Top 10 Unscripted Robert Downey Jr Moments That Were Left in the Movie
VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton
WRITTEN BY: David Foster
Who needs a script when you have RDJ? For this list, we'll be looking at all those catchy one-liners and scene-stealing moments that were reportedly ad-libbed, improvised or simply omitted from the words of the book, but still uttered on-screen by the Academy Award-winning superstar. Our countdown includes "Avengers: Endgame", "Spider-Man: Homecoming", "Tropic Thunder", and more!
Top 10 Unscripted Robert Downey Jr. Moments That Were Left in the Movie
Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Unscripted Robert Downey Jr. Moments that were left in the movie.
For this list, we’ll be looking at all those catchy one-liners and scene-stealing moments that were reportedly ad-libbed, improvised or simply omitted from the words of the book, but still uttered on-screen by the Academy Award-winning superstar. Hysterical or poignant, we’ll be including moments that were added in because of RDJ’s tendency to wander from the script––so, heads up that here there will be spoilers.
Agree? Disagree? Prefer Kiss Kiss to Bang Bang? Sound off on the comments below.
#10: Just Getting the Door…
"Spider-Man: Homecoming" (2017)
When the trailer for the first Marvel Studios produced Spider-Man solo outing dropped - aptly named “Homecoming” - in addition to the promise of more web-slinging antics, we were treated to a laugh or two via Stark and Parker’s banter. In particular, there’s the moment where Peter reciprocates a hug, only to find Tony is getting the car door for him. It’s a micro scene that defines the relationship between both characters extremely succinctly, and left viewers wanting more. Yet––according to Spider-Man himself, Tom Holland ––it was completely off script, as was much of the scene between the two. Their riffing off each other is a running dynamic between the two actors, and a lesson to many up-and-comers.
#9: Improvisation, My Dear Watson
"Sherlock Holmes" franchise (2009-)
According to Arthur Conan Doyle, if you eliminate the script, all that remains, however improvised, must be the movie… okay, so we actually RDJ’d that particular quote. We’re not pinpointing an exact moment here, since ad-libbing was such a big part of the production. Meanwhile, the witty repartee and naturalistic comedy between Holmes and Watson in the Guy Richie-directed franchise is a testament to two main factors––the real-life friendship between Downey Jr. and co-star Jude Law, as well as the spontaneity of the leading man on-set. According to Downey Jr. improvisation on set is “a democracy in the truest and most frustrating and most rewarding sense of the word.” Moriarty actor Jared Harris reportedly had to adjust to the loose use of the script as “an exercise in trial by fire.” It paid off––the scenes between the two nemeses are electric.
#8: Calling an Audible
"Captain America: Civil War" (2016)
When Tom Holland was announced as the new Spider-Man, replacing Andrew Garfield after less than two years off-screen, fans were eager to see how the young actor would fit––especially with a cast that was already brimming with established stars. Holland, at the time gaining a rather firm step into Hollywood, but still relatively unknown, was paired with the veteran RDJ. During the initial encounter between Tony Stark and Peter Parker, the former tells the young super-hero to “move the leg” so he can sit down. Typical. Though we love him, Stark can be arrogant, and this is just another indication of that, right? Except, it was more that Holland forgot his blocking, so RDJ corrected him both in character and as an actor, then continued the scene.
"The Avengers" (2012)
Tony Stark loves his food––whether it’s cheeseburgers in Iron Man 1, donuts in Iron Man 2, or blueberries on the Helicarrier in The Avengers. The last one, however, gains a distinction by being less of a character choice and more of an actor being mischievous. The moment where Stark offers his fellow Avenger a blueberry was not in the script, nor was the act of even eating them. Apparently, RDJ was simply hungry, and managed to smuggle a packet of fruit on set and hide them in the elaborate lab design. Then, as cameras rolled, he tucked in––and since it seemed like such a Tony Stark thing to do, it remained in the film.
#6: "I Love You 3000"
"Avengers: Endgame" (2019)
We have to address it, the moment that broke everyone’s hearts––”I love you 3000.” Yes, there are rumors about much deeper meanings relating to the overall runtime of Marvel movies… but that’s just a coincidence. During Avengers: Endgame, whilst Tony puts Morgan to bed, he tells her that “he loves her tons” - which is how it was written in the screenplay. The same script was supposed to have Morgan say the same in return. However, to add a little naturalness into the scene, Downey Jr. suggested the new line based on how his own children reply to him in real life. The result is an amusing exchange between Pepper and Tony in the following scene, a finale line and floods of tears...
