The Russo Brothers received a call from John Favreau during the production of Avengers: Endgame, pleading with them to not kill off Iron Man.
The MCU began with Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark standing like a god in the shockwave of a missile, forging a scrappy, deadly suit of armor in an Afghan cave, and eventually declaring to the world: “I am Iron Man.”
The Infinity Saga, through 22 movies, effectively ended with the same words. As Thanos looked on in fear, Stark wielded the stones, snapped his fingers, and said: “I am Iron Man.”
Avengers: Endgame was the biggest pop culture event of all time, and Iron Man’s death was a necessary, no-less painful gut punch. However, Favreau wasn’t quite ready to let go of the character.
Jon Favreau phoned the Russo Brothers to convince them not to kill Iron Man
Around the release of The Gray Man, the Russo Brothers broke down several scenes from their movies for a Vanity Fair video. They spoke about the airport fight in Captain America: Civil War, the Wakandan charge in Avengers: Infinity War, and notably, Iron Man’s death in Endgame.
Joe Russo: “I don’t know if we’ve told this story in its entirety,” while Anthony added: “And certainly not while watching the scene.”
Joe continued: “This is probably the most pressure we’ve ever had in trying to come up with a line with [Christopher] Markus and [Stephen] McFeely in any of these movies. You do not want to f**k up Tony Stark’s last line.”
Anthony revealed: “Part of the pressure came from Jon Favreau, who called us up after he read the script and said to us, ‘Are you guys really gonna kill Iron Man?'”
Jon Favreau worried Russo Brothers’ Avengers: Endgame ending would “devastate people”
Joe said: “I remember pacing on the corner of a stage on the film with Favreau, trying to talk him off a ledge, because he was like, ‘You can’t do this. It’s gonna devastate people, and you don’t want them walking out of the theatre and into traffic.’ We did it anyway.”
Anthony added: “To Jon’s credit, he hadn’t stepped through the process in the way that we had, so we would have had the same reaction.”
Joe said: “We felt like we had earned the arc that would feel redemptive, and emotional, and uplifting, and hopeful, even though he had sacrificed his life.”
The unlikely source of Iron Man’s final line in Avengers: Endgame
Downey asked to improvise in his final scene, and they “tried some alternate versions of it. They were more in the snarky Tony Stark vein. He wasn’t playing it with enough pain of the power of the stones surging through his body,” Joe recalled.
The directors ended up settling on an edit where he said nothing at all. However, the film’s editor Jeff Ford, who’d been working in the MCU since the first Iron Man, watched Thanos saying, “I am inevitable” and muttered to himself: “I am Iron Man.”
It was the lightbulb moment the Russos needed, and they called Downey to tell him to get back in the suit for one more scene. They ended up filming it across the stage where he originally auditioned for Iron Man, “to make it more emotionally devastating” for him, the directors joked.
Avengers: Endgame is currently available to stream on Disney+