Robert Downey Jr. Revealed He Had to Completely Shift His Attitude to Land ‘Iron Man’ Role: ‘Nobody Else on Earth Had a Chance’

Robert Downey Jr. has had a slew of popular acting roles since his career took off back in the 1980s. But perhaps his best role of all was as Tony Stark, better known as Iron Man, in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Downey has made a name for himself in plenty of ways, but Tony Stark has left a permanent imprint on fans of the franchise.

When discussing how he landed the role, Downey revealed that he “willed” his way to it, only landing it after he completely changed his attitude toward acting.

Robert Downey Jr. attends a movie premiere in Berlin, Germany, in 2016
Robert Downey Jr. attends a movie premiere in Berlin, Germany, in 2016 | Matthias Nareyek/Getty Images

‘Iron Man’ was Robert Downey Jr.’s first true ‘blockbuster’ film

Downey had had a successful acting career for years before landing the coveted Marvel role. But he hadn’t starred in any true blockbuster films — the term used to describe a film that’s highly popular with plenty of financial success. Downey had starred in movies such as “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” (2005) and “Zodiac” (2007), and his acting career first began as far back as 1970, at the age of five.

Downey dealt with several obstacles in his career, including difficult bouts with drug and alcohol addiction. But things turned around in the 2000s, and by 2008, he had finally made that blockbuster film happen. Downey Jr. found himself rising even further to fame after becoming Tony Stark in Marvel’s “Iron Man,” in which he starred alongside Gwyneth Paltrow and Jon Favreau. The film grossed $140 million.

Actor Robert Downey Jr. attends a movie premiere in 2017
Actor Robert Downey Jr. attends a movie premiere in 2017 | Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images

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Robert Downey Jr. revealed he changed his attitude toward acting in order to be Tony Stark

Downey’s portrayal of Tony Stark is something that will carry through the rest of his acting career. But before it all happened, he had to get in the mindset of earning such an important role. It wasn’t easy, though, and Downey revealed that he essentially “willed” his way into the role by rethinking his confidence level when approaching the audition.

In an interview with Howard Stern, Downey explained what he meant. “There was a part of me that was saying, ‘My world view has to change if I want to really have a shot,’” Downey said. “If I’m not on my side for this going my way, why should anybody else be?”

Stern then asked Downey if he “willed” himself to change his attitude, to which Downey said yes. But Downey also added that he doesn’t mean to say the attitude change was “really what made the difference” — rather, that it seemed to help him get the role. “I had to psych myself into [the idea that] nobody else on Earth had a chance,” he said.

Downey Jr. has an interesting thought about confidence

In the process of discussing his attitude change, Downey also clarified his thoughts about confidence — and how it can make or break someone.

“Obviously [the audition] went pretty well,” Downey said. “But that’s the funny thing about confidence … The incorrect amount of it, and nothing will ever happen.” Downey translated that confidence into his role, but he noted that Tony Stark’s confidence was merely a “façade,” and it did not necessarily reflect his own attitude.