One single line of dialogue in Avengers: Endgame wrapped up eleven years of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but it was only added in the eleventh hour, just as the film was wrapping up and shoot days were running out. Here’s how Iron Man gave the latest Marvel movie one of its most powerful moments
Major spoilers for Avengers: Endgame ahead.
At the end of Avengers: Endgame, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) steals away the Infinity Stones from Thanos, who brags twice in the movie, “I am inevitable.” In their final fight, a high-tech, hidden “gauntlet” morphs on Stark’s right hand, with the cosmic Infinity Stones being positioned in place.
“And I, am,” Stark replies with a shaking voice, “Iron Man.”
With a snap of his fingers, Thanos’ forces disappear in thin air — dusted. But the Infinity Stones’ power is so overwhelming for Tony Stark’s very human body, that Stark dies shortly afterward on the battlefield.
The line, it turns out, was improvised at the last minute. At an hour-long Q&A session in Washington, D.C. directors Joe and Anthony Russo said the decision to have Stark say “I am Iron Man” before snapping his fingers came only during the editing process.
Originally, Stark didn’t say anything before snapping his fingers with the Infinity Stones. The filmmakers found the moment just a bit lacking, and sought for something for Tony to say. Film editor Jeff Ford suggested Stark recite his iconic line from the end of 2008’s Iron Man, “I am Iron Man.”
“Tony used to not say anything in that moment. And we were in the editing room going, ‘He has to say something. This a character who has lived and died by quips,’” said the Russos at the Q&A (via Slashfilm). “And we just couldn’t [find anything], we tried a million different last lines.
“Thanos was saying ‘I am inevitable.’ And our editor Jeff Ford, who’s been with us all four movies and is an amazing storyteller, said, ‘Why don’t we just go full circle with it and say I am Iron Man?’ And we’re like, ‘Get the cameras! We have to shoot this tomorrow.’”
The line “I am Iron Man” pays homage to the ending of Iron Man, the first film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe that smashed the box office in the summer of 2008. (Until The Dark Knight premiered later in July.)
In Iron Man, Stark attempts to deflect accusations that he is Iron Man at a press conference. But his ego gets the better of him. “I’m just not the hero type,” he tells them, before succumbing to his vanity.
“I am Iron Man,” he says, smirking, before the film cuts to credits.
Adding to the “circle of life”-ness of the moment, the Russos said reshoots for Avengers: Endgame, including shooting Stark’s line, took place at Raleigh Studios in Hollywood, across the stage where Downey Jr. had screen-tested more than a decade earlier for Iron Man.
Watching the test footage now, it’s undeniable. He really was Iron Man.
Avengers: Endgame is in theaters now.