The line separating Robert Downey Jr., the actor, from Tony Stark, the character, is likely pretty thin at this point. Downey has been playing the billionaire playboy philanthropist for so long in the Marvel Cinematic Universe that one just assumes he shows up to set in Stark-appropriate garb, reads the lines with precise delivery, and leaves — with the crew in awe. I’d imagine trying to direct Downey on the set of a Marvel movie would prove challenging, for what notes could you hand him that he hasn’t already perfected over the past 9 years. So I asked Spider-man: Homecoming helmer Jon Watts what it’s like directing Downey as Stark, and he told me:
There’s one element to it that does feel like you are just making a documentary about Tony Stark. Like, ‘Hey, Tony Stark is here!’ [Laughs] That’s how I felt initially. But then when you really start getting to know Robert and talking to him, and exploring ideas for the movie. He’s so great and so smart, and has thought about this character more than anyone else. To really talk to him about that and see where he takes these moments… as a director, you’re just so happy just to watch a scene that you hope is good just get better and better. You are holding on to the edge of your seat, becoming an audience member for a moment, just really wondering what’s going to happen next.
One major benefit for Spider-Man’s first full-length foray into the MCU is that Peter Parker (Tom Holland) has Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) to lean on and learn from. Not fast enough, as Peter keeps trying to impress “Mr. Stark” and maybe earn a membership into The Avengers. Similarly, Homecoming has the presence of Downey to lean on, making instant connections to the existing MCU so that casual fans realize this is a story that arrives right after Captain America: Civil War, when Tony recruited Peter with the simple catcall of “Underoos!”
Jon Watts had one film credit to his name, the indie drama Cop Car, when he was handed the keys to Spider-Man: Homecoming. But it is the collaborative spirit that’s present in all MCU movies that allows directors and actors to come together and continue the story that loosely threads through all of the Marvel films — of which Homecoming is now a part.
After the smaller-scale antics of Spider-Man: Homecoming, the Marvel universe expands drastically as it follows the God of Thunder through Thor: Ragnarok. Next year, we’ll also visit Wakanda for Black Panther, before culminating in the massive battle that is Avengers: Infinity War. Head over here for all the details on every Upcoming Marvel Movie.