cut your part out and the story would have flowed without a hitch. So it’s nice that you stayed in there.
AP: Well thank you. I don’t know a lot of what the plot specifics are because you are not allowed to read the other pages.
One of the things that made me happy about seeing you in the movie is that I was hopeful that maybe it would be a boon for Happy Endings.
AP: Yeah, that would be great.
It doesn’t seem like things are looking that great for renewal by ABC, but there’s also talk of moving to a basic cable network instead. Do you know anything about this yet?
AP: I stay out of all of this. I don’t know anything. The only thing that I know is that everyone wants to go back to work on Happy Endings. Be it ABC or someplace else, I know that people are chomping at the bit to get back to work. I hope that it would happen. There’s no way to know anything. The network makes up their mind, and that’s a very tight-knit, tight-lipped group. I know that there are positive vibes, but I that’s all. I hope it comes back.
Well, at least now you’re also officially part of the Marvel universe.
AP: I am. I would hope that there would be a world where in every Marvel movie, Gary the cameraman would have to get some footage. I know that that’s probably not going to happen, but I would urge all future directors to think [about it]. You know, I’m gonna start a Kickstarter. I’m gonna start a Kickstarter to pay Marvel to get my character into all the rest of the Marvel movies.
This interview has been edited and condensed.