Robert Downey Jr. Says Marvel Was Prepared for Iron Man to Flop

The release of Iron Man in 2008 changed the face of contemporary filmmaking in countless ways, but as star Robert Downey Jr. recalled earlier this month, he and his collaborators were entirely prepared for the project to be a total failure. In the years following the tremendous success of Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man in 2002, a number of imitators aimed to recapture the success of that film yet most of them failed, with the studio seemingly assuming a similar fate could occur with Iron Manallowing Downey, his co-star Jeff Bridges, and director Jon Favreau to develop the film as they saw fit.

“Well, I mean, first of all, because not too many people were thinking that Iron Man was even going to have an opening weekend or do much of anything, so we were a little bit left alone,” Downey recalled earlier this month during an event to promote his new film Sr., per Twitter user Chris Gardner. “I find out more every day about how that thing was financed, it was basically ready to be written off if it tanked. And so anyway, it was the perfect thing where there were not a lot of creatively aggressive eyes on us. And by the time they gave it to us, it was like united artists, like the lunatics took over the asylum. And I remember Jeff Bridges, too, he was like, ‘Man, we’re doing a $200 million independent movie, man.’ And there was just that sense that, of course, it was much more organized.”

Iron Man went on to earn $585.8 million worldwide and sits at 94% positive reviews on aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes. Not only was that film a success in its own right, but it set the tonal standard of subsequent superhero films both inside and outside of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, while also establishing the concept of a post-credits scene that would directly tease what to expect next in the franchise.

Just earlier this year, Bridges echoed the sentiment that, despite becoming a major blockbuster, the approach to bringing the project to life was as if there were much lower stakes.

“It drove me absolutely crazy until I made a slight adjustment in my brain,” Bridges admitted to Vanity Fair. “And that adjustment was, ‘Jeff, just relax. You’re making a $200-million student film. Just relax and have fun.’ And that kind of did the trick because here I get to play with these two incredible artists and just jam, and that’s what we ended up doing.”

He added, “For my money, that’s the best Marvel movie … I know I’m biased, of course. But man, I thought it was a wonderful experience.”

Stay tuned for details on the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

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