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Iron Man premiered in Sydney on April 14, 2008, and was released in the United States on May 2, as the first film in Phase One of the MCU. It grossed over $585 million on its $140 million budget, becoming the eighth-highest grossing film of 2008. The film was praised by critics for its acting (particularly Downey's), screenplay, direction, visual effects, and action sequences. It was selected by the American Film Institute as one of the ten best films of 2008 and received two nominations at the 81st Academy Awards for Best Sound Editing and Best Visual Effects.
In April 1990, Universal Studios bought the rights to develop Iron Man for the big screen, with Stuart Gordon to direct a low-budget film based on the property. By February 1996, 20th Century Fox had acquired the rights from Universal. In January 1997, Nicolas Cage expressed interest in portraying the character, while in September 1998, Tom Cruise expressed interest in producing as well as starring in an Iron Man film. Jeff Vintar and Iron Man co-creator Stan Lee co-wrote a story for Fox, which Vintar adapted into a screenplay. It included a new science-fiction origin for the character, and featured MODOK as the villain. Tom Rothman, President of Production at Fox, credited the screenplay with finally making him understand the character. In May 1999, Jeffrey Caine was hired to rewrite Vintar and Lee's script. That October, Quentin Tarantino was approached to write and direct the film. Fox sold the rights to New Line Cinema the following December, reasoning that although the Vintar/Lee script was strong, the studio had too many Marvel superheroes in development, and "we can't make them all."
In December 2004, the studio attached director Nick Cassavetes to the project for a target 2006 release. However, this deal ultimately fell through, and Iron Man's film rights returned to Marvel.
In November 2005, Marvel Studios worked to start development from scratch, and announced Iron Man as their first independent feature.
Jon Favreau was hired to direct the film in April 2006, celebrating getting the job by going on a diet, losing 70 pounds (32 kg).
Favreau planned to cast a newcomer in the title role, as "those movies don't require an expensive star; Iron Man's the star, the superhero is the star. The success of X-Men and Spider-Man without being star-driven pieces reassures [executives] that the film does have an upside commercially." However, before the screenplay was prepared he had approached Sam Rockwell to play the part. Rockwell was interested, but Favreau changed his decision after the screen-test of Robert Downey, Jr. (Rockwell would later portray Justin Hammer in Iron Man 2 (2010)). In September 2006, Robert Downey, Jr. was cast in the role. Favreau chose Downey, a fan of the comic, because he felt the actor's past made him an appropriate choice for the part
The script was not completely finished when filming began, since the filmmakers were more focused on the story and the action, so the dialogue was mostly ad-libbed throughout filming. Director Jon Favreau acknowledged this made the film feel more natural. Some scenes were shot with two cameras, to capture lines improvised on the spot. Robert Downey Jr. would ask for many takes of one scene, since he wanted to try something new. Gwyneth Paltrow, on the other hand, had a difficult time trying to match Downey with a suitable line, as she never knew what he would say.
Paul Bettany has never seen the film, and is unfamiliar with the plot. He said J.A.R.V.I.S. was the easiest job ever, and it was almost like a robbery, since he only worked for two hours, got paid a lot of money, then went on vacation with his wife (Jennifer Connelly, who would later voice the A.I. in Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)). His role would, however, be expanded considerably in the later Marvel films, and even require his physical presence from Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015) on.
(at around 1h 50 mins) Just before the final press conference, Tony Stark is reading the newspaper with a grainy, amateur photograph of Iron Man on the cover. The picture is part of a video, shot by onlookers hiding in a bush during initial filming, that appeared on the Internet in 2007.
This is the last film special effects expert Stan Winston completed before his death.