Over ten years of the Marvel Cinematic Universe wrapped up with Avengers: Endgame, and in a new interview with directors Joe and Anthony Russo, they broke down how they put together one of the most pivotal scenes in the film.
*Avengers: Endgame spoilers below*
Speaking with Entertainment Weekly, the directing duo explained how the end of Tony Stark's arc as Iron Man came about. While it wasn't an easy decision for the directors or actor Robert Downey Jr., they all agreed it was the right time to kill off Stark. "There are a lot of sick kids who really look up to that character, and it’s hard because we’re trying to tell a story about heroism," Joe Russo said. “And sometimes heroism involves doing whatever it takes," Anthony added.
The pair previously spoke at length about Captain America's ending, but with Iron Man they went for something a little more definitive. Instead of traveling to the past to be with the woman he loves, Stark sacrificed himself to dispatch the world of Thanos by using the infinity stones. "Right around the moment where you’re executing it, it was very focused because actors had to access really complicated emotions," Anthony said of Downey, who toned down the wisecracks this time around. "But not too long afterwards, the jokes came back."
It was a "very emotional" shoot for Downey, who had previously struggled with drug and alcohol addiction prior to 2008's Iron Man, which marked a big comeback for him. "This role has real significance for him, and it’s a redemptive role for him," Joe said. "These guys bet on him at a time where it was hard to get him insured, and it’s a powerful journey for him."
As for how he says goodbye, Downey himself was responsible for the decision to have Stark say nothing as he died in front of his friends. After using the stones, Stark struggles to get a word in as he's comforted by his wife Pepper Potts and his muse Peter Parker. "It was his choice to not speak," Joe Russo added. "That was his instinct saying, ‘I’m going to be truthful to what this situation is.’ He just got destroyed by this glove. We saw what it did to the Hulk. We saw what it did to Thanos. It would incapacitate [Stark]."
The Russo Brothers and Downey wanted to give him a proper send-off with no jokes or long-winded speeches. "Not always in life do you get the moment at your death where you’re lucid and can have a really cohesive speech about what your life meant to you," Joe said. "That’s why he recorded a post-death message, so he didn’t have to talk at his death," Anthony added.
With Black Widow, Captain America, and Iron Man all out of the picture post-Endgame, minus any future prequels, the future of the MCU promises plenty of fresh faces. "I think in a way Tony Stark was meant to die, and he always knew he was going to die because he could never reconcile that notion in himself of not protecting the universe," Joe said. "I think that was always a spark in him, always seeing that there was danger coming on the horizon and that someday, he and that danger would meet. "