Robert Downey Jr. will appear as Tony Stark in Marvel Studio’s upcoming “Black Widow” prequel.
Deadline revealed the news after announcing Downey’s recent 2019 Saturn Award win. His Best Actor in a Film trophy was one of six that “Avengers: Endgame” scored at this year’s Saturn Awards ceremony.
The publication wrote, “Downey will be seen in the role of Stark one more time, however, in the Marvel prequel Black Widow in May 2020.”
In just what capacity Downey’s Stark will appear is unclear. Here are a few ways the beloved fallen superhero could make a glorious “return” in “Black Widow.”
New Scenes via the De-Aging Process
In one (likely preferred) scenario, Downey could shoot scenes which would probably involve the de-aging technique.
De-aging a character in a film is an extensive, meticulous process. Lola VFX made Tony Stark/Downey look like a teenager in the “Captain America: Civil War” flashback scene.
Visual Effects Supervisor at Lola VFX, Trent Claus, discussed Downey’s de-aging transformation in the “Captain America” installment with The Hollywood Reporter.
Instead of using a complete digital double, Claus said that Downey performed the entire scene himself. Then they adjusted the footage of Stark via “digital composing.” To render the younger image, they used Photoshop-style tools.
The process is notably different for a film than it is for a still image. VFX experts have to manipulate an actor’s features frame by frame.
“Every feature of the face and body needed to be addressed in some fashion,” Claus said about how they created teen Tony. “One thing that happens to all of us is that the skin of the face gradually lowers in certain areas and needs to be ‘lifted’ back to where it was at the age in question. But other changes are incredibly subtle, such as increase in the way light reflects off the sheen of the skin, a reduction in the appearance of tiny blood vessels under the surface of some parts of the face, or more blood flow in the cheeks giving them that familiar youthful ‘glow.'”
FX artists must also consider other physical factors when de-aging an actor. Characteristics like skin texture, complexion, bone structure, and posture vary at different ages.
In Downey’s case, they analyzed his earlier work in films. They chose his “Less Than Zero” film as an onscreen target age. The movie came out in 1987 when Downey was in his early ‘20s. In a “Black Widow” prequel, he would need to look younger once again.
Pre-Shot Footage or ‘Appearance’ ala ‘Spider-Man: Far From Home’
Unfortunately, another possibility is that Downey will appear in “Black Widow” in pre-shot footage. Or, he could “show up” in a photo or poster as the character did in “Spider-Man: Far From Home.”
As Comicbook.com suggests, there’s also a “good chance that ‘Black Widow’ could be recycling a deleted scene from the third ‘Captain America’ movie.”
The scene in question is not part of any special bonus features. But it has screened at multiple public events. In it, Black Widow and Iron Man reportedly have one final confrontation. Their heated exchange happens after Iron Man’s final battle with the Winter Soldier.
Another strong indicator that this theory is probably correct is that Downey’s IMDB filmography doesn’t list “Black Widow” among his upcoming films. Next, he plays the lead role in the 2020 release of “The Voyage of Doctor Dolittle.”
It’s also worth noting that “Far From Home” is not among Downey’s film credits. Yet, we “see” Tony Stark’s image in a high school news tribute as the film opens. The same could happen in “Black Widow.”
Gone but not Forgotten
For MCU fans, Downey/Tony Stark may be gone from future MCU shooting sets, but he will never be forgotten.
After all, Downey launched the entire MCU franchise with the first “Iron Man” film. Stark experienced tremendous growth over the MCU’s evolution. Thus, Downey deserves his Saturn Award win for his riveting “Endgame” performance.
As for the 2019 Saturn Awards, “Avengers: Endgame” also won Best Comic-to-Film release, Best Film Production Design, Best Film Editing, Best Film Make-up, and Best Film Special/Visual Effects.
Meanwhile, with Spider-Man leaving the MCU, Tom Holland’s Saturn win for Best Performance by a Younger Actor in a Film, along with Zendaya’s Best Actress in a Film seem bittersweet.
Come what may, most fans will welcome Downey/Stark’s presence in the MCU any way they can get him. Exactly how he’ll show up in “Black Widow” remains to be seen.