How Rodney Dangerfield’s Back To School Influenced Captain America: Civil War

Rodney Dangerfield

Not all amazing visual effects in blockbuster movies are tied to exciting action sequences. Sometimes it's the smaller accomplishments that are more amazing. For instance, Marvel has been doing an excellent job in recent years digitally de-aging some of its actors for key moments, most recently seen with Robert Downey Jr. in Captain America: Civil War. Naturally this meant they had to look at many of Downey's past projects to get his look right, but it was the 1986 Rodney Dangerfield-led comedy Back to School that proved especially helpful when it came to his sound.

Captain America: Civil War sound editor Shannon Mills explained to IGN that in order to convincingly show a Tony Stark from the early 1990s, part of the process involved slightly increasing his voice's pitch. As it turns out, the actor's role as Derek Lutz in Back to School (as well as Jimmy Parker in 1985's Tuff Turf) provided an excellent reference point. Mills said:

But when we did it. we realized we had to pitch him up just slightly, but very little, because Robert, he acted it, too. It's one of those things---it's a combination of incredible visual effects, but also acting, because he performed it. He had to be that guy for that moment as well, because all the technical stuff in the world isn't going to work if he didn't act that. If these guys didn't get a performance out of him. It's that combination of those things.

For those who need a refresher, Tony Stark's first scene in Captain America: Civil War was of him at MIT demonstrating his technology that's capable of displaying and recreating someone's memories in holographic form. Tony decided to show the last time he saw his parents before they died on December 16, 1991, with some minor adjustments. Visually, the younger Tony was a near-perfect replication of when we saw him in the late 1980s, including Back to School, but getting his voice right was just as key. However, as Shannon Mills noted, Robert Downey Jr. also made sure to act like his younger self to help sell the scene. His acting, along with the digital work, gave audiences a convincing Tony Stark in his early 20s.

Back to School

This, along with how Ant-Man showed Michael Douglas as Hank Pym in 1989, shows how far movie-making technology has come with digital de-aging, and Marvel has loved taking advantage of these progressions. That said, thinking of these movies that the digital teams turn to for help certainly makes us want to check them out. So yeah, if you have a few hours to kill, check out the younger Robert Downey Jr. (seen above) pal around with Rodney Dangerfield in Back to School. You'll definitely be entertained.

Rodney Dangerfield

Captain America: Civil War is now available for all to enjoy on Digital HD and Blu-ray/DVD, and while we can't promise you'll see another scene featuring his younger self, Tony Stark will return to the MCU next year in Spider-Man: Homecoming.

Adam Holmes
Senior Content Producer

Connoisseur of Marvel, DC, Star Wars, John Wick, MonsterVerse and Doctor Who lore, Adam is a Senior Content Producer at CinemaBlend. He started working for the site back in late 2014 writing exclusively comic book movie and TV-related articles, and along with branching out into other genres, he also made the jump to editing. Along with his writing and editing duties, as well as interviewing creative talent from time to time, he also oversees the assignment of movie-related features. He graduated from the University of Oregon with a degree in Journalism, and he’s been sourced numerous times on Wikipedia. He's aware he looks like Harry Potter and Clark Kent.