The culmination to the end of the Infinity Saga was a massive deal. So, naturally, in order to close out one of the biggest events in all of pop culture history, something truly impactful was going to have to happen. Sadly, this fell onto the shoulders of Robert Downey Jr..
In the final moments of Avengers: Endgame, Tony Stark exclaimed his iconic line: "And I... Am... Iron Man." With those final words, the hero - first introduced to the world in 2008 - saved the universe and vanquished the Mad Titan Thanos for good.
With how well all of the story elements fit together, one would think that there was never any hesitation as to how it was all going to be pulled off. However, it's now been revealed that things could have been much different, thanks to some concerns voiced by Iron Man's original director, Jon Favreau.
Opposing the Death of Tony Stark
In an interview with Vanity Fair, Avengers: Endgame directors Joe and Anthony Russo reminisced about their time working on Tony Stark's final moments and how Iron Man's original director, Jon Favreau, once opposed their decision to kill off Robert Downey Jr.'s iconic character.
In recalling the two of them figuring out Tony Stark's death, Joe noted how he wasn't sure if "[they've] told this story in its entirety," continuing on to say how it was "probably the most pressure [the two of them] have ever had in [trying] to come up with a line:"
“I dunno if we’ve told this story in its entirety... It’s probably the most pressure we’ve ever had in, in trying to come up with a line with Markus, McFeely in any of these movies. You do not want to fuck up Tony Stark’s last line.”
Anthony added that "part of the pressure came from Jon Favreau," who had called in questioning their decision to kill off Iron Man:
"Part of the pressure came from Jon Favreau, who called us up after he read the script... and said to us, 'are you really going to kill Iron Man?"
Joe recalled how Favreau warned him, "'You can't do this. It's gonna devastate people:'"
"He did. Yeah. And I remember pacing on the corner of a stage on the phone with Favreau trying to talk him off a ledge. 'Cause he's like, 'You can't do this. It's gonna devastate people and you don't want them you know, walking out of the theater and into traffic.' We did it anyways."
Anthony did give the benefit of the doubt to Favreau, noting how "he hadn't stepped through the process in the way that [they] had:"
“Yeah, we did it anyway. And, and to Jon’s credit, he hadn’t stepped through the process in the way that we had. So we would’ve had the same reaction if somebody had dropped that.”
In defending themselves, Joe noted that they "felt like [they] had earned the arc that, you know, would feel redemptive and emotional and uplifting and hopeful:"
“We felt like we had earned the arc that, you know, would feel redemptive and emotional and uplifting and hopeful, even though he had, he had sacrificed his life. So he actually asked to improvise a few lines here. We tried some alternate versions of it... and they were sort of more in this snarky, Tony Stark vein. He wasn’t playing it with enough pain of the, you know, the power of the stone surging through his body.”
Originally in the film, Tony Stark said nothing, and the entire sequence was redone three times before it got to its final iteration. But how did they get to that now timeless line?
Anthony credits their editor, Jeff Ford. Not only did he claim Ford to be "one of the most amazing filmmakers [they've] ever collaborated with," but the Iron Man editor had also been with the character since the very first day.
Joe revealed that at one point, when reviewing footage, "[Ford] hit play and Thanos says, 'I am inevitable,' and then beep beep beep, and [then] Jeff went, 'And I am Iron Man." At that very moment, Anthony exclaimed that "it was like we were struck by lightning all of a sudden."
He continued, noting that at this point, Downey had "already said goodbye to the character like twice," but that they asked him to do it one last time:
“We called Downey. We said, you gotta put the suit back on. He had already said goodbye to the character like twice now... [and to make the whole thing even more emotionally] devastating for Robert, we asked him to put the suit on and come back to where he had originally secured the role [at a stage in Los Angeles] and to give his, his final line. Say goodbye to the character, once again.”
What If... Iron Man Lived?
There's some timeline out there where Robert Downey Jr.'s fan-favorite character is still kicking in the MCU. One has to wonder what would have happened instead; Captain America dying? Hulk? Thor? Someone else would have had to save the day. Though, to be fair, they likely would have just found a way for Tony to magically survive the power of all six stones.
It's hard to believe that there wasn't ever a What If..? episode exploring any of the alternate outcomes for either Avengers: Infinity War or Endgame. Maybe fans can expect something to touch upon those events in the animated show's second season?
Either way, at the end of the day, many will agree that the Russo Bros. made the right call in killing off Iron Man, despite the doubts of Jon Favreau. That said, it certainly didn't hurt any less than he warned it would.