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How Robert Downey, Jr. Felt About Tony Stark's Endgame Story

The MCU's biggest star had just as many feels as the rest of us over where his character ended up.

Avengers: Endgame directors Joe and Anthony Russo related in an interview that Robert Downey, Jr. was ultimately at peace with the fate of Tony Stark, the character who launched the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe — not that it was an easy sell. (via The Hollywood Reporter) Please be aware, if that sentence didn't already clue you in, that massive spoilers for Avengers: Endgame follow.

In the film's epic conclusion, Stark — having faked out Thanos and acquired all six Infinity Stones, mounted in an armored gauntlet — reminded the Mad Titan exactly who he was dealing with, repeating his iconic line from the end of the very first MCU entry: "I... am Iron Man!" He then snapped his fingers, dusting Thanos and his entire invading army and mortally injuring himself in the process. It was a dramatic, poignant, and utterly badass final moment for a character who has appeared in no fewer than ten Marvel films over the last eleven years, becoming the face of the franchise and launching Downey to rarely-achieved levels of international stardom.

According to the Russos, Stark's noble sacrifice was pretty much the only moment in Endgame that they felt compelled to run by the actor involved in the scene. "We did pitch Robert his arc, because he kicked off the entire MCU," said Anthony Russo. "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 went over to meet with him and we pitched it out to him."

Staring down Robert Downey, Jr. and informing him that you intend to kill off the character that has made him ridiculously wealthy and a worldwide icon sounds pretty intimidating, and Russo implied that while Downey didn't put up a fight, he wasn't exactly doing cartwheels, either. "A lot of the actors are not opinionated about what we do," he said. "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 [the plan for Stark in Endgame], but I think at the end of the day, he totally accepted it."

We should hope so; after all, it's not like Downey could play Iron Man forever, and as far as onscreen deaths go, his was about as awesome as it gets. But Downey is famously an actor who feels a great deal of ownership in the characters he portrays, none more so than Stark. Fortunately for him, the Russo brothers don't necessarily expect their actors to unquestioningly follow their lead in terms of character arcs; they understand that sometimes, the opposite has to happen. "Joe and I are really performer-oriented. We love actors," Anthony Russo explained. "And a large part of our process is figuring out how we bring actors most alive in their roles and how we give them autonomy and freedom to sort of play and go to very interesting places... Downey is the most wonderful collaborator. He's a really brilliant filmmaker in his own right, and he brings a tremendous amount of energy to the process. The way we direct him is by having very engaged and thorough creative discussions about what our vision for the movie is, about what we want to do with the character. He's very helpful in terms of helping fill those ideas out."

Obviously, Downey is just as prone to fits of ego as any world-famous Hollywood actor, but he's come a long way since his early days in the MCU in terms of understanding what the franchise is, and how all the moving parts fit together. By way of example, in an Entertainment Weekly interview shortly after the release of Joss Whedon's unprecedented 2012 team-up The Avengers, Downey said that at first, he pushed for Tony Stark to be the main character, not initially seeing the endeavor as the ensemble piece that Whedon had in mind. Whedon even temporarily indulged him, but Downey was the first to admit that when they attempted to beef up Stark's onscreen presence in the film, it didn't work.

As difficult as it must have been for him to hear the Russos' plans for bringing Stark's massive story arc to a close, Downey ultimately trusted his directors to make the right choice for the character — and it paid off. Iron Man's final stand in Endgame is destined to be remembered as one of the most triumphant in all of mainstream cinema, and if Downey had pushed back hard on the Russos' pitch, it's tough to imagine what alternative they might have offered — especially considering that it had been quite some time in the making. Said Joe Russo, "We've been working on [Tony Stark's] arc for this movie since Civil War. We've been setting Downey up for this particular performance for two films now."

Well done, sirs... well done.