Just as Iron Man had his right-hand man Happy Hogan, Robert Downey Jr, the actor who brought that Marvel superhero to the screen in 10 films, had Jimmy Rich. Acting as Downey’s personal assistant, Rich had worked with the Academy Award-nominated actor for nearly two decades. On Wednesday the fifty-two-year-old died in a tragic car accident.
On Thursday morning Downey took to Instagram to post a heartfelt tribute. He referred to Rich as his brother and right-hand man and cited him as a key influence and support during the actor’s well-documented recovery from substance abuse.
Downey’s Marvel Cinematic Universe co-stars Gwenneth Paltrow (Pepper Potts), Mark Ruffalo (the Hulk), Chris Hemsworth (Thor), and Jeremy Renner (Hawkeye) all paid their condolences on the post. Ruffalo wrote to Rich, “Thanks for always being real, always being there to lend a hand, and showing the way of light forward to so many people.” Paltrow showed her shock at the sudden tragedy, commenting: “Please no oh my god.” Pratt wrote: “He was awesome. Such a tragedy.”
Chris Evans (Steve Rogers / Captain America) made his own tribute to Rich on Instagram. He said of Rich, “He left an indelible impression on everyone he met.”
The Russo brothers, who directed Downey in “Avengers: Infinity War” and “Avengers: Endgame” posted their own tribute to Rich on their shared account. “Life tests us,” they wrote. “If we take what it gives us and allow it to fortify our character, we act as a light for others. Jimmy was a light…”
Marvel Studios likewise made a tribute post, calling Rich “a great friend to all of us at Marvel Studios for so many years.”
Actors outside of the Marvel films who paid tribute included Jack Black and Josh Brolin who wrote, “No words. Just tears and gratitude for the gift that was him.”
Variety reports that Rich was employed by Downey for the first time in 2003, joining him on the set of “The Singing Detective.” Since then the two had worked together steadily, including on every film in which Downey played Tony Stark, aka Iron Man, in the MCU.
Rich’s personal Instagram shows that he was interested in a vegan lifestyle, animal rights, and was religious. According to that page, the personal assistant had also been a recovering addict and had been sober since 1998. Many of his posts focused on Downey, who clearly played an important role in his life. His last post was made a week ago and featured an image of the Iron Man actor. He had also posted an image of himself with Downey, the same image Marvel Studios had posted. The deceased had credited the photo to photographer Chuck Zlotnick.
Downey’s character died at the end of “Avengers: Endgame” but will reprise his role in the upcoming MCU film “Black Widow,” which will serve as a prequel. The actor was also in the news this past week as he is executive producing a new series called “Sweet Tooth” for Netflix. The series is based on another comic published by Marvel’s chief competitor, DC Comics.