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The Real Reason Iron Man Had No Dying Words In Endgame

The death of Iron Man in Avengers: Endgame was as heartbreaking as a superhero death can be, and actor Robert Downey Jr. was the mastermind behind one of the most wrenching aspects of Tony Stark's passing. 

As fans can still replay in their minds, Tony Stark sacrificed himself during the final battle against Thanos (Josh Brolin) at the end of Avengers: Endgame. After retrieving the Infinity Stones just as everyone thought the Mad Titan had them in his possession, Tony looked Thanos square in his big purple face, declared "I am Iron Man," and snapped his fingers. Thanos, his army of Chitauri, his Black Order sycophants, and his fleet of spaceships all crumbled away to space dust, marking a big win for Earth's Mightiest Heroes. It came at a cost, of course, in the form of Tony Stark's life. In the last few seconds before he died, slipping away due to the damage he suffered from using the Infinity Stones, all Tony could manage was a faint "Hey, Pep" when Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) came to say goodbye. Devastating for sure, but not quite the enduring final words we'd expect from the Iron Man. 

So, why didn't Iron Man have any official dying words in Avengers: Endgame

According to screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, it was Downey Jr.'s idea to not complicate Iron Man's death with any final lines after "I am Iron Man," in order to make the moment that much more impactful. They explained during San Diego Comic-Con 2019 (via ComicBook.com) that a previous draft of the Endgame script saw Tony chattering away — as is characteristic for the confident, charismatic hero — but Downey Jr. didn't think it felt right. 

"These actors have spent a lot of time with these characters. So Chris and I are very happy [to], and did, write all sorts of lovely dying words for Tony Stark. Robert is not happy to say them, right? Robert wants to — and knew this instinctively — [that Tony is] a guy who has talked and talked and talked for many, many movies. When he doesn't talk, you are crushed," said McFeely. "And he knew that, and we didn't feel we could turn in a page where he didn't talk."

Ultimately, Downey Jr. told McFeely and Markus that he wanted to "do much, much less" with Iron Man's death, which McFeely admitted was the absolute right call in the end.

Tony Stark's passing in Avengers: Endgame went through multiple rewrites, one of which was drastically different than even the version where the hero was talkative as he's slouched over and knocking on death's door. One draft of the script that actually made it to shooting saw Thanos spit at Iron Man, "I am inevitable," and the Armored Avenger snap his fingers without saying a word. Endgame directors Joe and Anthony Russo shot that version of the scene, which was in tact all the way until the editing phase of production, before editor Jeff Ford suggested that Tony say "I am Iron Man." Downey Jr. was originally opposed to delivering any kind of line at that moment — even one that calls back to the jaw-dropping confession in 2008's Iron Man when Tony Stark reveals his superhero identity – and it took some convincing for the actor to come back for reshoots. Thankfully, Endgame producer Joel Silver, who is an old friend of Downey Jr.'s, was present at the dinner where the Russos pitched the new idea and was able to get Downey Jr. on board. 

Clearly, the Iron Man death scene in Avengers: Endgame required a lot of reworking to get just right. At first, there wasn't enough additional emotional heft to elevate the moment; then, there was too much fluff that muddled the sentiment. 

"This is why this is all a dance and why film is the most collaborative art form there is," McFeely said of the multiple rounds of revision. "A lot of the times we're in the room with [directors Joe and Anthony Russo] and [executive producer] Trinh Tran and [producer] Kevin Feige and we're all sort of trying to noodle this together."

Tony Stark may have been a hero who "lived and died by quips," as Avengers: Endgame director Joe Russo once said, but it's hard to imagine his death going any other way than it did. The scene wound up striking the perfect balance between a powerful full-circle moment with the "I am Iron Man" line, and a minimalistic approach that offered a crushing contrast to Tony's chatty nature. And it's largely thanks to Downey Jr.