The end-credits scene in Jon Favreau's Iron Man (2008) established a now-beloved tradition in the MCU universe, while making a promise to both comic book fans and everyone who loved the first true MCU movie that there would be much more to come from the tin-can-suited Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.). Yet instead of simply hinting that Stark would be back for a new adventure, it promised that the entire Avengers team from the comic books would assemble.
At the time, it was a pretty groundbreaking move. Up until that point, the movie world had never seen an epic, superhero team-up movie where heroes introduced in their own hugely successful movies would band together to fight as one.
It's been 10 years since The Avengers first arrived in theaters on May 4, 2012 and changed the game. Here are 20 facts about the original film and the Spandexed movies that followed.
1. Robert Downey Jr. hid food all over the set.
Since Robert Downey Jr.'s role is so demanding, the Iron Man actor doesn't have time for quick snack breaks—so he just eats onscreen. Downey reportedly hides snacks everywhere, which is why Stark is often munching on something when he delivers his biting quips. This is true not just of all the Avengers movies, but anywhere else Stark shows up.
2. Chris Evans sent everyone a text that read "Assemble" so they could go out drinking.
The main actors in the Avengers movies weren't together all that often. So on the rare occasions when they were in town to shoot together, Chris Evans would send up a Bat-Signal (sorry) for them to go party. The simple text saying "Assemble" is one of Clark Gregg's personal favorites.
3. Captain America isn't eating shawarma because of an uncomfortable prosthetic.
The end credits for The Avengers broke the mold by featuring a pair of scenes. The first promises the arrival of Thanos as a major villain directly involved in aggressions against Earth, and the second shows the battle-worn Avengers making good on a throwaway joke about eating shawarma. This second scene wasn't part of the original script, and wasn't even shot until the day after the movie had its Los Angeles premiere on April 11, 2012, when the actors were in the middle of their media blitz.
Because of the timing, continuity became a problem for Evans, whose Captain America is the only one not eating in the scene. Instead, his hand is covering his face in seeming exhaustion. The real reason we don't get a good look at Evans is because he had grown a beard for Bong Joon-ho's Snowpiercer (2013), and the prosthetic they to cover it up didn't look real enough for him to chow down.
4. They got Hulk to smash Loki with a rope and a surprise.
One of the most memorable moments in The Avengers is when Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) answers Loki's (Tom Hiddleston) erudite taunts by slamming him like a rag doll. They pulled it off with a rope, several stunt actors, and by not telling Hiddleston exactly when they'd tug the wire. "The experience of being yanked out of frame was one I will not forget in a hurry," Hiddleston told Entertainment Weekly.
5. Mark Ruffalo was almost The Hulk before he was The Hulk.
Ruffalo took over the role of Bruce Banner/The Hulk from Edward Norton after Norton starred in 2008's The Incredible Hulk. But Ruffalo was actually director Louis Letterier's first choice for the character; Marvel wanted Norton because he was more famous at the time.
6. Stan Lee's cameo in Avengers: Age of Ultron is a nod to his military service.
Lee's last cameo was in Avengers: Endgame as a hippie shouting "Make love, not war!" But his appearance in Age of Ultron is as a WWII veteran who claims to have fought at Omaha Beach. In real life, Lee didn't storm Omaha Beach, but he did enlist in the Army in 1942 and went on to work in conjunction with Dr. Seuss in the training film division.
7. Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver's origins changed because of a rights issue.
In the comic books, Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver aid Magneto in his villainy, but with the X-Men split off from other Marvel entities due to movie studios rights, the production team behind Age of Ultron gave Wanda and Pietro Maximoff a different origin story. With no Magneto in the universe, the twins are test subjects for Hydra's Baron Wolfgang von Strucker.
8. Elizabeth Olsen described Scarlet Witch the same way James Spader described Ultron.
To illustrate how morally complex Scarlet Witch is as a hero, Olsen spoke of her in the same way James Spader spoke of the A.I. villain of the film. "She has such a vast amount of knowledge, that she's unable to learn how to control it," Olsen said. "No one taught her how to control it properly, so it gets the best of her. It's not that she's mentally insane, it's just that she's overly stimulated, and she can connect to this world, and parallel worlds, at the same time."
Paralleling that naive energy, Spader said of Ultron, "He sees the world from a very strange, Biblical point of view, because he's brand-new, he's very young. He's immature, and yet has knowledge of comprehensive, broad history and precedent, and he has created in a very short period a rather skewed worldview."
9. Small-town theaters in Germany boycotted Age of Ultron.
It wasn't because they disagreed with the portrayal of murderous A.I. robots. It was a matter of Disney wanting 53 percent of the box office take on all ticket sales versus the traditional 47.7 percent. While it might not seem like a huge difference in numbers, it could have meant the difference between turning a profit for some of Germany's smaller theaters, so they simply refused to play it. Disney also reduced the amount of money it agreed to contribute toward advertising and 3D glasses.
