Robert Downey Jr. Celebrates Lack of Egos at 'Avengers: Infinity War' Premiere
In a theater full of Earth's mightiest heroes, one reigned supreme.
Robert Downey Jr. was the final Avenger to make his way to the stage at the Dolby Theatre at Monday's premiere for Avengers: Infinity War, confidentially greeting the primed and pumped audience as Samuel L. Jackson performed a variation of his famous "there was a plan" speech from 2012's The Avengers.
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Downey and Josh Brolin, who plays the villain Thanos, entered at the same time to stand in front of a massive assembly of stars — including Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Mark Ruffalo, Chadwick Boseman, Benedict Cumberbatch, Don Cheadle, Bradley Cooper, Chris Pratt and Danai Gurira. The two actors adopted a boxing stance, getting closer and closer, until Brolin went in for quick kiss on the face.
Downey then delivered a lengthy speech, where he waxed philosophical about Marvel's past, present and future. Praising the cast and crew's efforts, Downey made it clear there was not a clash of egos among all the big-name stars who worked on the film. He said the only competition was that which the actors put on themselves to get the best performances yet for Infinity War.
Downey also made it a point to give a shout-out to Iron Man director Jon Favreau, who was in the crowd, saying had it not been for his vision that made Iron Man that initial huge Marvel success, nothing else would have followed. In addition, he recognized his Iron Man co-star Gwyneth Paltrow as the "first, first lady of Marvel," and noted there were now many "first ladies of Marvel." He referenced Brie Larson's upcoming Captain Marvel, noting that the film finally allows at least half of a Marvel directing duo to be female (Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck are directing Marvel's first female-fronted project). Downey noted that directing superhero movies are so taxing, that obviously it should be a job for a woman, comparing the process as like "gestation," and getting a laugh from the crowd.
Downey also paid tribute to Black Panther's Boseman by giving him a "Wakanda Forever" salute, and joking he was allowed to do that "as an honorary black man," a reference to his Oscar-nominated work in 2008's Tropic Thunder.
Before the lights went down, directors Joe and Anthony Russo made a last-minute plea to the packed crowd to not spoil the film, which they had gone to great lengths to protect for the fans.
Earlier on the red carpet, the Russos told The Hollywood Reporter Marvel security had been working hard over the past two years to protect the plot of the film.
"This one, we had been so secretive with the film, that the excitement is different," Joe Russo noted of the difference between the Infinity War premiere and Civil War's bow. "It's the first time an audience is going to see the film from start to finish."
The premiere was likely the biggest movie unveiling event since 2015's Star Wars: The Force Awakens, with the red carpet taking up three city blocks on Hollywood Blvd., and included an enclosed tented area featuring costumes, vehicles and props from 10 years' worth of Marvel movies. The movie screened not just in the Dolby Theatre but in the adjacent Chinese Theatre and El Capitan Theatre as well.
Elizabeth Olsen, who reprises her role as Wanda Maximoff, noted that having two directors was essential for a job of this scope, which saw the Russos shoot Infinity War and next year's Avengers 4 back to back.
"They are incredibly calm," she says of the sibling filmmaking duo. "You always know if one is editing Avengers 4, or Avengers 3, while doing something else or doing rewrites or giving notes, you know that they'll have the other one there."
For many fans, the prospect of seeing Downey's Tony Stark and Cumberbatch's Stephen Strange (two of the biggest egos in the Marvel universe) is a key draw of the film.
"One of the things I was most looking forward to was working with Robert and with Iron Man, two icons, and neither experience disappointed," Cumberbatch told THR.
Cheadle is one of the longest-serving Marvel heroes, with his version of Rhodey/War Machine debuting in Iron Man 2. But even as a Marvel veteran, the scale of Infinity War impressed the actor.
"To see 19 trailers and a call sheet that looks like a Bible, it's just a lot of work, but Marvel makes it easy," he said, noting that during his downtime he played a lot of Boggle with stars such as Chris Evans, Paul Rudd, Hemsworth and Ruffalo.
Guardians of the Galaxy star Sean Gunn is a linchpin of Infinity War with his performance-capture work as Rocket. Looking forward, he confirmed he knows a little bit about Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, which his brother James Gunn is hard at work writing.
"I'm getting to the place where I know enough that I have to keep my mouth shut," he said with a laugh. "He had been revealing bits and pieces over the course of the last six months or so as he's been working on the story, and I think the story is pretty far along now. He filled me in on a lot of stuff, but there's still a lot I don't know."
Danai Gurira, who reprises her role as Black Panther's Okoye, said she's touched by the feedback she's received since that film became a phenomena two months ago.
"It's amazing how far and wide this movie has been received and been embraced," she said. "I've heard about a little boy who sat in a theater and looked at his friend and said, 'I didn't know women could be generals.' … that's awesome."
Filmmaker Joss Whedon kicked off the Avengers craze as the first director to bring the team together in 2012, and followed it up with 2015's Avengers: Age of Ultron.
"I'm less tired, and I'm excited because I don't know what happens, and a little jealous," he said of the difference between this premiere and him debuting Avengers six years ago.
Whedon took over Warner Bros.' and DC's Justice League following the exit of filmmaker Zack Snyder last year, and spent a year writing a Batgirl movie for the studio, before exiting last month. When asked if he had an interest in tackling another Marvel or DC movie, Whedon indicated he is working on an original concept.
"I'm thinking of something of my own right now, which is fun. But everything I do has an element of the superhero in it. There's a reason we keep telling these stories, and right now the world really needs to believe that people with power can be descent," he said.
Following the screening, the stars and guests assembled in the nearby Dolby Theatre Ballroom, where they orbited a giant red-glowing Avengers "A" symbol as the centerpiece of the room.
Avengers: Infinity War opens Friday.
by Graeme McMillan
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