Speaking in a roundtable interview with Entertainment Weekly, the film’s biggest cast members, including Robert Downey Jr, Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson and Mark Ruffalo, emotionally opened up about the first time they met the Marvel legend.
Asked if they have any poignant memories or stories of meeting Lee as he filmed his cameos, Ruffalo said: “Playing Hulk is like my generation’s Hamlet: We’re all going to get a chance to do it. So I was really nervous about ‘would I please him?’”
“I didn’t meet him until the premiere of The Avengers. I walked up to him sheepishly, and he’s like, ‘Hey!’ and he’s like, ‘You got it, kid!’ I was like, ‘Aww, that’s amazing! Thank you, Mr. Lee.’
“Other than Downey and Kevin [Feige], I was so nervous over whether he would be happy with what I’d done.”
Comparing her situation to Ruffalo’s, Black Widow actress Scarlett Johansson revealed that she was also nervous when she met Lee for the first time at the Iron Man 2 premiere, particularly because the role had originally been offered to Emily Blunt.
“I didn’t know how the audience or anybody would react to this beloved character and my interpretation of her, especially because I wasn’t originally cast, so I also had a lot of feelings about that,” she said. But yeah, I had a lot of feelings about it, and I saw [Lee] in the theatre and he was very excited. I had a big sigh of relief after that.”
Downey Jr, meanwhile, shared a story from the set of Captain America: Civil War, where Lee popped up as a FedEx guy. The Iron Man actor revealed how he struggled to keep it together after Lee delivered the line “I have delivery for Tony STANK!” in a Bronx accent.
Captain America actor Chris Evans’ first memory goes back 2004’s Fantastic Four, where he played the Human Torch Johnny Storm.
He said: “At the time, I was very early in my career, and it was the biggest role I’d ever done. To meet someone like him was so, so overwhelming, and he was in true Stan Lee form — full of life and just so kind and gregarious. He just made me feel right at home.”
Chris Hemsworth, who plays Thor, added: “He just had a childlike wonder and enthusiasm. You’d want to talk about something like what-it-all-means and so on, and he was just like, ‘No, I’m just telling stories and we’re having fun!’
“There’s a deeper meaning in the message, which he achieved so beautifully, but the childlike nature about him made me think, ‘Oh, good, we can all just stay big kids forever’. He’s the perfect example.”
Avengers: Endgame hits UK cinemas on 25 April. Watch a clip below.