Robert Downey Jr says making Iron Man was like letting ‘lunatics take over the asylum’, recalls film was ‘ready to be written off’

Robert Downey Jr looked back on the difficult production of the first Iron Man movie, and said that Marvel was ready to ‘write-off’ the film if it tanked at the box office.

The difficulties that the first Iron Man movie went through has become the stuff of legend over the years, with everyone from director Jon Favreau to star Robert Downey Jr discussing how chaotic the production was, and close it was to going up in flames. The team encountered problems every step of the way; even Downey’s casting was an uphill task, with Marvel brass balking at the suggestion of mounting such a massive movie on an actor who wasn’t a proven draw at the box office and was just emerging from highly publicised personal issues.

At a recent Directors Guild Event, Downey recalled the tumultuous production of the first Iron Man movie, and likened the crew to a bunch of ‘lunatics’ taking over the asylum. He was asked to elaborate on comments that he had made in the past, about Iron Man being a big-budget version of the kind of whacky movie that his late father, the underground filmmaker Robert Downey Sr, would have made.

He said, “Well, I mean first of all, not too many people were thinking Iron Man was going to have an opening weekend or do much of anything, so we were a little bit left alone. 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 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.”

He added, “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 became a runaway critical and commercial hit when it was released, incidentally in the same year as The Dark Knight. It kick-started the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which has since become the highest-grossing film franchise in history, with 30 movies and multiple series under its umbrella. It also made Downey one of the highest-paid actors in the world. He remains semi-retired, and was last seen in Sr, a Netflix documentary about his father’s final years.

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