Today, trying to imagine the Marvel Cinematic Universe without Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark is basically an impossible thought experiment. For a generation, Downey really is Iron Man. His over confident demeanor, with the brains to back it up, was the character who formed the core of the Marvel Cinematic Universe to be built around, and yet, Robert Downey Jr. himself was very unsure he could pull it off.
Robert Downey Jr. wasn't exactly an A-list name before Iron Man, and it's a well told story that director Jon Favreau had to convince people at Marvel that he was the right man for the job. But Downey admits that he also had to convince himself. In an interview with BBC Radio 1, Downey gets asked questions by kids, and one wants to know if the actor ever acts like he's Iron Man while just hanging out around the house. He admits that he did sort of do that back when he was testing to play Iron Man, because in order to nail the screentest, he had to really pretend to be Tony Stark. According to Downey...
Back in the day, when I was leading up to screen testing for the part, there were these three scenes from the screentest – two of which were in the movie – and I would run ‘em and run ‘em and run ‘em. I would just stand in front of the mirror and I would think about like, ‘What if I really was as confident as this guy?’ So I was pretending that I was going to get the part. I method’ed it into [getting Tony Stark].
In order to play the role of the super confident Tony Stark, Robert Downey Jr. had to pretend like that he was actually as confident as Tony Stark. As he says, he basically was method acting, trying to be Tony Stark outside of a film set in order to properly portray the character when the time was right. It certainly appears to have worked, as he convinced everybody he was the man who needed to play the role.
Pretending that you have already succeeded in the thing you're working toward probably isn't bad advice no matter what your goal in life is. If you can believe that you have succeeded, then certainly you'll have the confidence that you're capable of doing the job.
The idea that Robert Downey Jr. isn't super confident all the time is maybe a bit surprising. He always comes across as always very comfortable in his own skin. Perhaps he really is method acting and he's just putting on a performance all the time.
Robert Downey Jr. may not pretend to fly around his house like Iron Man, but maybe, if he starts to miss the role, he'll start. A lot of fans are already missing him. But the Marvel Cinematic Universe looks to be in good hands thanks to him believing he was good enough for it in the first place.