Avengers: Endgame is a movie almost entirely about providing a sense of payoff—to varying degrees of success — to 11 years of Marvel moviemaking. But one of its most powerful payoffs to the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe wasn’t actually in the film from the start. In fact, it didn’t even come from the Russo brothers or the screenwriters.
Tony Stark’s final blaze of glory concludes with him taking up the Avengers’ jerry-rigged Infinity Gauntlet to offer a counterpoint to Thanos’ onslaught.
“I am inevitable,” the Mad Titan triumphantly boasts to the weakened, buckling human. “And I...am Iron Man,” Tony responds, snapping his fingers to undo the havoc Thanos had wreaked five years prior.
It’s perhaps the perfect response—it’s so brilliantly, egotistically Stark-ian, while also a powerful moment of sacrifice. And that’s even before you get to the fact that it’s an excellent callback to the final moments of the original Iron Man, which turned 11 just days after Endgame hit theatres. It’s kismet.
Can you believe it wasn’t originally in the movie?
Speaking to ReelBlend’s Kevin McCarthy, Joe and Anthony Russo revealed that their original cut of the film only included Thanos’ boast — Tony just replied by snapping his fingers. The Russos didn’t like it, and then Endgame editor Jeffrey Ford dropped the perfect idea in their laps:
Anthony Russo: Originally when he snapped, he didn’t say, ‘I am Iron Man.’ The idea came up while we were in post production. Our editor, Jeff Ford…
Joe Russo: We were sitting on our editorial, and we were reworking that sequence, and Thanos says ‘I am inevitable.’ And we were like, ‘We need a response to that. What is the response to that?’ And our editor said, ‘What about I am Iron Man?’ And we were like, ‘That’s it!’
Anthony Russo: We must shoot that, we have to shoot that!
— Kevin McCarthy (@KevinMcCarthyTV) May 6, 2019
The moment ultimately became the very last thing the directors would shoot for Avengers: Endgame when the film went to pickups — but once again, it almost didn’t happen. This time not because no one had had the idea yet, but because, as Joe Russo continued, Robert Downey Jr. himself had hangups about returning to the emotion of the moment to deliver the line:
It’s an interesting story. I had dinner with [Robert Downey Jr.] like two weeks before we were supposed to shoot it. And he was like, ‘I don’t know. I don’t really want to go back and get into that emotional state. It’ll take… it’s hard.’ And crazily enough, Joel Silver, the producer, was at the dinner. He’s an old buddy of Robert’s. And Joel jumps in and he’s like, ‘Robert, what are you talking about? That’s the greatest line I’ve ever heard! You gotta say this line! You have to do this!’ So thank God that Joel Silver was at dinner, because he helped us talk Robert into doing that line.
So thanks, Jeffrey Ford and Joel Silver — because without them, Tony Stark’s final act might not have been quite so good as it was. What seemed like destiny came down to a little bit of chance.