Among the biggest moments of Avengers Endgame is the sacrifice play that Robert Downey Jr.'s Tony Stark makes, giving his life to finally dust Josh Brolin's Thanos. Speaking at an exclusive Empire live Q&A with subscribers in attendance, Marvel Studios chief Kevin Feige explained that he wanted the narrative ends of Stark and Chris Evans' Steve Rogers to have as much impact as an earlier superhero end – the death of Hugh Jackman's Wolverine in Logan.
Asked whether the team behind Endgame were ever concerned about taking one of the major players – one of the initial drivers, indeed of the entire MCU – off the board, Feige insisted that wasn't the case. "No, the idea for Tony came up first and I think we were dedicated to it 100% and we never questioned it, because this was the whole idea. That was the whole point of the ending. Sometimes we're influenced by the words of others, sometimes we're not, and stay the course."
The need for Tony's end to have real weight was vital for the filmmakers. "Around the time we started working on this film, there was some sense that deaths don't matter in our movies – Nick Fury gets shot and died in Winter Soldier and comes back in the third act, which was awesome, but is not a death. And people were clamoring for, not death necessarily, but stakes and real emotion. And I remember thinking, 'be careful what you wish for,' as we started getting closer to this. But we never questioned it. All of the angst and all of the effort went into sticking the landing, to making it worthwhile."
So how does 2017's Logan factor into Stark's sacrifice? "We saw Logan like the audience did, in a theater having nothing to do with the making of that film and went, 'oh my god, what an amazing ending for Hugh as this character.' And there are only a handful of examples where an actor so associated with a character can go out perfectly. That's what we desperately wanted to give Robert, and that was what our focus was on."
What of Steve, who doesn't die, but is allowed to find happiness with Hayley Atwell's Peggy Carter, albeit in a timeline that effectively takes him out of the MCU? "That was an idea that came up probably within a year of developing these films and became an anchor for the entire project. It was such an amazing idea, and such a perfect, unexpected ending. For everybody who was guessing he was going to die, because all the polls online certainly had Steve Rogers at the forefront of getting killed. And the fact that, yes, he was changing, he was going away, but in a very unexpected way, and in a way that allowed us to end our Infinity Saga on two characters dancing and a kiss."
Avengers: Endgame will be out on Blu-ray on 2 September.