#5: "Peek-a-Boo! I See You…"
"Tropic Thunder" (2008)
Just like much of the rest of the movie they’re filming in the action comedy, the real-life actors of Tropic Thunder took a lot of liberties with the script––so much so that to describe the screenplay as anything more than a general set of scenarios might be going somewhat overboard. Robert Downey Jr’s Kirk Lazarus is probably a character that movie-goers will never see the likes of again. He’s an American actor playing a white Australian actor who surgically alters himself to look like his on-screen Black counterpart, in a parody of actors who take themselves and their method far too seriously - all directed by Ben Stiller. There was lots of unscripted material, but chief among them is this line from Robert Downey Jr. Beyond the improvised one-liner, and diving forward roll, the accent is completely hilarious.
#4: The Secret Door
"Avengers: Age of Ultron" (2015)
While it’s common knowledge that the Iron Man actor is encouraged to be fast and loose with the Marvel movie scripts, this entry marks an instance where a change had to be made in post-production. The bulk of the line “please be a secret door” was, by all accounts, purely RDJ’s on-set creation of making even the mundane action of finding a hidden door, look rather amusing. Meanwhile, the little gleeful “yay” that follows came at the suggestion of Age of Ultron’s executive producer Jeremy Latcham and was inserted into the film as part of the edit. That little moment has since re-appeared as part of memes worldwide.
#3: Creating a New Scene: The “Galaga” Guy
"The Avengers" (2012)
We’ve already talked about a scene that required an additional line of dialogue being added after principal photography concluded. This particular improvised bit from “The Avengers” however didn’t need a new line recorded; it instead required some special effects work to allow a small unscripted moment to make it into the film. Upon entering the Helicarrier bridge, Tony Stark points to a SHIELD worker and remarks that he is playing Galaga. This is an old arcade game where you must defend humanity from attacking aliens… wait a minute… So not only did RDJ’s off-hand reference reflect the film’s final battle, but also director Joss Whedon thought the line worked so well that they put in visuals from the actual Galaga game in post-production.
#2: Creating Another New Scene: Shawarma
American restaurants featuring Middle Eastern cuisine have Robert Downey Jr. to thank for the rise in popularity of Shawarma in the 2010s, while audiences also have him to thank for the second post-credits scene of “The Avengers.” This beloved sequence sees the gang silently eating the dish after the battle of New York is over. But it wouldn’t have happened without some earlier scene rewrites. According to the original script, there was just one line of dialogue written for Stark to say after the battle is over before things all quickly move on. Both RDJ and the director thought it could be improved though, so Whedon came up with a few extra ideas. RDJ ultimately went with these off-script lines. After telling the group that they should “just not come in tomorrow”, Stark suggests they all go for shawarma, despite his not knowing what it is.
Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.
Drunk Tony, “Iron Man 2” (2010)
RDJ Breaks When Trying to Ad-Lib a Song Request
Secret Handshake, “Weird Science” (1985)
It Was a Slush from Above, But the Handshake Was from the Moment
Wayne Gale’s Australian Accent, “Natural Born Killers” (1994)
The Reporter Wasn’t Written to be from Australia Until Downey Jr. Insisted
Dolittle & the Dragon, “Dolittle” (2020)
The Final Resolution Was Dealt by Downey Jr.
#1: "I Am Iron Man…"
"Iron Man" (2008) & "Avengers: Endgame” (2019)
Those famous four words that started it all off––”I am Iron Man.” With that, the MCU was born. The line is synonymous with Tony Stark’s journey, not just in one movie, but across all Marvel productions since. It also encouraged the other writers and directors to take liberties with the characters as they had been previously presented in the comics. The line means many things, but it takes the number one spot in this list for what it wasn’t––written. Much of the first Iron Man was allegedly improvised. As a result, Robert Downey Jr’s playful remark concluding the movie was so fresh that it became Tony Stark’s catchphrase. It also led to a reshoot during the editing of Avengers: Endgame that saw the cast and crew film the scene so that the line would be included as the character’s last live words.