Without Robert Downey Jr., it’s almost impossible to imagine the Marvel Cinematic Universe reaching the same level of success as it achieved in its prime. Arguably, the loss of Downey Jr. after Tony Stark’s death in Endgame can partly explain the downturn in the franchise’s fortunes. It’s this enormous influence and his popularity in the role that allowed the Iron Man star to make a demand on set, which left his co-stars uncomfortably cold.
Journalist Joanna Robinson, alongside her co-authors Dave Gonzales and Gavin Edwards, has chronicled the story of the MCU from its inception to the modern day as it’s transitioned from making the best superhero movies around to struggling to find direction. Everything’s contained in their recently released book MCU: The Reign of Marvel Studios, and while promoting it, Robinson spoke to The Watch podcast and revealed that Downey Jr. keeps the temperature on set “ice cold,” forcing everyone else to “layer up.”
Asked about the ‘vibe’ on a Marvel set, which she visited in 2017 during the making of Endgame, Robinson said, “The vibe is interesting… it’s ice cold in the studio because that’s how Robert Downey Jr. likes it. So everyone else had to layer up because Robert Downey Jr. likes things at a certain degree.”
Sharing more of her observations from her experience, she continued, “Between takes everyone hangs out in one spot. So you can just see Scarlett Johansson, Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, [Jeremy] Renner are all sort of sitting around, playing games, and talking to each other.” Meanwhile, the Iron Man cast‘s leading man is “off in his own world,” and he even “has his own trailer inside the studio.”
As possibly the single most important person to the overall success of the mega-franchise (Stan Lee and Kevin Feige aside), it’s totally understandable that the conditions during filming are adjusted to Downey Jr.’s tastes. His overall significance is proven by the fact that, for Endgame, Downey Jr. was the highest-paid actor, earning both an upfront salary and a percentage of the overall box office figure, leading to a total payday of $75 million, according to a report by Forbes.
But put the money and everything else to one side for a second: try and imagine another actor as Captain America, or Hulk, or Black Widow, or Spider-Man, or Ant-Man. It’s not easy, per se, but it’s doable (especially in the case of Webslinger because there have been three of them in recent memory). What’s semi-impossible is attempting to picture any other actor in the role of Tony Stark pulling it off quite as perfectly as Downey Jr., who nailed the best Marvel character‘s combination of genius, arrogance, frustration, and charisma.
If you’re rewatching the Marvel movies in order, any film that has Iron Man show up is automatically a highlight, and he’s nearly always the greatest aspect of even the best movies in the series. He was absolutely integral to Marvel: if he wants things cold, that’s fine.
The upcoming Marvel movies are still trying to find a new character to replace Iron Man’s presence, with the vague sense that either Benedict Cumberbatch’s Doctor Strange or Paul Rudd’s Ant-Man could eventually fill the shoes. But, even their time seems to be drawing to a close, leaving the multiversal future of the franchise’s new movies feeling as uncertain as it’s ever been.
For more Marvel magic, check out our guide to The Marvels and see how it fits into Phase 5. Or, learn about the latest update to Deadpool 3 and see why Feige’s considering a mega-reboot with Secret Wars.