Despite being over a decade ago, Heath Ledger’s turn as the Joker in The Dark Knight remains the only Academy Award to be won by an actor in a comic book movie.
However, in the years since, superhero movies have become a staple of the entertainment and have begun to shatter the previously existing glass ceilings.
For example, just last year, Black Panther was nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards, and by the looks of it, Todd Phillips’ Joker seems set to follow suit. And while Joaquin Phoenix’s performance as Joker is looking like a shoo-in for a Best Actor nomination, there are rumblings that Robert Downey Jr’s performance as Iron Man in Avengers: Endgame should be in that conversation as well.
On its own, Downey Jr’s Endgame performance is nothing out of this world, especially for an actor as talented as him, but when observed in the context of his entire decade-long performance as Tony Stark — where the character was where the MCU began and where he wound up — you realize just how expertly Downey Jr. crafted the arc of Tony Stark.
After all, as Captain America once famously said, Tony Stark was not the guy to “make the sacrifice play, to lay down on a wire and let the other guy crawl over you”, but he certainly became that guy over the course of the MCU, and all that growth was expertly portrayed through Downey Jr’s acting.
Of course, Avengers: Endgame directors Joe and Anthony Russo agree, believing that Downey Jr’s final performance as Iron Man deserves Academy Award consideration.
“I just want to stump for one thing, and that’s Robert Downey… We don’t make movies for awards. Yes, making this was exceedingly difficult. We made the two most expensive movies ever back-to-back. But I just want to stump for one thing, and that’s Robert Downey. I don’t know if I have ever seen — in movie history — a global audience react to a performance the way they did to Robert Downey in that movie. There were people bawling in movie theaters, hyperventilating. I mean, that is a profound performance, when you can touch audiences all over the world to that degree. We’ve never seen anything like that, and if that doesn’t deserve an Oscar, I don’t know what does,” Russo told The Daily Beast.
While the winning the Academy Award for Best Actor is certainly a stretch, simply being nominated would be more than reasonable, as Downey Jr. — in a role that has basically defined modern cinema as Iron Man was at the genesis of the superhero craze — put in one of his career-best performances in Avengers: Endgame.
Eric is a New York City-based writer who still isn’t sure how he’s allowed to have this much fun for a living and will tell anyone who listens that Gotham City is canonically in New Jersey. Contact him: email@example.com.