HOW ONE WOMAN CAST MORE THAN A THOUSAND ACTORS IN THE MARVEL CINEMATIC UNIVERSE

Sarah Finn had no idea what this meeting would set into motion. About a decade into her career as a casting director, Finn had now been called upon to interview for the latest live-action Marvel property, Iron Man.

From left, Brie Larson, Scarlett Johansson, Don Cheadle, Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans and the character Rocket, voiced by Bradley Cooper, in Avengers: Endgame. Sarah Finn took on the gargantuan task of casting nearly every actor who appears in the MCU, amounting to more than a thousand roles overall. Disney / Marvel Studios / The Associated Press

Sarah Finn had no idea what this meeting would set into motion.

It was 2006, and Crash, a movie she worked on, had just won best picture at the Academy Awards. About a decade into her career as a casting director, Finn had now been called upon to interview for the latest live-action Marvel property, Iron Man. That’s how she wound up holding a list of qualities director Jon Favreau wanted to see in his Tony Stark.

“I still have them on a piece of paper somewhere,” Finn says, before naming a few: charisma, quick wit, immense intelligence.

They chose Robert Downey Jr. with little doubt in their minds that he was right for the part, though the announcement was met with raised eyebrows from the public. Downey’s relatively recent struggles with substance abuse had affected his mainstream career, such that an Entertainment Weekly writer felt the need to reassure readers of the casting decision: “No, really, it makes sense.”

The risk paid off. Downey’s performance as the morally torn superhero anchors the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Infinity Saga, which began with 2008′s Iron Man and concluded 21 films later with last month’s box-office behemoth, Avengers: Endgame. It’s difficult to imagine anyone but him in that role — a statement that could extend to any of the heroes, really.

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