Everything changed when Marvel cast Robert Downey Jr in its 2008 film Iron Man, abandoning the earnest superhero approach for something that was a lot more fun. And when Downey first appears on-screen in Avengers Assemble, his snappy sense of humour noticeably shifts the film up a gear. By the end, everyone's a comedian: Thor, Captain America, Hawkeye, Black Widow, even the Hulk gets a few laughs.
Contactmusic caught up with him at the London premiere and wanted to know how it felt to move from starring in your own Iron Man movie to sharing the screen - and the action - with an ensemble.
"Tony Stark is open to all possibilities," he says. "He has no problem accepting extraordinary happenings. Joining the Avengers team is an act of curiosity - he wants to see what's happening firsthand. He realised a while ago that he's not an island, and this time around he is beginning to understand that it's about a group mindset and that 'we' is better than 'I'."
And having been involved in the Marvel universe for the past five years, he's aware of how all of the films fit together. "All three franchises that we've launched so far [Iron Man, Thor and Captain America] had to work, and if The Avengers didn't work it would affect all the previous franchises extremely adversely," he says. "And there's also the potential for additional franchises based on how strongly people are reacting to Jeremy Renner [Hawkeye], Scarlett Johansson [Black Widow] and Mark Ruffalo [Hulk]. I really don't understand how everything has gone this well. But in this one instance in my life, that seems to be the situation. It couldn't have gone any better."
He clearly enjoyed teaming up with everyone for the fight scenes, but when asked what his favourite fight move was, he hesitates. "My favourite move or Tony's favourite move?" he asks. "Well you know, it's probably how I can fall out of buildings and survive because of my tech! Did you notice that this fight move involves no one but me and my stuff?"
Johansson overhears this comment and chips in: "My favourite fight move - or Natasha's favourite fight move - is probably the thigh grip! What's it called? The thigh-master hold!"
"Oh, that's actually my favourite move too!" Downey laughs.
As far as the action goes, Downey knows that he's lucky to have a role like this at this stage in his career. "I think more and more that, now that I'm 46, I should be in this phase of my development where you appreciate things while they're happening," he says. "And this is one of the first times I really had that feeling throughout the production. It just was a lot of fun to work and hang out with everyone. Sometimes in the moment on this film, the gravity of the situation would hit me and I would catch myself thinking, 'What a sweet deal this is!'"
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