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Robert Downey Jr. may have hung up his Iron Man helmet when the world said goodbye to Tony Stark in Avengers: Endgame, but it would appear that the character left a lasting impression on the actor. Case in point: On Tuesday, Downey Jr. presented as a keynote speaker for Amazon’s newly unveiled and open-to-the-public Machine Learning, Automation, Robotics and Space (MARS) conference in Las Vegas.
But aside from being the entertainment, he also had a surprise announcement in store.
According to Business Insider, Downey Jr. gave a “gag-filled talk” to the room packed with AI experts, astronauts, and other notable figures in which he joked about his role in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The presentation also included a video guest appearance from Matt Damon.
“Quick disclaimer, I don’t pretend to understand the complexities we face as a species, just because I portrayed a genius in my professional life,” he told the crowd toward the end of his presentation, admitting to his obvious limitations. He also alluded to his checkered past. “My scholastic achievement peaked at a correctional finishing,” he joked.
“On the flip side, I did play an interesting and iconic character for 11 years, Tony Stark,” he continued, expressing his admiration for a character that transformed from a “soulless war profiteer to a man who was willing to sacrifice himself for the good of the community.”
Downey Jr. then announced his big news that he was launching an initiative called Footprint Coalition, with an end-goal to employ the use of robotics, artificial intelligence, and technology to clean up the Earth and reverse its carbon footprint.
And what’s more, he hopes to accomplish this task within a decade.
“Recently, I was at a table with super smart, impressive, expert folks about six months ago,” he explained. “And the following statement was made: ‘Between robotics and nanotechnology, we could probably clean up the planet significantly, if not entirely within a decade.'” The crowd then reportedly broke into wild applause at his unexpected announcement.
If the idea sounds a bit like the plot of Pixar’s 2008 animated feature WALL-E, Downey Jr. conceded to being “essentially a 54-year-old child”—however, he does understand what a colossal undertaking this is.
“I know it’s a kumbaya-type dream. It’s a logistical clusterfuck,” he continued. “I’m down with dedicating myself to maybe one small part of making good on that statement, even in abject failure, it’s still the best idea I’ve ever had.”
Yet, many are lauding his proposed effort, pointing out the former troubled teen actor’s evolution to basically a real-life superhero:
"Between robotics and nanotechnology, we could clean up the planet significantly, if not totally, in 10 years" Robert Downey JR— Stark⎊ (@RunTheJewrls) June 5, 2019
This man is literally out here bringing tony stark to life, A legend pic.twitter.com/IQDRSU4OGX
robert downey jr using robotics and AI (inspired by his role as tony stark) to focus on to clean up the earth in the next decade is the real life superhero that earth deserves and needs.— tiny t⎊ny (@woIvern) June 5, 2019
that’s my man. that’s my hero. thank you rdj. pic.twitter.com/s9lpoWvodR
Robert Downey Jr. IS Tony Stark and you can't change my mind pic.twitter.com/KgEB1LISeM— dominique loves manchee (@stephenstrcnge) June 5, 2019
tony stark is alive and he's living in the form of robert downey jr. pic.twitter.com/oqpDzlErXW— haifa ⎊ (@faintstark) June 5, 2019
robert downey jr, ironman, producer, actor, real life superhero pic.twitter.com/50297NpCYC— ⎊ (@STRKlNDUSTRlES) June 5, 2019
Although Business Insider points out that the Footprint Coalition website is still a work in progress, Downey Jr. says he’ll have the project up and running by April of 2020 and plans to spend the next 11 years working on it.
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Stacey Ritzen is a reporter and editor based in West Philadelphia with over 10 years' experience covering pop culture, web culture, entertainment, and news. You can follow her on Twitter @staceyritzen.