The Heartwarming Way Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man Inspired 1 Young Fan

The name Tony Stark and the term “warm and fuzzy” typically don’t appear in the same sentence. Especially in the early Marvel Studios films, Stark was known for being powerfully snarky and egocentric to a fault. Yes, he was brilliant, but he was still often a jerk. 

Iron Man has become so entwined with Robert Downey Jr. that it’s easy to overlook Downey’s more humanistic qualities. But he showed this in spades this month when he spoke with an autistic boy on Ellen DeGeneres’ talk show. 

Robert Downey Jr. on the red carpet
Robert Downey Jr. | Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic

What did Downey do on ‘Ellen?’

DeGeneres herself was on break from her show, so she had Downey come in as her guest host, just as Brie Larson substituted for Jimmy Kimmel on one of his shows. Downey got to interview celebrities like Rami Malek and he participated in the shtick of DeGeneres’ games, but none of this moved him as much as his visit with Vincent Arambula. 

Screen Rant reported that  Vincent stopped talking at the age of 1 and was diagnosed with autism at 4. The boy confessed it was very painful to lose the ability to communicate at such a young age, but he eventually found a way through Downey’s signature character. 

Vincent’s parents bought him an Iron Man helmet. Once he put the helmet on, the boy was able to talk through it, as he envisioned himself becoming Iron Man. Vincent’s father said his son “transformed into a different child” within 24 hours. 

Visibly moved, Downey said Arambula was the guest he had most been looking forward to meeting, and he said the best part about getting to play Iron Man was meeting people like Vincent and his family. Downey even marveled at the fact that the family’s dog was named “Mr. Stark.”

Tony Stark really did have a heart

The moment on the talk show reflected how much Tony Stark had changed from Iron Man in 2008 to Avengers: Endgame last year. Whereas Tony had been a womanizer who thought only about himself, he transformed into a man who truly understood the meaning of the greater good.

His touching interactions with his daughter Morgan gave rise to one of Endgame’s signature lines, “I love you 3000.” 

This evolution mirrored what happened to Downey in real life. After breaking out in the late 80s, Downey got hooked on drugs, which set him on a painful downward spiral. While Hollywood viewed Downey as extremely talented, he also gained a reputation for being extremely unreliable, and he landed in jail.

When Jon Favreau wanted to cast Downey as Iron Man, Marvel had the jitters, given Downey’s troubled past, but Iron Man turned Downey around in more ways than one. 

Other superhero actors have been super in the real world

Downey donated $20,000 to the Arambula family, and Downey’s generous gesture was just one example of superhero actors living up to their roles in real life. Distractify compiled a list of instances of Marvel actors’ generosity, including Scarlett Johansson. She was an Oxfam ambassador for eight years, and a  hardcore supporter of Soles4Souls 

The MCU’s two Chris actors, Evans and Pratt, teamed up to brighten children’s days. They made a friendly Super Bowl Bet that  supported the losing team had to go visit a children’s hospital in character Pratt’s Seahawks lost, but Evans came with him, so there were no losers anywhere in that bet. 

Christian Bale provided what many hailed as one of the most moving gestures of all in 2012. After the horrific shooting at a Dark Knight Rises screening in Aurora Colorado, Bale visited survivors and their families at the hospital 

According to the Washington Post, the visit was solely Bale’s idea, was done with no fanfare and no advance announcement and was not prompted by Warner Bros.