Kevin Feige might’ve been the one pulling the strings from the beginning, but if you ask most people, Robert Downey Jr. is the daddy of the MCU. Or maybe they’ll just call him daddy, but that’s a whole other conversation.
As the central figure of the franchise throughout the entirety of the Multiverse Saga, an 11-year stretch from 2008’s Iron Man to 2019’s Avengers: Endgame, Tony Stark was launched into the cinematic heroes’ hall of fame and Downey had his career relaunched in a way he’s still benefiting from. Meanwhile, the MCU has arguably never been the same since he left.
For proof of why Downey was such a perfect poster-boy and leading man for the Marvel universe, some resurfaced comments from right at the beginning of the actor’s tenure as Tony say it all. Because they eerily predict the end of the character’s journey a decade early.
Speaking to BlackTree TV on the set of Iron Man, making this one of the first times he would’ve spoken to the press about his thoughts on the character, a young(ish) Downey revealed exactly why the part appealed to him. The actor explained how he thought Iron Man differed from other superheroes, alluding to DC’s Superman, by teasing how Stark is a flawed human being who makes mistakes even as he tries to do the right thing. As Downey put it:
“To me, Iron Man is so different from a lot of the other movies of this type is because he doesn’t just go, you know, ‘and up and away’ and he takes off, there’s a learning curve to everything – everything is based in humanity and the function of trial and error, and anything worth doing is worth doing very very poorly until you figure out how to get it right.”
Although he wouldn’t have known it at the time, in retrospect, Downey’s summation of Tony Stark as a character predicts the very thing that would define the Armored Avenger as a hero throughout the Infinity Saga. From attempting to build a suit of armor around the world with Ultron to supporting the Sokovia Accords to going to space to fight Thanos, Tony made many mistakes across his world-saving career, but they were all born from his desire to do the right thing.
Like Downey says, Tony was on a “learning curve,” one which finally completed when he learned exactly “how to get it right” in Endgame, once he sacrificed himself to defeat the Mad Titan. In many ways, Downey’s talk of how “everything is based in humanity” is also true of the entire MCU, at least throughout the Infinity Saga, as the vast majority of the Avengers are people who are simply attempting, by “trial and error,” to become better people.
You could argue that this mentality, which Downey understood from the off, is something that the MCU has lost somewhat during the Multiverse Saga — see the godlike Eternals or the lack of stakes in The Marvels — which again makes clear why nobody is coming for Daddy Downey’s crown anytime soon.