Tony Stark famously promises Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) “no more surprises” early in 2018’s Avengers: Infinity War, even though some of the biggest, darkest surprises of his life are on the way. While the events of the film were clearly not as surprising for Robert Downey Jr. as they are for his character, there’s at least one moment neither he nor anyone on set was prepared for.
We know about the line, or rather the word, that surprised Robert Downey Jr. thanks to an interview this week from The Hollywood Reporter with Benedict Cumberbatch. You may recall that shortly after Tony Stark and Doctor Strange first meet each other in Infinity War, the two heroes argue over whether to use Strange’s Time Stone against Thanos (Josh Brolin), or to find some way to get rid of the artifact. As they bicker, Stark snidely asks, “What is your job exactly, besides making ballon animals?” Without missing a beat, Strange responds, “Protecting your reality, douchebag.”
According to Cumberbatch, “douchebag” was not in the script. Cumberbatch improvised the word, surprising Robert Downey Jr. and everyone else. Cumberbatch went on to say that he sensed “a ripple effect” on set, with cast and crew shocked at what Doctor Strange had just called the MCU’s first hero. He said he noticed audiences react in similar ways in the theater. He added that the improvisation came from being “bored of being compared to Liberace” as well as his co-star’s other retorts.
Besides being a great moment in Infinity War, it just plain makes sense. Just as Robert Downey Jr’s Stark and Chris Evans’ Steve Rogers have some natural reasons for their initial dislike and distrust, Strange and Stark have plenty of reasons to not like each other. As a man of science, Stark is simultaneously dismissive of and intimidated by the world of magic. Meanwhile, at least a small part of Strange is likely deeply envious of Stark, who managed to profit off of his life-threatening injury in a way Strange never could. Plus, while Tony changes after his injury, he has the privilege to remain a man of science, while Strange has to learn to see the world in an entirely new way in order to move on.
Before too long, we’ll likely be seeing Doctor Strange clash with another Avenger, and it won’t be Robert Downey Jr., nor will that conflict be limited to funny retorts. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is due for release next March, in which Elizabeth Olsen will appears as the Scarlet Witch. And there’s a lot of unconfirmed reports swirling that Wanda Maximoff won’t be in the film to help Doctor Strange, but instead will be the villain. Whether she’s there to help Strange or hinder him, we know at least that Olsen has finished the principal photography on her sequel.
As for what Robert Downey Jr. will be doing in near future, he’s set to appear in the long-brewing sports dramedy All-Star Weekend directed by Jamie Foxx and boasting an ensemble cast that includes Gerard Butler, Benicio del Toro, Eva Longoria, and Ken Leong. Per Deadline, Downey’s been cast in the upcoming HBO miniseries The Sympathizer based on the 2015 novel by Viet Thanh Nguyen. Not to mention that at some point in the next few years, we can expect Downey to reprise his role as the eponymous sleuth in Sherlock Holmes 3.