Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, and Brie Larson will not reprise their roles as Iron Man, Steve Rogers, and Captain Marvel in Marvel’s upcoming What If…? series, despite being three of the greatest stars in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The series is Marvel Studios’ first animated venture within the core MCU, and it will go deep into the universe, which has been a recurring motif throughout Marvel’s Phase 4 output. Each episode will focus on a crucial period in the MCU’s history and explore the question, “What if?” Possible outcomes include the Avengers turning into zombies and Hayley Atwell’s Peggy Carter becoming Captain Britain, and T’Challa, played by the late Chadwick Boseman, being taken by Yondu and becoming Star-Lord. Prior to his untimely death from colon cancer last year, Boseman was able to complete production on the project, with the series intended to be one of the actor’s final appearances. Both Downey Jr. and Evans have been key figures in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, with Downey Jr., in particular, being responsible for launching the entire franchise with 2008’s Iron Man. In addition to starring in their own trilogy, both actors featured in all four Avengers films before exiting the franchise with 2019’s Avengers: Endgame.
Larson, on the other hand, joined the franchise as Captain Marvel in 2019 and will reprise her role as Carol Danvers in the highly anticipated sequel, The Marvels, in 2022. Because this is an animated effort that isn’t as intimately linked to the MCU as a program like Loki or WandaVision, these re-castings aren’t likely to have the same impact. They are, nevertheless, significant given the large number of MCU alumni who will feature in What If…?, including fellow Avengers Chris Hemsworth, Jeremy Renner, and Mark Ruffalo. Even performers who had minor, but crucial, roles in a single film, such as Stanley Tucci as Abraham Erskine, are likely to return. At the same time, given that both Evans’ and Downey Jr.’s contractual responsibilities with the MCU have been fulfilled, it’s understandable that they did not want to be a part of the series and instead chose to devote their attention elsewhere. Larson and Cumberbatch, on the other hand, are still very much connected in the MCU, with sequels expected out next year.
However, it is quite conceivable that they just had conflicting schedules elsewhere that prohibited them from contributing their voices to the series. Cumberbatch’s appearance is especially shocking given that Doctor Strange is scheduled to be a regular on What If…?, with the program delving into the ramifications of a possibly malevolent version of the character. At the moment, there is no word on who will come in to replace the actors, but they will undoubtedly have huge shoes to fill. This is especially true of Downey Jr. and Evans, whose names have become associated with their performances. Hopefully, the replaced actors will perform well. Fans will be able to make their own decisions when What If…? debuts on Disney+ on August 11th.