When Iron Man first took flight in theaters in May of 2008, few could imagine that the film would set off a sprawling twenty-two film series that would go from the streets of New York City, to the kingdom of Wakanda, and to the great cosmos of space. But it all started with Jon Favreau and Robert Downey, Jr., as well as a cameo by Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, that would set into motion what has become the most successful franchise of all time. It’s been a spectacular journey for both those behind the scenes and those in front of the cameras, and it goes without saying that the twenty-second film, Avengers: Endgame, which acts as a finale of the series up to this point, is a rather bittersweet moment for all those involved. For eleven years, Downey, Jr., Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, and Jeremy Renner – – just to name a small few of the many actors that the Marvel Cinematic Universe has had to offer! – – have given audiences across the globe hope, laughs, and tender emotional moments that have continued to pull audiences back every time. But in the process, the group has become a family both on screen and off, so to say farewell to it all – – at least in some capacity – – marks the end of a professional career moment that many don’t often get.

On April 7th, 2019, Marvel Studios brought a group of press from around the world to witness what is potentially the last time this group of people would be together for a press conference as the final push of the Avengers: Endgame press tour begins. Moderating the panel would be none other than the man who started this whole journey, Jon Favreau – – taken a break from what I’m sure is a rather intensive post-production process on his upcoming remake of The Lion King – – to sit down with the stars of the upcoming film. Well, at least the stars that didn’t turn to dust that is. Favreau brought his usual dry wit and fun to the proceedings, as he walked out on stage, and reminding the journalists and pundits in the house that he’d been with the Marvel Cinematic Universe since it was, and I quote, a screaming toddler. It only makes sense to have the man who started this whole journey to usher it off into the sunset in its current iteration.

Next, to Favreau, current with the Avengers logo sat, waiting to reveal what was behind it. Last year, a similar current set up would drop, revealing the entirety of the Avengers: Infinity War cast in grand fashion. Not to be outdone by themselves, Marvel Studios decided to do the same thing this year, as the current feel, it was a massive set of seats…with about half of them empty, and our remaining Avengers: Endgame cast members who weren’t turned to dust, filling the seats in various spots across the stage. It was a very tongue and cheek reveal that would set the tone for much of the rest of the press conference, one full of laughter, as well as a bit of emotion as many of the actors are saying goodbye to these characters – – at least seemingly – – one last time. Super producer Kevin Feige, as well as the directing duo of the Russo Brothers, who are now directing their fourth film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, was also on hand to field questions.

Much like Avengers: Infinity War, Marvel Studios, Kevin Feige, and the Russo Bros. are keeping much of the film’s plot and secrets close to the vest. So while the group couldn’t talk much about the film specifically, they were able to talk about it in broad strokes, as well as their overall impressions of the MCU to this point. Here are some of the biggest takeaways from the event:

