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Whedonesque - a community weblog about Joss Whedon
"It's not enough to bash in heads you’ve got to bash in minds"
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October 19 2014

Robert Downey Jr. now owns the 30-foot A from The Avengers' Stark Tower sign. The Avengers producers gifted RDJ with The "A" from the Avengers Tower.

It's perfect that this is so, though I honestly assumed the "A" was mere CGI, not a 30' prop. Because without RDJ, who knows if this Marvel behemoth would ever have gotten off the ground.
RDJ's influence on the Marvel Cinematic Universe is notable, but I do think there are other actors who could have made Iron Man just as popular. RDJ owes just as much to Disney/Marvel as they do to him (if not more so).
The moment they announced his casting, I felt they had picked the best possible actor for the job. There are a lot of good actors in the industry, but this was a perfect fit. Not only is he a good actor, but he pretty much *is* Tony Stark, right down to his demons.

If they feel like throwing an 'A' his way, fair enough.
It's hard to separate how similar RDJ's trajectory is with Tony Stark's. Destructive childhood leading to destructive adulthood, then eventually stabilizing influences and rejuvenation.

There are other actors who could have been a good Iron Man, in that there are other great actors. But like Jason_M_Bryant said, in some ways, RDJ is Tony Stark. That parallel creates something that couldn't exist without him. For instance, the burger scenes in Iron Man are a direct reference to RDJ's personal experiences. Taken by themselves, it could have been anyone getting a burger and we'd just think it was product placement. But knowing the story behind going to Burger King elevates those scenes just a little.
I agree that RDJ is a talented actor, and I'm sure his personal history and personality have helped him play the role. I just think too many people put him on an impossibly high pedestal. There is little doubt in my mind that The Marvel Cinematic Universe would still exist today without RDJ (perhaps in a slightly less Iron Man-centered form).
I don't put him on an impossibly high pedestal.

Just one that's about 30 feet high and shaped like the letter 'A'.
Haha.

I think the MCU would still exist, but I don't think it would look like the MCU today. It would be smaller and less ambitious. Certainly, I think you can trace a line from Agents of SHIELD all the way back to RDJ's involvement in Iron Man.

Not only was it the first Marvel Studios film, Jon Favreau was not known as an action director, and it was RDJ's first high-profile return to movies. And in a movie that was supposed to be a blockbuster, to boot.

I don't have him on an impossibly high pedestal; I just think that there was a confluence of factors that led to Iron Man being a perfect storm. It was the right time, the right amount of risk, and the right actor. I don't think RDJ's influence can be diminished, nor can the movie's impact on the cultural landscape and in shaping the MCU as we know it. It reintroduced the world to RDJ, introduced the world to a whole new brand of comic book movie, and proved to Marvel that it could hire comedic directors to do action films (paving the way, years later, for the Russo brothers).
With as much as they improvised the dialogue in the first Iron Man, it's entirely possible that a different actor could've killed the movie, and if that movie had bombed, there may not be any sort of interlinked MCU today.

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