— Robert Downey Jr. says he'll need it
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It’s called the Bleeding Edge armor, and among its many new capabilities are rocket thrusters that jut out from Tony Stark’s arms and back, allowing him to propel himself into deep space.
What else do you get for the hero who has everything?
As part of EW’s double-issue focused on Avengers: Infinity War, we present this first close-up image of the character who started it all, and the new armor he’ll be using fortify himself for what may become one of his last battles.
Iron Man was the Big Bang that gave birth to the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe back in 2008, and Robert Downey Jr. was the spark that ignited it. Now, the actor talks like it’s time for that torch to pass. But we’ll have to wait until the film debuts April 27 to know exactly what that means.
Back when it all began, Stark was considered a B-list superhero, and Downey was reaching for a comeback after struggling with addiction. Both proved to be inspiring stories of success and redemption.
Since then, Downey has become one of the biggest stars in film while taking the billionaire playboy philanthropist on a journey from selfish to selfless, from rule breaker to rule enforcer. With Avengers: Infinity War, the character is still seeking a home in the world he keeps saving from oblivion.
In this film, directed by Joe and Anthony Russo, Stark once again has an arc reactor in his chest, even though he no longer needs the device to survive. We saw him Dirty Harry it off a seaside cliff at the end of Iron Man 3.
This time, the reactor is the suit, and allows it to spread out across his torso and limbs in a way that might make Black Panther‘s Shuri file a patent infringement lawsuit. Great minds think alike.
In conversation, Downey free-associates like a rocket man swept by powerful currents as he glides from one point in the sky to the next. Here’s an edited version of where it took us.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: In the last few movies, Tony has been trying to find a way out of the hero game. Is that still where he is?
ROBERT DOWNEY JR.: Well, let’s compare him to me. If I was going to not be playing Tony for the next 10 years, I wouldn’t be doing it with no plan of what I would do instead. I don’t think Tony is idle, I think he is wondering … Look, when he tried to make a suit of armor around the world [in Avengers: Age of Ultron], that didn’t pan out so well. Now I think his goals are smaller.
My favorite part of Iron Man 3 is [director Shane Black’s] whole idea that he’s a tinkerer. So the nice thing is that there just happened to be 40 other suits he’d been playing with that all came into Act 3.
There was some of that in Spider-Man: Homecoming. But if the suits do the heavy lifting without him, what’s Tony’s role?
I always feel bad for guys who still haven’t gotten their relationship together or procreated, and they’re looking at the back nine. Because you kind of go, like, are you going to be that Dad? [With a kid] who people are wondering if your grandpa came to the soccer game? So I think there’s probably some of that going on.
His personal life was put aside in recent movies.
It was hard to thread Pepper through every story that Tony was in, so we took opportunities to say, “We’re taking a break, and it’s my fault.” [Laughs] Now, he and Pepper have kind of locked it up. We were talking about them living in some eco-lodge together, but then we thought, “Eh, any time they move somewhere [villains] just blow it up, so no one’s gonna believe that it’ll stay long.”
I didn’t think Infinity War would focus on something that specific, given how many stories it has to juggle.
Pepper remains the heart of the [Iron Man] story. I think we wanted to get back to that reality. Not just for them, but let’s really see how that can add to the something-worth-fighting-for of it all.
One way Infinity War handles packing 70 characters in this movie is it teams everybody up from the start.
Talk to me about your team. It’s Iron Man, Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), and warrior-librarian Wong (Benedict Wong). Then Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner crashes back to Earth just as the forces of Thanos come knocking on New York.
I love how Cumberbatch just comes in and kind of draws flaming circles anywhere and can basically step into your movie. That’s fun. And we wanted to keep a little bit of the Science Bros thing alive, even though Ruffalo has been on such an amazing Banner/Hulk journey himself.
Peter Parker (Tom Holland) is also there to lend a hand.
I think [Marvel] is smart: “Oh yeah, we like the Parker/Stark thing.” So let’s keep them at close quarters as long as we can. Someone under your tutelage is now firing on all cylinders, but you’re responsible for bringing them into deeper water. We knew that would be fruitful.
What do we need to know about the threat that these guys are facing?
Believe me, I’m tired of every movie, you know, “It’s the end! It’s Armageddon! It’s the Be All, End All, Forever!” And then it’s … not. This one actually is. [Laughs] They’re not kidding. This is a heads-will-roll scenario.
The Iron Man of the comics had a different personality from the way you played him. How much of yourself did you put into Tony Stark?
I wonder. [Pause.] I ain’t him, I’ll tell you that flat out. There’s always a bit of a burn off period when they run out of call sheets for me. I’m just a f—ing actor. I’m just a guy who does have a very interesting past, who does not regret it, who wished to shut the door on it. I think that that translates.
Is Iron Man something you’d like to be a part of your life and career in 20 years?
I’m definitely a hang up your jersey before they boo you off the court type guy, just because I still have an appropriate fear of embarrassment.
And what’s next? You and your wife [producer Susan Downey] have the Team Downey production company. You’re talking to animals while shooting The Voyage of Doctor Doolittle. What’s on the horizon?
First of all the missus is front and center with Joe Roth producing Doolittle. I’m having a good time, though I decided to give myself, like, 40 additional challenges, like a Welsh accent — which even Welsh people say is hard to do. Then there’s all this stuff down the pike. We’re looking at another Sherlock Holmes, we’re developing Perry Mason for HBO. I still want to do Pinocchio.
That’s a full slate.
I have a million ideas, but I can tell you the God’s honest truth. Having done Avengers 3 and 4 back-to-back, and now doing [Doolittle] … When I’m done with this, if you hear I’m not taking a break, call me and tell me I’m crazy.