  • When asked if in the beginning, Robert Downey, Jr. could envision what the series would become, and the full story arc that Tony Stark would face, Downey, Jr. said it was almost like being of two minds: the sky is the limit, and the sky is falling. He says he remembered talking up on set just where this could go, but also just hoping that they were making a good film with the first Iron Man on a day to day basis that you couldn’t really dwell on what was to come.
  • Favreau then joked and asked if Downey, Jr. would rather the fans called the film Avengers: EndgameAvengers 4, or would it be best if they referred to it as Iron Man 22, which brought a lot of laughs.
  • Downey, Jr. then said that he feels like a many of the now sprawling MCU, as it’s continued to grow and the cast gets closer and closer every day to each other. He called it the coolest relay race in the entertainment space right now.
  • Kevin Feige was asked when he knew this whole thing was going to be big, and in a very humble way, said he always saw big as relative. However, he then pointed back to how much fun they were having making the first Iron Man, and then as the dailies were coming in, he thought they really were making something special up until that point.
  • Feige also said that, at the time they were making Iron Man, the bar wasn’t as high as it has become now, from what audiences were expecting from their superhero films. He was just hoping they could compete with some of the other Marvel films that had come out prior to it.
  • He said the wind behind their backs really started to swell at Comic-Con in 2007 when they showed the first trailer for the film, and then the reveal of the Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury really opened up their world at what it could become. Those were two of the watershed moments for what the series would grow to.
  • When asked what makes Avengers: Endgame special in the end is the actors in the film and the journey to the end. We haven’t really seen a definitive ending to a superhero saga up until this point, especially one on this scale, so by aiming to make a grand finale, it sets it apart from everything else. To Kevin, that’s what really makes the film special.
  • Favreau then turned to the Russo Bros. and thanked them for the care that they’ve given this universe since they became involved. He said that all the directors, from himself, to others like Joss and Taika, they all feel very grateful that these two came in and saw a way to help expand the universe and grow it, but also bring it home for this finale.
  • When asked about how the ending of Infinity War really ripples through Endgame, Anthony Russo said that he and Joe love the storytelling technique of writing yourself into what seems like an impossible corner to overcome. The idea of how Thanos’ snap affects each of the heroes, and how they deal with loss, was very interesting for them to delve into.
  • Joe Russo followed up that he really wanted to finish this grand experiment as an epic conclusion, and really bring something special to the table for fans who have been with it since the beginning. He says that there’s something special about how they take this movie around the world with them and how so many people have been affected by the films in different ways, and grown with them. They just want people to feel satisfied when they leave.
  • When Jeremy Renner was asked how he was feeling joining the Avengers again, Renner joked he felt rested since audiences hadn’t seen Hawkeye in the films since Captain America: Civil War.
  • When asked what Danai Gurira likes the most about Okoye, she said the first thing is being around all her costars, but it’s the fact that Okoye is so unapologetic and a traditionalist in how she wants to protect her nation, which she said she connected to on a personal level.
  • Chris Hemsworth said when he first got the role of Thor, he had a lot of questions that kept looming in his head, like the idea of if the movie would even make it past DVD, to whether or not he’d get recast in the role. He was nervous, but always excited, to be a part of this universe after he saw Thor when hew as 18.
  • But what made playing Thor so special was all the people that he got to work with throughout this whole experience. Be it from Kenneth Branagh and Taika to the different cast members that he got to work beside, it just made the whole experience one that was incredible and unique for him. He called it all a very remarkable journey.
  • Chris Evans was asked what it’s meant to play Captain America, and what does he think about his journey in this film. Under very watchful eyes from the Russo Bros., Evans started to say that he loved the completion of his arc, only to start putting his foot in his mouth as the Russo Bros. gave him a buzzer sound that it was too much. The whole cast started to laugh, and Jon Favreau suggested that we just talk about Scott Pilgrim vs. the World instead, to which Evans and Brie Larson both agreed with. For the record, I think we should definitely talk about that movie more!
  • Then Robert Downey, Jr. called out Chris Evans for not going to Paul Rudd’s birthday party the night before, which Rudd joked, “it’s ok, I’m one of the new guys.” There’s definitely a feel of family with this group and they really act like they’re related at all times.
  • When asked about playing Black Widow in the MCU, and what it means to bring her to life, she didn’t know how audiences would react to her interpretation of the character. But she’s glad that the character has gotten to grow from a sexy secretary with a particular set of skills to do be what the character has become feels natural and she loves that the fans have encouraged her to grow.
  • When asked what made Karen Gillan so excited to come back to play the complex character of Nebula in Avengers: Endgame, Karen joked that it was coming back to play a character with serious daddy issues, since her dad is Thanos. She then said more seriously though that she’s glad that Nebula will get to face the source of her abuse, as it’s all been building since the first Guardians of the Galaxy, and the rift between the two has continually grown.
  • Paul Rudd then said he was terrified to say anything, as he didn’t want to give anything away. He then joked that he saw the trailers, so he can definitely say that he’s in the movie, but he can’t say more.
  • Rudd then said that the there’s a lot of the same sentiments being that there’s a lot of love for the sense of completion that the film is bringing, but more importantly, the relationships that it built. He compared being brought into the overall MCU fold to the idea of The Beatles asking you to join them for a while and jam with them, which is a pretty great descriptor.
  • Rudd then said it was hard to put into words just how great it was to work with all these actors and directors since he joined. He said this is clearly a one-off for him, and it’ll never happen again for him, or anyone else really, because things like this just don’t happen very often. He said he was honored to be a part of it.
  • Jon Favreau then chimed in off that and really dug into what makes Marvel Studios so special, and that’s what they really are just a huge group of collaborators who work together, letting every artist do their vision, but you can really seem the work that they all do together up on the screen.
  • Brie Larson said that she came at the most magical time possible, with her joining the MCU at its ten-year anniversary mark, and then to also get to be a part of Avengers: Endgame. Her introduction to everyone together was the ten-year photoshoot that the cast did together last year.
  • She also said that making the films kinda felt like when you were making movies as a kid in your garage, with everyone just having a great time, and everyone just felt childlike in a way doing it. She said the whole experience overall was surreal, but she loves being a part of this universe.
  • Don Cheadle made a very funny joke about taking over the role of Rhodes, saying that the character started lighter in tone and overall bigger than life than Cheadle is, but he then darkened and became more compact narratively speaking. It was a hilarious moment that had Downey, Jr. in stitches. But he really loves being a part of this time, and he’s happy that Rhodes has gotten to evolve over the films to this point.
  • There was then talk about who the best boggle player was, and that both Cheadle, Rudd, and Larson were the best players, but that Ruffalo may not have been so much. However, he did find the word asbestos, of all things, during their game of Boggle. But normally he can’t even find a cat.
  • Ruffalo then closed out the proceedings from the general questions and was asked if this truly does feel like a family. He joked that it can’t feel like a family because everyone gets a long way too well all the time. But then he said it really is the family you wished you had.
  • He then followed up that this press conference feels a little bit sad, and calling it bittersweet, because as actors you don’t usually get to work together with so many of the same people over and over again. It’s the biggest form of continuity for them as actors, as they get to watch people get married, have kids, and see them grow up. Not just seeing each other at every other awards party or something of that nature.

Honestly, it’s hard not to feel a bit of sadness like Ruffalo said because, in a lot of ways, this is an ending. That was reiterated many times throughout the press conference, things won’t be the same moving forward, and it’s time to say goodbye to a lot of our favorites moving forward. But not just us, as they’re saying goodbye as well. This has really been an incredible ride, and has covered many of the films in this series until this point, and having been 18 when Iron Man hit theaters, I’ve definitely a strong connection to this cast and the world they’ve built. But as all things come to an end, there are new beginnings as well. It’s safe to say that the Russo Bros and Kevin Feige have hoped to bring this story to an epic and proper conclusion, before springboarding the MCU into new, and uncharted, territory.

So, for now, there’s only one last thing to say…Avengers, assemble!

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