In 2008, Marvel exploded onto the scene with the first movie in what would later be the Marvel Cinematic Universe. With one declaration, we had a new hero:
“I am Iron Man.” (Tony Stark, Iron Man, 2008)
In classic life-imitates-art fashion, audiences soon began to question where Tony Stark the character ended and where Downey Jr, the actor, began. Back in 2014, he addressed this particular curiosity as part of a reddit Ask Me Anything (or AMA):
The first Iron Man was essentially wrapping the character around a cooler version of “me.” As we’ve gone along, I’m starting to wonder who’s playing who, and I’m glad there are so many talented new people in the Marvel lineup. Ultimately, I’m real, and he’s not. It’s kind of important for me to remember that.
Five years later, we had to say goodbye to Tony Stark (I’m not crying, you’re crying), but has Robert Downey, Jr.?
This past Tuesday, June 4, Downey Jr was featured as a celebrity speaker at the re:MARS (Machine Learning, Automation, Robotics, and Space) event in Las Vegas. The event was hosted by Jeff Bezos of Amazon in an effort to educate on how artificial intelligence can be used to advance our future. Downey Jr took the stage, projecting an easy confidence as he prepared to speak on how advanced technology could help save the world.
I’m beginning to see where the confusion is coming from. In true Stark fashion, Downey Jr is using his highly visible status to make a change in the world. This time, however, it is not against an imposing alien threat or the next Marvel big bad. He has set up a campaign called the Footprint Coalition which aims to use robotics and nanotechnology for the good of the environment. The group is scheduled to officially launch in April of 2020 but for now, you can check out the website and sign up for the newsletter to follow any updates.
Downey Jr looked out on a convention center ballroom to address hundreds of attendees.
In 11 years, when I’m 65, if we make a noble dent in what I consider is a massive threat to our future, the mess we leave behind … I’m going to come back, and I’m going to throw the nuttiest retirement party you’ve ever seen, and all of you are invited.
On that day we will be very proud of you indeed, Tony…err, Robert. We certainly love you 3,000.