Spoilers ahead for Avengers: Endgame.
Without Robert Downey Jr., there is no Tony Stark, no Iron Man, and no Marvel Cinematic Universe. It’s worth remembering that, a little over a decade ago, Marvel Studios (and Paramount Pictures) took a big swing with Iron Man, taking a less-than-marquee Marvel Comics character and giving it a shot at the big leagues. They also took a chance with RDJ, a critically acclaimed actor whose comedic chops in the 80s had been forgotten, replaced by personal problems and moderate success on TV and movies in the 90s and early 2000s. And let’s not forget that Jon Favreau had a feature hit with Elf in 2003, but little else to suggest he’d be the shepherd of a massive, multi-billion dollar franchise.
Somehow, all of these risks paid off. Iron Man was a hit that didn’t just launch a series of films for the character but kickstarted the MCU and paved the way for future comic book films. And it all started with RDJ becoming Tony Stark, just as Tony Stark himself became Iron Man. It’s impossible to separate the two (or three) in our modern mindset. So Avengers: Endgame isn’t just the culmination of the MCU’s story so far, but the tale of Tony Stark, his iron-suited alter ego, and Robert Downey Jr. himself.
As those of you who’ve seen Avengers: Endgame (at least once) will know, the movie is also the end of the road for the now fan-favorite character and the acclaimed actor who portrayed him. That’s all she wrote. But it was screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely who ultimately had to write that ending, and directors Joe and Anthony Russo who wanted to clear it with the actor who’d given so much to the franchise (and also earned quite a bit in return).
Here’s what Anthony Russo had to say to THR about reaching out to RDJ for the conclusion of Tony Stark’s arc:
We did pitch Robert his arc, because he kicked off the entire MCU. The Tony Stark arc is the longest and perhaps fullest in the MCU. Once we decided we wanted this kind of ending for the character, we certainly wanted to make sure Robert was comfortable with it, just because of his enormous contribution to the MCU. We did pitch it out. We went over to meet with him and we pitched it out to him.
A lot of the actors are not opinionated about what we do. They like the fact that we are sort of in control of these stories and we are driving where they should go and we have a vision for where they should go and they trust in that. I think Downey may have had mixed emotions about thinking about [where Tony Stark ends up in Endgame], but I think at the end of the day, he totally accepted it.
After more than 10 years in the role, I’m sure RDJ was more than happy to be done with the character. He walked away with an estimated $75 million from Avengers: Endgame alone, so I’m also sure that that sweetened the deal quite a bit. Tony Stark’s story is intertwined with the story of the MCU so far, but just as Captain America hung up his shield before handing it over to Falcon, and just as Thor has opted to travel with the Guardians of the Galaxy, the future of the MCU will fall to new shepherds whose stories have only just begun.
For more of our continuing coverage on Avengers: Endgame, click on the links below:
- ‘Avengers: Endgame’: In Defense of Fat Thor
- ‘Avengers: Endgame’: Here’s Whos’ Dead and Gone
- Every Way ‘Avengers: Endgame’ Changes the MCU
- The ‘Avengers: Endgame’ Ending and the Importance of Bringing Stories to a Close
- ‘Avengers: Endgame’: Seriously, Who Is That Kid?