In the world of cinematic soundtracks, few decisions seem as obvious in hindsight as the inclusion of Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man” in the Marvel blockbuster of the same name.
Yet, in an almost unfathomable turn, Marvel executives were initially against using the iconic song in the film, a decision that could have altered the movie’s legacy.
The 2008 film “Iron Man” marked the genesis of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, a bold venture that required every element to hit the perfect note. When it came to the film’s sonic identity, there was an unexpected contention behind the scenes. Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man,” a song that seemed destined for the film, given its title and heavyweight status in the rock canon, wasn’t an immediate choice for the executives. Why? Well…
The resistance was multifaceted. Some believed the classic rock anthem, released in 1970, might not resonate with the modern audience the film sought to captivate.
But really what it came down to was money. Execs simply didn’t want to shell out the high licensing costs to Ozzy Osbourne and crew in order to legally use the song in the film.
However, internal advocates for the song’s inclusion, understanding the pulse of the fanbase, argued the track’s driving riffs and haunting vocals encapsulated the essence of Tony Stark’s journey.
One of those advocates was Jeremy Latcham, former SVP of Production and Development for Marvel Studios:
“I said, ‘Here’s what I know—you guys pay me to tell you what I think is cool. I’m telling you that this piece [of music] is cool. I’m telling you that if you take the ‘Iron Man’ song out of this piece, it is not cool. It’s a binary thing.’
We finally got them to agree to pay Ozzy Osbourne, so now we finally had the Comic-Con piece… a week before Comic-Con.
It was Latcham’s unwavering persistence that ultimately saw reason prevail. Upon its release, the closing credits rolled to the pounding intro of “Iron Man,” and fans were electrified by the decision.
The executives’ initial hesitance is now a curious footnote in the annals of film history, as the song not only amplified the character’s persona but also bridged a generational gap between classic rock fans and the contemporary audience.
The inclusion of “Iron Man” proved to be a masterstroke, forever syncing the images of Robert Downey Jr.’s indelible character with the primal beats of Black Sabbath’s legendary track. And an undeniable win for heavy metal music in the process.