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Iron Man alternate post-credits scene revealed 11 years later

The Marvel Cinematic Universe's first post-credits scene almost looked into the franchise's future… way into the future.

At the Saturn Awards, Marvel Studios head honcho Kevin Feige appeared in a brief video clip to share an alternate version of Iron Man's famous stinger with the crowd. It's probably for the best that they went with a simplified take, because if they had used the alternate, Marvel fans' heads would have exploded.

The clip is part of an apparent treasure drove of deleted scenes from the MCU that will be made available on the Infinity Saga box set, and it features a very different version of the speech Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) gives to Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) after surprising the billionaire at his home.

Just in case you have a faulty memory or a pop culture allergy, allow us to briefly break down the post-credits scene of Iron Man, which a) caught audiences completely by surprise, b) introduced them to Jackson's Nick Fury, and c) clued them in that, yes, these movies were all going to be connected. In it, Stark returns to Stark Tower after the press conference at which he announced his heroic identity to the world. It's unusually dark, and his A.I., Jarvis, appears to be experiencing technical difficulties. Stark looks suspiciously around the area — and that's when he spots a shadowy figure in the corner of the room.

"'I am Iron Man.' You think you're the only superhero in the world?" the man says. "Mr. Stark, you've become part of a bigger universe — you just don't know it yet."

"Who the hell are you?" Stark demands, and the figure steps into the light. "Nick Fury," he says, "Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. I'm here to talk to you about the Avenger Initiative." Cut to black.

Marvel comics die-hards went absolutely bananas over the reveal of Jackson as Fury and the teased possibility of an Avengers movie — but the alternate version that Feige screened for fans at the Saturn Awards would have had them freaking out exponentially harder. It also would have presented some interesting questions for Marvel Studios moving forward, which we'll get to in a moment.

The video clip was posted to the DiscussingFilm Twitter account, and it opens with a few remarks by Feige. "We have a vault," he said, "and we pulled some things out of that vault that we said, 'We'll never show this to anybody, put it away.' We're bringing 'em out, we're putting them on [the Infinity Saga box set]. And I'm about to show you a deleted scene that has never been seen by anyone before, right now."

We then see Jackson, shot from behind and lit in shadow, just as in the post-credits sequence we got. After a crew member with a clapper board gets out of the way and somebody (presumably director Jon Favreau) calls "Action!", the actor launches into his speech.

"As if gamma accidents, radioactive bug bites, and assorted mutants weren't enough, I have to deal with a spoiled brat who doesn't play well with others, and who wants to keep all of his toys to himself," he says. We then hear Downey off screen, delivering his line, "Who the hell are you?" Jackson has the exact same response as in the final version of the scene, but this is followed by one more brief exchange: "Well, what are we avenging?" Downey asks, to which Jackson replies, "Whatever the hell we want."

First things first: the comments about Stark not playing well with others and hoarding his "toys" seem like they would have been jumping the narrative gun, so it's easy to see why they were cut. Such remarks being leveled at Stark during the events of Iron Man 2, when he was being actively pressured to share his technology with the U.S. Government, would have been a lot more appropriate — in the context of the first film, they just don't make a lot of sense.

Second things second: wow, how that first part would have opened up a huge can of worms. The first part is an obvious reference to The Incredible Hulk, which hit theaters mere months after Iron Man and made the interconnectivity of the MCU even more explicit with a brief cameo by Downey as Stark. But the implication of the existence of Spider-Man and the X-Men — in the MCU's very first film, no less — would have blown fans out of their theater seats, and quite possibly created some serious problems for Marvel Studios.

Remember, at that time, the film rights to the X-Men — along with a huge number of other characters, including the Fantastic Four, Silver Surfer, and Galactus — were owned by Fox Studios, who had been busily cranking out successful films based on these properties for the past eight years. The rights to Spider-Man were held by Sony Pictures, which had fielded an immensely successful film trilogy based on the wall-crawler, and was a few years away from rebooting the property.

Of course, the last few years have made the alternate version of the scene appear downright prophetic. Following the striking of a shared custody deal between Sony and Marvel, Spider-Man — wonderfully portrayed by British actor Tom Holland — has enjoyed a three-year, five-picture run in the MCU. Negotiations to re-up that deal have recently hit an impasse, making the cinematic future of the character a bit unclear — but in 2008, the idea that Spidey could ever appear in a film from scrappy upstart Marvel Studios was downright laughable.

Likewise, the formerly Fox-owned properties are now free and clear for use in the MCU, but it took two seismic developments for that to happen: Marvel Studios and Fox Studios were both purchased by the same parent company, the increasingly monolithic Disney. In 2009, the House of Mouse purchased Marvel Studios for just over $4 billion dollars, which turned out to be a pretty sweet deal for a production house that would eventually turn the MCU into the highest-grossing film franchise in history by about six miles. 

Then, earlier this year, Disney acquired the film and television assets of Fox for an eye-watering $71.3 billion dollars. While one of the primary purposes of the acquisition was to secure Fox's incredibly deep television library to bolster its upcoming streaming service Disney+, it goes without saying that bringing all of those legacy characters home to Marvel was some pretty fantastic icing slathered liberally on that cake.

But again, in 2008, there would have been no reason to think that the X-Men and Avengers could ever play in the same cinematic sandbox. It actually seems pretty likely that if this version of the post-credits scene had been included in the final cut of Iron Man, the overt references to characters Marvel Studios did not own might have sparked multiple lawsuits, which somebody involved with the production must have realized at some point.

At any rate, it's fascinating to see what might have been — and even more so to think what else Feige and company will be dragging out of their vault to share with us for the Infinity Saga's box set release. It has yet to be announced when the collection will hit store shelves, but you'd better believe we'll be all over it when it does — and we'll be here to give you the lowdown on all of its scintillating extras.