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Avengers: Endgame has become a true pop culture phenomenon in the months since it hit theaters. The Russo Brothers did the impossible, crafting a complicated and emotional story that serviced the myriad characters who occupy the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The co-directors were helped in this task by writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, who helped to write the narrative beats. And it turns out that Iron Man's death wasn't always set in stone.
Tony Stark went out in a blaze of glory in Avengers: Endgame, taking on Thanos directly and managing to swipe the Infinity Stones from the Mad Titan during the final battle. He snapped his finger to destroy the villain and his forces forever, sacrificing his life in the process. But Iron Man's fate wasn't always set in stone, as Christopher Markus recently revealed:
We weren’t there to just kill characters off. We were told, ‘If the story demands it, you can take people off the board. But if there’s a good story to be told and no one dies, go ahead and tell that one too. In Endgame, we were trying to finish arcs and for Iron Man/Tony Stark to give up his life and sacrifice himself for the good of the universe seemed like a really good narrative closure for the billionaire playboy who had been learning over the course of several films (to be a better person).
Well, this is interesting. While Robert Downey Jr.'s contract with Marvel Studios would be completed upon filming Avengers: Endgame, there wasn't always a plan to kill off his signature Avenger. The writers and directors of the blockbuster were given freedom over the story, and crafting character deaths that would have the maximum emotional impact.
Christopher Markus' comments to Canada.com might surprise moviegoers, given how perfect Tony Stark's ending was for the long-running character. But while the MCU seems like a well-oiled machine, it's ultimately made up of individual artists doing their best. Iron Man kickstarted the entire shared universe with his 2008 origin story, so the pressure was on to give the character a proper conclusion in Endgame.
In fact, Tony's finger snap and uttering of "I am Iron Man" was the very last scene that was shot for Avengers: Endgame. Clearly it was a live set, with the directors and writers attempting to find the most emotionally satisfying ending possible. They eventually nailed it, and killing of Iron Man was a super effective way to wrap up the story, and bring the entirety of the MCU together for his funeral.
It'll be interesting to hear exactly Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely planned on keeping Tony Stark alive, before eventually giving the character his heroic sacrifice. Would Iron Man have alternatively retired from superheroics after bringing the dusted characters back to life? That definitely would have been a happier ending for Pepper Potts and Morgan Stark.