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The Internet Agrees: Robert Downey Jr. Is the One True Iron Man

A Sunday Times journalist said anyone "with wit" could have played Tony Stark.

Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) in Avengers: Endgame.

This weekend, the Sunday Times published an interview with Matt Damon titled “Is Matt Damon the last of Hollywood’s leading men?”. The article explores the cultural shift of the film industry away from movie stars and towards franchise properties, like Star Wars, the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and DC films. The reason is simple: skittish movie studios would rather bank on familiar franchises that ensure global box office receipts. And while this has seen a boom for superhero and fantasy films, it has led to a bust in more mature, adult “serious” films.

Damon laments the changing landscape, that sees more young audiences streaming films at home and texting between scenes. But Damon himself doesn’t make the most controversial statement in the piece. Journalist Jonathan Dean lit the Twittersphere on fire with his take on Robert Downey Jr.’s performance as Tony Stark/Iron Man. Dean writes,

“One immediate difference between when Damon started out and now is that the leading men no longer sell the films most people watch. The big titles of the past decade are brands and franchises established in numerous prequels and sequels. Robert Downey Jr is a leading man, but his Iron Man could be played by almost anyone with wit; the character is more important to audiences than the actor.”

Fans of Robert Downey Jr.’s performance, which birthed the entire MCU as we know it, were quick to disagree with Dean’s assessment. And they’re not wrong: RDJ brought so much to the role of Tony Stark, with conveyed not only the character’s intelligence but his alcoholism, his ego, and his wounded pride. It’s easy to forget now, but RDJ’s casting was considered out of left field. Although he was an admired actor, he was best known as a tabloid fixture thanks to his substance abuse problems. And while the Marvel execs wanted someone like Tom Cruise in the role, director Jon Favreau fought for RDJ. The rest is superhero cinema history, as RDJ became a global superstar and Tony Stark/Iron Man a beloved character.

Many took to Twitter to disagree with Dean and to celebrate RDJ’s performance:

(via Sunday Times, image: Disney/Marvel)

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Chelsea was born and raised in New Orleans, which explains her affinity for cheesy grits and Britney Spears. An pop culture journalist since 2012, her work has appeared on Autostraddle, AfterEllen, and more. Her beats include queer popular culture, film, television, republican clownery, and the unwavering belief that 'The Long Kiss Goodnight' is the greatest movie ever made. She currently resides in sunny Los Angeles, with her husband, 2 sons, and one poorly behaved rescue dog. She is a former roller derby girl and a black belt in Judo, so she is not to be trifled with. She loves the word “Jewess” and wishes more people used it to describe her.