In celebration of Iron Man‘s 10th year anniversary, new details emerge regarding the movie, including the reveal that Robert Downey Jr. improvised his “I am Iron Man” line. As the culmination of MCU’s 22-film story nears in next year’s Avengers 4, fans are looking forward to what the future holds for the successful franchise, but it’s also the perfect time to look back at how the film series came to be.
It’s not a secret that director Jon Favreau and the rest of the cast made Iron Man as they went, with no complete script but only an outline of the movie’s narrative. Jeff Bridges, who played the movie’s main antagonist, Obadiah Stane, recently shared that he wasn’t overly fond of the process as he’s more of a “stick-to-the-script” kind of guy. In the end, things worked out as Tony Stark’s origin movie launched the now $17-billion franchise, and arguably remains the gold standard in terms of character study in the film series. And apparently, one of the most important lines in the MCU was also the result of RDJ’s penchant for changing things up from what’s written in the script.
Thanks to a newly published report from Deadline to commemorate the first Iron Man‘s release 10 years ago, it’s revealed that RDJ actually improvised his iconic “I am Iron Man”line at the end of the film. MCU fans will remember the moment as it perfectly caps off the movie, solidifying Stark’s rock star image. Ironically, the scene also saw the genius billionaire not following what was written on the statement prepared by S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Phil Coulson. The quote became so memorable that he would again deliver it at the end of Shane Black’s Iron Man 3.
While RDJ has long been known for his improvising skills, it’s surprising that something as pivotal as this was actually ad-libbed. Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige, in retrospect, recently told the media outlet that the positive response that they got from the moment despite significantly deviating from what’s in print gave them the confidence to take the creative liberty to change things up when adapting comic book narratives.
“That success inspired us to go further in the trusting ourselves to find balance of staying true to the comics and the spirit of the comics but not being afraid to adapt and evolve and to change things. It’s a fine line. If you’re changing something for no reason, that’s one thing, but if you’re changing something because you want to double-down on the spirit of who the character is? That’s a change we’ll make. Tony Stark not reading off the card and not sticking with the fixed story? Him just blurting out ‘I am Iron Man?’ That seems very much in keeping with who that character is. It just hadn’t been done in the comics before, but it was something very much in keeping with the comics character and what he could have done. I think it did inspire us on all the movies. What I love now — 20 movies in — is how fans expect the MCU to change and adapt. They expect us to be inspired by the comics as opposed to being slavishly devoted to them.”
So far, the plan is working for the MCU. Secret identities aren’t that big of a deal in the franchise as compared to other superhero-centered media. Their storytelling would’ve been limited given that whatever the narrative is, it always rounds back to the struggle of concealing their real persona to the public. Except for Spider-Man/Peter Parker (which is understandable given that the struggle to balance his life as a normal citizen and crime-fighting hero is such an essential part of his story), most heroes in the franchise don’t have any unknown alter-egos, which allows the franchise to explore both their personal and public lives. This makes the characters grounded and relatable: Tony deals with severe anxiety and neither his money nor his wits can fully help him; Thor is a prince who has lost almost everything; Steve Rogers is almost immortal but he will have to live a life with regret knowing he will never be able to dance with his “best girl.”