"I am Iron Man" – How Robert Downey Jr. improvised the MCU's most iconic line

Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark in Iron Man (2008)

It could’ve been oh-so-different. If Robert Downey Jr., in the shoes of Tony Stark, hadn’t stepped up in front of a ravenous press pack and delivered his famous line, “I am Iron Man”, then there might not have been a sequel. Heck, there might not have been the multi-billion MCU you see before you. But, as it turns out, the whole thing was made up as they went along – and Marvel Studios head honcho Kevin Feige explains just how much of an impact those four little improved words had on everything that came after it.

As revealed by Deadline, the ad-libbed line that was the mic drop to end all mic drops, it wasn’t just Iron Man that reaped the benefit. As Feige mentions, the impact was far-reaching: “That success inspired us to go further in the trusting ourselves to find balance of staying true to the comics and the spirit of the comics but not being afraid to adapt and evolve and to change things.”

So, ‘I am Iron Man’ not only kickstarted the MCU, it also flung the set of franchises that would follow into new territory, one where they wouldn’t need to be held back by the comics, but simply be inspired by them as they broke new ground.

But why was RDJ allowed carte blanche when it came to the movie’s concluding soundbite? It wasn’t just the charismatic actor being his effusive self – but it was in line with his version of Tony Stark, as Feige reveals: “If you’re changing something for no reason, that’s one thing, but if you’re changing something because you want to double-down on the spirit of who the character is? That’s a change we’ll make. Tony Stark not reading off the card and not sticking with the fixed story? Him just blurting out ‘I am Iron Man?’ That seems very much in keeping with who that character is.”

Oh, what could have been. It’s not a leap to suggest that without ‘I am Iron Man’, the MCU could have floundered before it even really began. And now? Everyone knows Iron Man’s name. Ironic, isn’t it?

Need more in the way Iron Man retrospectives? You have to take a look at how the movie was one big risk, from its lead to its premise.