The U.S. Military Censored 1 Iron Man Line from the First Movie

By Russ Milheim Updated:
Iron Man movie, Tony Stark and military man in movie

The United States Military censored one line from Robert Downey Jr.'s original Iron Man film.

Marvel Studios has worked with the US Military a handful of times for its movies. Some of the biggest examples of that include the Iron Man trilogy, Captain America: The First Avenger, and Captain Marvel.

For any movie to use real military props, uniforms, and logos, the production needs the cooperation of the Department of Defense and its public relations team. Their goal is to ensure the film doesn't make the organization look bad and that things like titles and ranks are correctly portrayed.

Adjusting Dialogue to Better the Military's Image

Iron Man, US Military

The MCU: The Reign of Marvel Studios book, written by Joanna Robinson, Dave Gonzales, and Gavin Edwards, has now had its global release, and it reveals that the US Military worked to censor one specific line from the first MCU film, Iron Man.

The story comes from a recounting from the former Head of the Pentagon's Hollywood Liaison Unit, Phil Strub, regarding his time on the 2008 film. Strub served as Marvel Studios' main point of contact with the US Military itself.

The passage in the book starts by recalling "one major conflict with [Iron Man director John] Favreau" that was "over a single line of dialogue:"

"On the 'Iron Man' production, however, Strub remembered only one major conflict with Favreau. It was over a single line of dialogue. 'It never got resolved until we were in the middle of filming,' Strub said. 'We’re on the flight lines of Edwards Air Force Base, and there’s 200 people, and [Favreau] and I are having an argument about this. He’s getting redder and redder in the face and I’m getting just as annoyed.' The line was spoken by a serviceman who says that he would 'kill himself' for the opportunities that Tony Stark has."

The book continued, noting Strub "didn't want an enlisted man making a joke he believed made light of suicide," so, he instead opted to censor that option, offering an alternate saying: 

"Favreau, wh/o had been spending spending weeks freestyling dialogue with Downey, didn’t see what the big deal was. As he saw it, that phrase was a common idiom. Strub insisted that he didn’t want an enlisted man making a joke that he believed made light of suicide. 'It was pretty awkward,' Strub recalled. An angry Favreau shot back: 'Well, how about they’d walk over hot coals?' Strub immediately approved the new line. '[Favreau] was so surprised it was that easy,' he said."

At the end of the day, neither version of the line made it into the final cut of the film.

The Divide Between the US Military and Marvel Studios

With the solution being as easy as it was, some fans are probably scratching their heads trying to figure out why a simple change was so frustrating for director Jon Favreau.

In the end, it could have come from a build-up of previous disagreements—one can only imagine how picky the US Military might be to keep their image positive in the movies they work on.

Things didn't always work out between the two parties, though. The US Military and Marvel Studios famously didn't work together for 2012's The Avengers.

The military had issues with their organization's relationship with the fictional SHIELD in the film, something Marvel Studios didn't want to change. While they didn't work together on the big crossover event, the military did offer up some professional Humvees for use in the movie's final action scenes in NYC.

The next time the two parties worked closely together was for 2019's Captain Marvel, starring Brie Larson.

MCU: The Reign of Marvel Studios is now available to buy wherever books are sold.

- About The Author: Russ Milheim
Russ Milheim is the Industry Relations Coordinator at The Direct. On top of utilizing his expertise on the many corners of today’s entertainment to cover the latest news and theories, he establishes and maintains communication and relations between the outlet and the many studio and talent representatives.