It’s almost impossible to imagine now given the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s standing as the biggest and most popular brand in Hollywood, not to mention the most commercially successful franchise in the history of cinema that’s expanded onto television, but Iron Man was a huge gamble back in the summer of 2008, one that was by no means a guaranteed success.
The title hero himself was viewed as something of a B-lister in the eyes of the general public who didn’t come burdened with the same sort of name value as Batman, Spider-Man or Superman, while director Jon Favreau was coming off the back of box office bomb Zathura, and didn’t have much experience working on huge effects-driven productions packed full of action sequences.
Favreau had to fight hard to have Robert Downey Jr. cast as Tony Stark, with the actor at the very beginning of his comeback having spent years grabbing the headlines for all the wrong reasons, to the extent that just a few years previously nobody would hire him after his substance abuse issues saw him fired from Ally McBeal, get arrested multiple times and spend several stints in rehab.
However, longtime MCU fan favorite Clark Gregg admitted in a new interview that he was confident Iron Man would be a hit if the leading man turned up to the set as the best possible version of himself with his personal problems in the rear view mirror, which he most certainly did.
“From the minute I saw that Jon Favreau was directing this movie of Iron Man with Robert Downey as that character with Gwenyth Paltrow and Jeff Bridges, I knew that if Robert was able to show up and, you know, become the talent that we’ve all hoped he would be able to be, you know, with the addiction issues, that it would be one of the greatest versions, the best possible version that could have ever been. And he really, really nailed it.”
There was a lot riding on Iron Man at the time as a $140 million comic book blockbuster from unproven producer Kevin Feige that marked Marvel Studios’ first self-funded feature, but it would be an understatement to say it worked out pretty well in the end.