Robert Downey Jr. revived his career by portraying Tony Stark in the MCU. When he first took on the role, he wasn’t even the highest-paid actor in Iron Man. Now, he ends his run with Marvel as the most recognizable star in the franchise and in both Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame, no actor had more screen time than he did.
The 54-year-old’s unexpected ascent to the top of Hollywood is due to, among other things, his extreme talent as well as the creative approach that brought out the best out in him each and every day on set. In fact, according to director Joe Russo, RDJ has a pretty special process and never says the same line of dialogue more than once.
“Downey will never say the same line twice. He’s got a really unique process where he has an earwig in and he has an assistant who has been working with him for years. And what we’ll do is like a Sunday before we shoot his scenes for the week. We’ll get in a room with him and the writers and pitch out alternate lines because he wants to keep it alive every take. So then he’ll do a take scripted and then his assistant will feed him the alts, he’ll do the scene again with the alts, his assistant will feed him the next round of alts, we’ll the scene again with another round of alts… And what’s great is that after four takes, we can look at everything he’s done and we can pick and choose and rebuild it, and then he’ll do it one more time with everything that seemed to work the best. That’s a very different process than, say, Scarlett’s process. It’s exciting to work with such a range of talent.”
This is above and beyond what most performers do to master a scene. Many actors just stick to the script they’re given and try to do what they can with it. Downey Jr. is in a class of his own though when it comes to preparation and perfecting the part. This ambitious attitude, as well as the Russo brothers’ willingness to let his creativity thrive, undoubtedly contributed to his legendary performances as Tony Stark.
It’s unknown if RDJ was always this way though or if his new perspective on acting came after his career was derailed. After all, back when he first starred as Iron Man in 2008, the Academy Award nominee was struggling with substance abuse and was having trouble landing big roles.
Director Jon Favreau took a chance by casting him as the lead in the MCU’s first installment though and clearly, it paid off. The actor took his part extremely seriously and has since redefined his legacy by staying clean and fronting one of the most prominent cinematic franchises of all-time. It’s been a tough road back for RDJ, but he’s definitely proven to Favreau, the Russo brothers, his co-stars and the countless fans out there who love Marvel that he’s one of the greatest to ever do it.