Marvel Studios Was Prepared For Iron Man To Fail

14 years since he debuted as Tony Stark, Robert Downey Jr. reveals how Marvel Studios was prepared for the first Iron Man movie to fail.

Robert Downey Jr. recalls how Marvel Studios prepared for Iron Man to fail, saying that the company was willing to write off the project. Directed by Jon Favreau, the production of Iron Man has become a legendary story in Hollywood. The movie was filmed with an unfinished script, with the cast and Favreau using improvisation as principal photography went on. Marvel using its remaining character rights to fund the project makes its history so much more interesting because had it failed, not only would the Marvel Cinematic Universe not exist, but it would have effectively lost the company the rest of its catalog.

Luckily, Kevin Feige and Marvel Studios’ big gamble paid off when Iron Man became the sleeper hit of 2008 and laid the foundation for the MCU, with Downey Jr.’s brilliant portrayal of Tony Stark playing a significant part in its success. As he promotes his acclaimed documentary “Sr.”, Downey Jr. took part in a Q&A with the Directors Guild of America. As shared by Chris Gardner, Downey Jr. said Marvel Studios was ready for Iron Man to fail. Read Downey Jr.’s full quote below:

Well, I mean first of all because not too many people were thinking that Iron Man was even going to have an opening weekend or do much of anything, so we were a little bit left alone. I find out more every day about how that thing was financed, it was basically ready to be written off if it tanked.

And so anyway it was the perfect thing where there were not a lot of creatively aggressive eyes on us. And by the time they gave it to us, it was like united artists, like the lunatics took over the asylum.

And I remember Jeff Bridges too, he was like, ‘man, we’re doing a $200 million independent movie, man.’ And there was just that sense that, of course, it was much more organized.

Why Iron Man Is Still One Of The Best MCU Films

The whole Infinity Saga and Marvel Studios’ Phase 4 later, Iron Man remains one of the best stories that the MCU has come up with. Granted, the film has some outdated elements including the reference to MySpace, not to mention the overtly sexist comments that Stark makes, but for the most part, its narrative has held up pretty well. It remains compelling and continues to be Marvel Studios’ gold standard for origin stories. Iron Man has a pretty straightforward arc, but mix it with snappy dialog, great performances, and amazing visual effects, and the result is an instant classic. The fact that it paved the way for the whole MCU, which continues to thrive, proves how good it really is.

It also helps that Stark’s subsequent arc following Iron Man built on what was established in his original film. Avengers: Endgame perfectly wrapped Iron Man’s arc. As tragic as it was seeing him sacrifice himself to defeat Thanos and leave his family behind, it completes his character development from the self-centered, war-profiteer in Iron Man to the MCU’s biggest hero. So, while Downey’s trilogy of films has long ended with 2013’s Iron Man 3, Marvel Studios smartly continued developing the hero’s arc via other movies. Even in ensemble projects, Stark’s character still progressed, with most of his experiences directly or indirectly tied to the events of Iron Man.

It’s difficult to imagine Iron Man failing considering how beloved it has become. But considering its production circumstances, it’s understandable that Marvel Studios was prepared for the worst. In fact, it was almost imperative that the company had a contingency plan given how big of a risk it took to make the film. Luckily, it was well-received, with Iron Man even being inducted into the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry.


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