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Exclusive Interview: Ty Simpkins: Iron Man’s Tween Assistant

May 08, 2013

By: Lynn Barker

11-year-old Ty Simpkins hit the bigtime when he got the role of Harley Keener, Iron man/Tony Stark’s kid assistant in the new movie. Ty has been in TV and movies before. He was a baby on a soap opera and also in Spielberg’s War of the Worlds. He was Leo DiCaprio’s son in the movie Revolutionary Road and a cursed kid in the scary movie Insidious but it’s his role as Harley, a smart kid who helps Iron Man rebuild this damaged suit and investigate the bad guys, that has his friends, Hollywood and movie-goers world-wide talking.

Kidzworld is on the Disney Studios lot in Burbank, Ca. for our exclusiuve chat.

Ty Simpkins at our interviewTy Simpkins at our interviewCourtesy of Lynn Barker

Kidzworld: Tell me something funny that happened on the Iron Man set when you were filming.

  • Ty: Originally Tony (Robert Downey Jr.) had this tiny Iron man flashlight thing (that was stored in) the back of his suit’s neck. Robert took it out of the neck. It wasn’t planned. I kind of messed up the scene. He was playing with me like “You can’t grab it”. Then I took it and pressed the button and he said “What are you tryin’ to do? Kill me?” That wasn’t in the movie.

Kidzworld: Fun! So is that the gadget you would keep if you could keep something from the movie?

  • Ty: No. The Iron Man 2 (suit) probably. The whole thing!

Kidzworld: Might as well ask for the big stuff. Were you an Iron Man fan before getting the part?

  • Ty: Yeah. I’d seen the other two movies.

Kidzworld: Did director Shane Black ask for your input on your Harley character?

  • Ty: One day there was this writing session and I got to go in and the main actors were in there and they wanted me to help them write what I wanted to say. They asked me if I was comfortable saying stuff and I got to change some things; make it more what I would say.

Ty as Harley in Iron Man 3Ty as Harley in Iron Man 3

Kidzworld: Very cool! Where were you and what were you doing when you learned you booked the role of Harley?

  • Ty: I was excited. I was at school. Robert Downey Jr. called me. I got pulled out of class. It was awesome. He was like “Hey bud, it’s me. Robert Downey Jr.”. I’m like “Oh my God, hi!” Then he was like “So, just wanted to let you know that you got the role of Harley in Iron Man 3”.  We kind of talked. I said “What should I call you? What’s gonna happen now?” Stuff like that.

Kidzworld: Did you have to keep secret that you got the role or that the part even existed?

  • Ty: I only told a few people I could actually trust or else not say anything.

Kidzworld: How did you feel the first time you saw the movie completed with the effects in it and everything?

  • Ty: I was a little bit disappointed because they cut out some of my scenes. That’s the only reason why cuz it was awesome seeing the movie for the first time.

Ty with Tony (Robert) in their garage workshopTy with Tony (Robert) in their garage workshop

Kidzworld: Might some of those cut scenes end up on the DVD/Blu-Ray later on?

  • Ty: I hope so!

Kidzworld: Is there a certain kind of role you would love to play someday when you are older, like a superhero or a cop or doctor?

  • Ty: Well, in an article about me they said that (my character) Harley Keener’s dad went off to get scratchers and never came back but he actually went off to serve in the Nova Corps which is a police force in space. It’s in a comic called “Nova” (but the Harley part isn’t a true thing yet. They could write that if they wanted to). That character’s first name is Richie but they figure his mom gets killed by an alien and he goes off into space and fights space villain Thanos. This is when (Richie) grows up and he gets turned into Nova. At least one guy is thinking about Harley doing that.

Ty with Robert at party for the filmTy with Robert at party for the film

Kidzworld: That would kinda rock! You go to public school still. What is your favorite subject in school?

  • Ty: My favorite subject is history. It’s interesting. I like certain timelines.

Kidzworld: And favorite music group?

  • Ty: Queen.

Kidzworld: Wow! Retro-boy. “We are the Champions” and stuff.  What do you do in your spare time?

  • Ty: I like to read comic books. I like to hang out with my friends and watch movies.  

Kidzworld: Will Marvel send you free comics now?

  • Ty: I don’t think they would just give me anything. Maybe a discount. That would be okay!

Kidzworld: What novels do you like?

  • Ty: I like “Treasure Island” (by Robert Louis Stevenson).

Ty at Iron Man 3 premiereTy at Iron Man 3 premiere

Kidzworld: Are the kids at your school treating you the same since you got the Iron Man role?

  • Ty: I have this group of friends that I mostly hang out with. My other friends are sports players and one of them hangs out in the school office with my mom (who works at the school). They are the only ones I can really hang out with. I’m not that big of an athlete but I don’t really want to sit in the office sharpening pencils all day either. They are the cool and relaxed group. But, Friday, the day the movie came out, they were all like “Ty, Ty, Ty!”, all excited.

Kidzworld: When you work on horror films like Insidious, is anything ever scary to you or is making the movie just too technical on set to be scary?

  • Ty: No, it’s scary. There are people in scary make-up there. With me, it’s really good for actors to have that gift (of seeing that around you) because when they call “action” you get into that character immediately so I feel like I’m actually there and get scared. But I get out of it after it’s over.

Ty as creepy kid in InsidiousTy as creepy kid in Insidious

Kidzworld: So what is coming out next with you in it?

  • Ty: We just finished Insidious 2 and this other movie about a kid who meets Andy Warhol (Conversations with Andy).

Kidzworld: Now that you are in this big movie and reporters like me are interviewing you left and right, do you enjoy those interviews or is it just weird?

  • Ty: No, I don’t find it weird. I wasn’t very used to it at the beginning. Am I doing this right? I didn’t know what to say but I got over it. (big grin)