It’s one of 2019’s most iconic movie moments. In the epic finale of Avengers: Endgame, Thanos tells Iron Man “I am inevitable.” And in response, Tony Stark looks back at him and says “I am Iron Man,” after which he snaps his fingers with the Infinity Gauntlet and wipes the big bad from existence, bringing an end to the Infinity Saga in the process.
As we now know, however, Robert Downey Jr. wasn’t into the idea of shooting the scene at first. In fact, it was only during reshoots that it was added in as the actor was hesitant to go to such an emotionally-devastating place again to film it. Thankfully, though, the production team convinced him that it was the right move and in the end, we got an incredible scene that’ll forever be talked about amongst moviegoers.
But as it turns out, “I am Iron Man” was only one line that the writers came up with for the sequence and there were a few different versions of the ending that the filmmakers toyed with before settling on what we eventually got. Speaking with Collider recently, editor Jeff Ford revealed the following:
“When we were putting together the end of the movie, when we shot Tony’s last moment in the first round, we shot a bunch of different options. Robert had different ideas…We give him space to do that. Joe and Anthony are great about improv. We shot a run of different performances for that last moment. Some of them were crazy. Some of them we would never have used,” says Ford.
Some of them were jokes. Some of them were obscenities. Some of them were completely emotional, raw, insane things that he was doing. And then some of them were combinations of all three of those things. What we found as we were cutting the scene wasn’t so much that we needed a special last line for Robert, but that we needed a moment between Thanos and Tony.
A moment that wasn’t some kind of transaction, but literally ‘this is how I want it to be’ and ‘this is how it is.’ That would give the audience that moment. The exchange where Thanos says ‘I am inevitable’ and Tony says ‘I am Iron Man’, that couplet is what makes that work. When we found Thanos’ line, it led us to Tony’s line. We found Thanos’ line as part of a structure in the script, he says that line three times in the movie. At the beginning, before his head is chopped off, in the middle he hears himself say it again, and then at the end. That symmetry is also why it’s interesting, that was a discovery while we were editing.”
Continuing on, Ford explained why they eventually went with the version they did, saying that it ultimately came down to “thematic coherence.”
“In that version, Thanos didn’t say anything either. He had the gauntlet. He looked at him like, ‘I got you.’ Snapped. Looked. Couldn’t believe it. Turned to Tony. Tony raised his hand and snapped. It was beautiful. It worked really, really well. But what we found, though, was Thanos needed an arc in Endgame. That arc was his sense of inevitability.
The story we’d been telling was that Thanos’ pitch in that movie is ‘no matter how many times you try and stop me, you can travel in time, you can do all these things, you’re never going to win.’ It’s a sense of destiny, of ‘I will always be the one who wins.’ They’re trying to undo destiny. They’re going against what happened. For the movie to have thematic coherence, the end of the movie needed to be Thanos saying, ‘I told you. You cannot win,’ and for Tony to say, ‘But we can’.
That’s certainly some interesting insight, and while we’re sure some of the other ideas would’ve been effective and interesting to see, we’re happy that the Russos and co. went with the version they did. As mentioned above, it’s one of the year’s most memorable movie moments and instantly cemented Avengers: Endgame as an incredibly satisfying conclusion to this most epic of cinematic sagas.