You might not know this, but we were very close to having a completely different take on Phases 2 to 3 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. When Robert Downey Jr signed on for the part of Tony Stark, he was only contracted for five movies. He completed his contract at the end of Iron Man 3. After appearing in the Iron Man trilogy, The Avengers, and a post-credits scene for The Incredible Hulk, his contract was up. Downey Jr was even prepared to leave after his contract had expired.
Even the producers at Marvel were considering the worst outcome. Studio president Kevin Fiege explained one possible solution back in an interview back in 2012; ‘I think Bond is a good example. Let’s put it this way: I hope Downey Jr makes a lot of movies for us as Stark. If and when he doesn’t, and I’m still here making these movies, we don’t take him to Afghanistan and have him wounded again. I think we James Bond it.’
Downey Jr also expanded on Feige’s comments in an interview with Empire film magazine. He said, ‘It would probably be the best thing in the world for me. You know, ego… but sometimes ego just has to be smashed. Let’s see what happens. I take the audience very seriously – I feel bad when I see folks doing movies and the audience is like, ‘Don’t do that anymore.’ I don’t have to overstay my welcome…’
During the release of Iron Man 3, even Downey Jr seemed uncertain about his future in the MCU. He said to GQ magazine, ‘Fortunately I’ve been around the block enough—I’m not ill-prepared. And I love change. I love it when a lightning bolt hits the genny and you’re down for two hours on the set. Now, this isn’t a lightning strike, this is like the warning of a gathering storm.’
Referring to his age and on-set injury, he continued, ‘[Iron Man 3] got me thinking about how big the message from your cosmic sponsor needs to be before you pick it up. How many genre movies can I do? How many follow-ups to a successful follow-up are actually fun? Because, as quiet as it’s kept, I come from a family of very innovative writers and directors and actors and artists, and the circle of friends they were in was the people I heard having pun-offs playing poker at two in the morning, and it was just the most comforting aspect of my childhood. So there’s this kind of legacy of souls from what I consider to be a very particular time in entertainment, and I’m sensing a return to that—it’s what me and the missus are doing next.’
Of course, we now all know the eventual outcome. Downey Jr ended up signing a brand new contract that would allow him to play supporting roles in other Marvel franchises. At the cost of a lot of money, too.
We later see Downey Jr appear in further Avengers outings, the Captain America franchise and Spider-Man: Homecoming.
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In another interview with Empire, Downey Jr explained his decision to take on these supporting roles. ‘They said to me, ‘If we have you, we can do this, or Cap 3 has to be something else.’ It’s nice to feel needed. And at this point, it’s about helping each other, too. I look at it as a competition and I go, ‘Wow, maybe if these two franchises teamed up and I can take even a lesser position, with people I like and directors I respect, maybe we can keep things bumping along.’
Avengers: Endgame was of course the supposed end of Iron Man and Robert Downey Jr’s Marvel experience. But rumors suggest that some unused footage may be used to bring him back in a cameo appearance in the upcoming Black Widow movie.
Source: Hindustan Times