The directors had most praise for Downey’s efforts in Stark’s final moments, where an unspoken exchange with Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) informs Stark they’re in the one of 14,000,605 futures where the Avengers manage to defeat Thanos (Josh Brolin).
“What’s so incredible about Robert Downey and his performance — and we think this is an awards-caliber performance — is when he looks at Benedict in that moment, what you see happen on his face and the way he just drops his eyes and receives the information, it’s because he knows he’s the solution and the solution involves snapping his fingers — he’s going to die,” Joe Russo told Backstory Magazine.
“The thing he wanted to preserve two hours earlier in the movie is his relationship with his daughter, and he will have to sacrifice that in order to save everyone else.”
Stark’s realization of his looming death sentence was born of his terse relationship with Strange in the preceding Avengers: Infinity War, where Stark and Strange — described by Russo as “egoists” — clashed when forcibly brought together.
“Tony’s a futurist, Strange is a spiritualist. They’re very different in that way,” Russo said.
“Tony’s a futurist in a lot of ways who’s fated to die from the beginning because he’s so consistently aware of the threat always coming and he cannot rest until that threat has been defeated. That’s really the conversation Pepper has with him in their living room when he’s talking about going on the time heist. He asks if he should just throw this discovery in the bottom of the lake and she says, ‘Yeah, but could you rest?’ And he couldn’t, that’s the truth of it. So, yes, when he gets to that moment, it’s supported by a lot of different beats.”
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