10. Age of Ultron has a sly reference to Archie Comics.
Iron Man has to fight Hulk in Age of Ultron, using a series of safety protocols he has named "Veronica." It's an incredibly sly reference to Archie Comics: As the love of Bruce Banner's life was named Betty Ross, Age of Ultron writer/director Joss Whedon thought it would be fun to add a Veronica into the mix because "Veronica is the opposite of [Betty]."
11. A focus group member got a line into Avengers: Infinity War.
Get this person a screen credit! This is extremely rare, but apparently a person in one of the focus groups for Infinity War referred to the Outriders as "Space Dogs." Directors Anthony and Joe Russo liked it so much, they gave the line to Bradley Cooper to voice as Rocket Raccoon.
12. Captain America's Infinity War look is a nod to his time as The Nomad.
There were times in the comic books when Captain America wasn't Captain America. His first turn as The Nomad came when he lost faith in the United States following the Watergate scandal, and his costume in Infinity War is meant to reflect the same costume he wore as that character back in the 1970s.
13. Arrested Development's Dr. Tobias Fünke has a cameo in Infinity War.
We were so, so, so close to seeing David Cross as Tobias Fünke in the MCU. The Russos got their start in television, including directing a number of episodes of Arrested Development, and they wanted Cross to show up as a mustachioed, shirtless, blue guy. Unfortunately, Cross had scheduling conflicts, but the directors still managed to put a look-alike as tribute in one of the scenes.
14. Evangeline Lilly and Paul Rudd shot Endgame and Ant-Man and the Wasp at the same time.
It wasn't easy on anyone. Marvel's release schedule is so bloated that they have to film multiple projects at the same time, which also means maintaining a sense of continuity between all the films while juggling dozens of characters and multiple storylines. During Ant-Man and the Wasp, Evangeline Lilly and Paul Rudd would frequently be pulled away to shoot scenes for Endgame. Ant-Man director Peyton Reed said the process caused him some headaches, but that the Avengers-focused film ultimately found ways to ensure Rudd and Lilly were available to, you know, star in the movie they were starring in.
15. Endgame is the only time Robert Redford has played the same character twice.
Robert Redford has never played the same role twice, but Marvel somehow managed to both coax him out of retirement and get him to reprise his role as HYDRA leader Alexander Pierce, who he first played in Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014). Other than a very brief appearance as the voice of a dolphin monster in the collage film Omniboat as a favor to his grandson, 2019's Endgame is Redford's last film appearance.
16. Tom Holland was not allowed to read the Endgame script.
During his earliest days in the MCU, Holland earned a reputation as someone who happily gave away spoilers during interviews—like the time he spoiled the ending to Infinity War to a packed theater. So the filmmakers decided the best way to keep the plot lines to Endgame as quiet as possible was to forbid the Spider-Man actor from reading the script. "Tom Holland gets his lines and that’s it," Joe Russo explained in 2019. "He doesn’t even know who he’s acting opposite of ... We use very vague terms to describe to him what is happening in the scene, because he has a very difficult time keeping his mouth shut.” Holland has joked that they wouldn't even tell him who he was fighting against, so he just punched the air for 15 minutes.
When the cast promoted Endgame around the world, Holland was very intentionally paired with Benedict Cumberbatch, who was asked to "babysit" Holland and ensure that he didn't reveal any spoilers (as you can watch above).
17. Endgame is the first movie to reach $1 billion at the box office in its first weekend.
Following the promise of Avengers, and the fantastical expansion of a filming style thought impossible back in 2012, Endgame closed the chapter on several of the founding members of the superhero team while racking up $1 billion faster than any movie had ever done before it. After just five days in theaters, Endgame had earned $1.2 billion. Today, Endgame sits just behind James Cameron's Avatar as the second highest-grossing movie of all time.
18. "Groot" is a learnable language.
If you've only seen Guardians of the Galaxy, it's possible that Groot only saying "Groot" is merely a gag, and Rocket is pretending to understand as much as is possible. In Infinity War, Thor jokes that he took "Groot" in college, but it's also clear that he understands the sentient plant, meaning that the language comprised solely of one word is indeed a language and is learnable.
19. A classic Star Trek: The Next Generation episode inspired Endgame.
The final episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation involves Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) split between multiple timelines that all lead to a mysterious signal out in space. "All Good Things" gave the crew a solid send-off, and it also inspired Marvel head Kevin Feige. Instead of digging into the thorny particulars of time travel, the Avengers joke their way through the adventure, leaning heavily on the nostalgia of moving through the older films so that everything still lines up.
20. The writers thought time travel was the stupidest idea possible for Endgame.
It's not just you. Even the writers of Endgame thought the time travel element was profoundly silly. Co-writer Christopher Markus said that the scene were the Avengers contemplate the ridiculousness of a time heist "mirrors us sitting in a room trying to figure out how the hell to get out of the corner we wrote ourselves in at the end of Infinity War and entertaining the idea of a time machine and then feeling that it's the stupidest idea you could possibly have."
The writers may have thought it was stupid, but audiences loved it. Plus, it offered a clever way of honoring the previous films and reminding audiences just how massive the scope of the Marvel Cinematic Universe really is.