It’s one of the most star-studded scenes in the history of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and perhaps our own universe, as well.
Warning! “Avengers” spoilers below.
Yes, for Tony Stark’s (Robert Downey Jr.) funeral in “Avengers: Endgame,” producers pulled out all the stops, bringing together some of the biggest names in the MCU: Michelle Pfeiffer, Samuel L. Jackson, Michael Douglas, Marisa Tomei, and many, many more were all in attendance to bid Iron Man farewell. And no one even uttered a line.
“It did feel actually kind of insane given what a huge backbend it was for line producers and producers to get everybody there on the same day ― that we were going to get that much star power and just have them not say anything,” “Avengers: Endgame” writer Christopher Markus told HuffPost recently.
But while most of the actors in the scene are a who’s who of Hollywood, there is one who quickly turns the moment into a “Who’s that?”
Following a look at everyone from members of the cast of “Black Panther” to the “Guardians of the Galaxy,” the camera passes over one young actor who’s standing alone. At the time, this person left a lot of theatergoers scratching their heads, but now we know it is none other than actor Ty Simpkins, aka Harley Keener, aka the young kid who befriends Iron Man in “Iron Man 3”:
“I have to laugh. A lot of people are like, ‘Who is that guy?’” Simpkins recently told HuffPost over the phone.
He has a number of major projects under his belt, including “Jurassic World” and “Insidious,” but a lot has changed for our guy since “Iron Man 3” came out in 2013.
Here’s the actor at the “Endgame” premiere:
Talking about the decision to bring back Harley Keener, Markus told us, “It popped up when we were all discussing who would come to Tony’s funeral and who’s been significant in the past over the course of the MCU. He’s the sort of strange outlier in that scene. I’d be interested to know what he thinks.”
Well, HuffPost asked him.
“I definitely thought that a couple people would get it,” Simpkins told us. “I wasn’t really sure people would remember me or not, but I was kind of more focused on the fact that I was in the movie.”
Below, the actor explains what it was like to be on set with Oscar winners, his thoughts on saying goodbye to Iron Man and whether we’ll see more Harley in the future.
Do people recognize you a lot?
Before the movie there was little bits here and there of “Iron Man 3,” a lot of “Jurassic World,” stuff like that, and now I’m getting a lot more recognition of Harley from “Endgame,” but it’s still not frequent that it happens.
How’d you find out you were going to be in “Avengers”?
I was about to do an audition and my manager at the time called me and he said they were thinking about putting me in, and I was screaming so much in the car with my mom. My mom is like, “What? What is it?” And I just didn’t tell her because it wasn’t confirmed. I didn’t want to jinx it or anything.
When was it confirmed?
I got the call when I was waiting to go to baseball practice that they were confirming it, and I just remember — because they told me what the scene was about — tearing up and just feeling so nostalgic about everything. ... “Iron Man” [was] probably one of the first movies I saw in theaters. I was 6, sat in the front row and I was just looking up, and that’s all I can remember. “Iron Man” was so inspirational and just meant so much to me. That’s how I felt.
Did you think Harley would ever come back?
I was praying that he’d come back. I love being on set with the Marvel crew because they treat you so well there. They treat you like family. I was really happy that I got that call.
What’d you do after finding out?
I texted Robert as soon as I heard. We just texted for a little bit about how much the character meant.
That’s cool you two still stayed in touch.
Yeah, we’ve been in touch. We text every once in a while, check in with each other.
In “Iron Man 3,” Tony Stark tells Harley to get him a tuna sandwich. Did you think about eating a tuna sandwich in his honor?
I definitely did think about that. There was a lot of memes over the years or animations people have made of me getting him a tuna sandwich or something. I just keep remembering that part. I still think that’s so funny.
What’s it like showing up on set with all these Oscar winners?
It was pretty intimidating. It took me a little bit to just get comfortable there. But actually, when I first got on set, I had to do school. And I guess the school room that they have was the lunch room the day before. Dave Bautista, who plays Drax, comes in and he was very confused to walk into a bunch of kids doing school. So he sat down to talk to us for about 10 minutes.
That’s awesome. And speaking of school, what did everyone at your school think when they found out?
They think it’s really cool. I hadn’t told ... any of them actually. When it came out, people came up to me the next day and punched me on the arm like, “Dude, why didn’t you tell me anything?”
Did you get a script on set or just direction?
I didn’t get a script, but [the directors] came up to me and were like just think about what Tony meant to you and how he impacted your character’s life and your life. So I just thought about what I said earlier, how “Iron Man” is very sentimental to me and how he felt to Harley. I imagine Tony was really Harley’s only father figure and that they would’ve stayed in touch over the years. I just kind of took that sentimental part of my real life and Harley’s life into the scene.
What was it like behind the scenes? Like, were you ever just talking with Samuel L. Jackson or anything?
Robert Downey Jr. actually had this after-party and he invited everyone from set to the party, and I was in the corner. I was kind of alone with my mom and I saw a couple of them smoking a cigar, and so I was like, “Hey, mom, can I smoke a cigar with the Avengers?” So I did it. My mom said that I earned it.
Since you and a bunch of other young actors appear in the movie, there seem to be hints of some younger Avengers coming. What would you think about appearing in future movies?
I mean, I’d love that. I have no idea if it would happen, but I love that.
Who do you think is scarier, Thanos or Indominus Rex?
Oh, that’s tough. I feel like Indominus Rex physically is a little more intimidating, but Thanos, his power is much greater than the Indominus. So I’m gonna have to go with Thanos.
What do you think you’re going to remember most about your MCU experience?
Just being a part of that universe. I remember when I was little, I would look up the fan Wikipedia page from Marvel, and I just remember thinking that’s crazy. Like, that’s me. I am the face of a character in that franchise. I am a part of that franchise and written in there. I think that’s something I’m going to remember for the rest of my life.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.