Although relatively subdued compared to today's superhero fare, 2008 Iron Man nevertheless helped to launch the most successful movie franchise of all time. In the 11 years since that film's debut, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has grown beyond anyone's wildest dreams -- and that includes Robert Downey Jr.
The actor and Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige reflected on their early commitment to making Iron Man during a press conference held Sunday in Los Angeles for Avengers: Endgame, attended by CBR and other outlets.
"I've been thinking about this recently," Downey said. "There's always two tracks, at least in my mind. One is the sky is falling, and the other is the sky is the limit. As we had those many discussions while ... shooting the film, I'm reminded now that I was talking a lot of smack, saying 'Wait 'till you see where this goes.' But in the moment I was just hoping, day to day, we were getting good scenes and good stuff in the can ... I just wanted to not drop the ball."
Feige echoed those sentiments, remembering how important Iron Man proved to be. "We hired a great director to do the first film in the MCU and then we hired a great actor," he recalled. "We had fun making that first movie ... Some of the success of it, the bar for success was pretty low. It felt high at the time, but it was not that high. It was comparative to other Marvel films that had been out in that general area which is what we wanted to compete with, but as we were making the movie and we were looking at dailys and had the effects tests coming in, we realized this was really gonna be special, perhaps even more special than we thought."
Feige explained that Iron Man's box office, and even the reaction to the first trailer, made him realize what they had in their hands.
"Showing that trailer [at Comic-Con] for the first time, there started to be a much bigger wind behind our back, combined with Mr. Sam Jackson's cameo that we secretly did, and the response to that," he said. People picked up that that meant this interconnected universe, which everyone knew from the books but had never been done in the movies."
When asked what makes Avengers: Endgame -- and, by extension, the entire MCU -- so special, Feige said it's "all the actors on this stage, all the actors who are not on this stage... the family that has come together this decade-plus."
Downey added his own feelings on the expanded cast who have appeared over the years, saying, "I've just felt like I'm an oddball manny who's had the opportunity to usher in this family. We're close and growing closer by the moment. It's just great. It's just the coolest relay race in the history of entertainment, especially in my mind."
Looking at Avengers: Endgame as a piece of the ending, Feige pointed out that "Robert said it so well in the trailer: Part of the journey is the end. And how, four or five years ago, we all started talked about ... at every turn, including the first Iron Man film, we've talked about doing something that's never before. What if the super hero outs his identity in the very last shot of the movie? 'You can't do that, no one does that, you can't do that, what would we do next time?' I don't know, let's do it.
"Four or five years ago," he continued, "we talked about what haven't we seen in films based on comic characters. We haven't seen an ending. A definitive conclusion to a saga. That's why it's called Endgame, and why I think it's very, very, very special."
Directed by Anthony and Joe Russo, Avengers: Endgame stars Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Don Cheadle, Paul Rudd, Brie Larson, Karen Gillan, Danai Gurira, Benedict Wong, Jon Favreau and Bradley Cooper, with Gwyneth Paltrow and Josh Brolin. The film arrives April 26.