Why Robert Downey Jr. Was One of the Only ‘Avengers’ Actors to Read the Whole Script

Robert Downey Jr. at a press event for 'Avengers: Endgame'
Robert Downey Jr. | The Chosunilbo JNS/Imazins via Getty Images

Marvel Studios‘ cloak of secrecy has become so legendary, it probably rivals Harry Potter’s cloak of invisibility. Now we find out Robert Downey Jr. had the biggest cloak of all. 

One of Marvel’s methods to avoid leaks is not to give the actors the entire script. They would only get the pages that pertained to their characters or the pages they were shooting on a given day. Downey was the exception to the rule when it came to Avengers: Endgame.

How Hollywood keeps movie plots a secret

Before franchises and tentpole movies dominated Hollywood, the common practice would be for an actor to read an entire script before they got the part. If they liked the script and signed on, they might have a table-read, which is when the cast would go through the script to get a sense of how it plays and to learn how other actors would approach their characters. Previously, the few directors who gave out partial pages included Woody Allen and Steven Spielberg. 

Nowadays, with studios being hyper-concerned about leaks and piracy, they take several steps. 

They watermark the pages with the actor/crew members name in big letters, so that if a script does leak out, the source will be obvious. As mentioned, filmmakers will also give out only certain pages, but this practice is not new, as pointed out by Deadline

Hollywood has even been known to share only select pages even before an actor has signed on the dotted line. Rise of Planet of the Apes, Thor, X-Men: First Class, X-Men: Wolverine, the Twilight Saga films, and The Hobbit movies also did this. 

Did the cast of ‘Avengers: Endgame’ know the ending?

Disney/Marvel has taken this practice to new extremes. Screen Rant noted that according to Elizabeth Olsen, the Avengers: Infinity War actors only found out about the snap ending the day they shot it, in very cramped quarters: 

“I found out from the Russos (the directors)  exactly what was going to happen and it wasn’t until we shot it on that day we learned what the ending was.  They took us into a van – all of us – we were in a van with air conditioning because it was very hot and they told us how the movie was going to end and no one knew. And they were like ‘Now we’re shooting it, Go!’ and we were like ‘How are we supposed to interpret that?'”

Some actors used not knowing the full story to their advantage. Tom Holland, who is notorious for revealing more than he should, generally had a hard time knowing what was going on, so he improvised his lines for when Spider-Man disappeared.

Why Downey was the exception to all this

It’s not hard to guess why Iron Man was the only one who got the entire Endgame script. He was, after all, the OG MCU superhero. But it wasn’t just a matter of seniority. It was his character who had the most dramatic arc and a particularly dramatic finish.  The same courtesy may or may not have been extended to Chris Evans, but not even the Hulk got the whole story. 

Mark Ruffalo had to shoot different endings, including a death scene. So even if Ruffalo spoiled something, he might at least spoil something fake. Olsen said it was possible to read the entire script, but that meant jumping through a lot of hoops. 

“If you wanted to read the full script, for the majority of us, you had to go in a room with no windows, leave your phone at the door, and sit and read it fully. We couldn’t take our time at home or anything like that – they wouldn’t give us a hard copy. I just got my pages and even my pages had a fake ending and multiple fake things in it.”

So now that Downey is done with the MCU, who will get a full script? We’ll guess Scarlett Johansson, who is headlining the Black Widow movie next. Even if she did have a full script, she probably wouldn’t tell anyone that.