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Now that Avengers: Endgame is available for home viewing (even though it’s still hanging around in some theaters), directors Joe and Anthony Russo have been making the rounds. During a Reddit Ask Me Anything, they revealed that Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark has been a dead Iron Man walking for awhile. 

Granted, you can argue that may have been true for Tony from very early on, but the Russos revealed that Tony’s eventual fate had been settled for quite some time, due to Marvel’s penchant for planning things out early. 

Robert Downey Jr. is Iron Man
Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man) | Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images for Disney

How long did Marvel know Iron Man’s fate? 

Stop reading now if you’re one of the few people who doesn’t know that (SPOILER alert) Tony Stark dies in Endgame after he puts on Thanos’ gauntlet and snaps away the enemy army. There’s great satisfaction in seeing Thanos and company meet the same fate the Avengers met at the end of Infinity War. With that comes the discomfort from knowing that maybe Thanos could come back too. 

It’s been pretty well settled that Tony won’t be coming back. No matter how much fans may want it, a return would cheapen the hero’s farewell he got, and Disney would have to pay Robert Downey Jr. tens of millions of dollars again. On Reddit, a fan asked: “Loved the movie! Just wondering how long you guys knew what Tony’s fate was gonna be?

Joe answered, “We knew for about three years before we shot the film.” 

Marvel fans react to the news

That prompted a flurry of shock and surprise – and even a little shade at the MCU. 

“You monsters. You knew for that long! You made us watch the tragic truth about his parents in Civil War whilst knowing his fate would be similar!”

“Damn. If you shot in 2017, it means you knew it when Winter Soldier came out.”

“Step 1. Make a Captain America movie so good they let us kill Iron Man.”

“Damn, Iron Man 3 wasn’t that bad, was it?”

The Russos did not elaborate on this timeline, but the revelation serves as proof of how far in advance Marvel plans out their storylines. Marvel President Kevin Feige, who only just unveiled Phase 4, also says he has Phase 5 already mapped out. And knowing Feige, he’s probably at least halfway through Phase 6. We’ll get that MCU X-Men movie sooner or later.

The Russos miss Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man too

The Russos did reveal the most difficult day for shooting Endgame was Tony Stark’s death. That just goes to show how even though you know something painful is coming, it hits hard when it actually happens. 

The brothers had been primarily associated with Captain America because they directed both Winter Soldier and Civil War before taking on the Avengers two-partner. They also directed an episode of Agent Carter, the TV spinoff with Hayley Atwell. Here’s how they explained getting the Avengers gig: 

“The conversation, in short, was, ‘Guess what. We want to make the two biggest films ever made and we want to shoot them back to back. And we want you guys to direct them.’ Our response — ‘F**K yeah.'”

All the same, they agreed that Tony’s story carried the most emotional weight. Joe Russo said: 

“At this point we have been involved with just about every character’s arc in the MCU. But in respect to all of the characters that aren’t Cap, I think Tony’s arc is incredibly tragic and unquantifiably heroic. As a father myself, contemplating the notion of being presented with the choice of saving the universe at the cost of losing your life, and knowing that your child would lose their father, and that your wife would lose a husband, is painfully difficult to comprehend. It’s a choice that only the greatest amongst us could make.”