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The origins of Endgame's 'I love you 3,000' line finally revealed

Contains spoilers for Avengers: Endgame

Listing all the ways Avengers: Endgame made us emotional is like trying to give up chocolate: we could do it, but it's probably going to make us cry. Instead, we'll focus on just one aspect of the superhero ensemble that packed a heart-rending punch: the line little Morgan Stark (Lexi Rabe) told her father, Tony (Robert Downey Jr.), early on in the film, and the same one he repeated back to her at the end — "I love you 3,000." 

Reportedly, Avengers: Endgame directors Joe and Anthony Russo sat down with Watching Hollywood and explained the origins of the adorable and impactful line. Translated to English by the folks at ComicBook.com, the interview piece details that the "I love you 3,000" line came about after Tony Stark actor Robert Downey Jr. told the Russo brothers that one of his three children told him they loved him that much. 

Apparently, the directors found the story so sweet that they couldn't resist incorporating the line into Endgame twice — once from Morgan after Tony tells her he loves her "tons" when he's tucking her into bed, and again during Tony's funeral, when he tells Morgan and Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) he loves them 3,000 via a hologram message he recorded the day before the Avengers' time heist mission. 

Since this explanation is said to have come straight from the horses' mouths, it effectively shuts down all other speculation fans stirred up around the "I love you 3,000" line. Some theorized that the phrase Morgan told her father may have been a clever rejoinder to him mentioning "tons" when he told her how much he loved her. One U.S. ton equals 2,000 pounds — and 3,000 is a good chunk more than that figure. 

Another idea Marvelites had was that the "3,000" of the phrase is actually a nod to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, as 3,000 is the combined number of minutes every already-released movie and the yet-to-launch Spider-Man: Far From Home run for. Figures from IMDb pin the MCU thus far — from Iron Man to Avengers: Endgame — as running for a total of 2,867 minutes. Assuming that Spider-Man: Far From Home will match the 133-minute runtime of its predecessor Spider-Man: Homecoming, and that brings the number up to 3,000. Marvel hasn't confirmed Far From Home's runtime as of this writing, so the theory is much thinner than the previous one, though it's just as cute. 

"I love you 3,000" was one of two unforgettable lines Tony Stark gave in Avengers: Endgame. The other came at the very apex of all the action, right when the fate of the world was about to be sealed. After Tony expertly retrieves the Infinity Stones from Thanos (Josh Brolin) and locks them into his own suit, the purple-faced Mad Titan, not knowing that his now-Stone-less Infinity Gauntlet is kaput, says, "I am inevitable." Thanos snaps his fingers, then looks gobsmacked to see Tony wielding the Infinity Stones. Just as Thanos snarling that he is inevitable mirrors what he told the surviving Avengers at the start of Endgame, what Tony tells Thanos as he's about to snaps his fingers calls back to what he said at the end of Iron Man from 2008: "And I am Iron Man." 

While "I love you 3,000" was apparently thought out in advance, "And I am Iron Man" was a (forgive the pun here) snap decision. The Russo brothers admitted during a Q&A session for Avengers: Endgame (via Complex) that Tony's powerful moment in the film wasn't included in the script — and didn't even make it into the movie until the filmmakers were editing. 

"Tony used to not say anything in that moment. And we were in the editing room going, 'He has to say something,'" they explained. "This a character who has lived and died by quips.' And we just couldn't, we tried a million different last lines. Thanos was saying, 'I am inevitable.' And our editor Jeff Ford, who's been with us all four movies and is an amazing storyteller, said, 'Why don't we just go full circle with it and say I am Iron Man?' And we're like, 'Get the cameras! We have to shoot this tomorrow.'"

Tony Stark began the MCU as we know it with Iron Man, and he ended the franchise's 11-year saga with Avengers: Endgame, his character arc coming to an emotional close when he bravely sacrificed his life to ensure the safety of the entire universe. It's only right that he was the messenger of some of the hardest-hitting lines in the film, and the hero who likely made audiences openly weep in their theater seats. Though he's gone for good, it's clear that fans will always love him... 3,000.