Robert Downey Jr. played Iron Man because the actor originally approached wasn’t interested

19. 05. 2023 | Kristýna Bezděková

Who wouldn’t want to play a major role in a big money comic book universe? Well, fifteen years ago, the world was a different place. Movie adaptations of comic book hits were worse rather than better, and only a few (Spider-Man, X-Men) were breaking the attendance charts in theaters. The cast of the beloved Iron Man was crucial to building the cinematic MCU. And Robert Downey Jr. was far from the first choice.

Although director Jon Favreau was clear about casting Downey from the start, the actor’s troubled drug history didn’t make him a shoo-in in the eyes of Marvel Studios. The goal was to get a big name while making sure the actor wouldn’t cause trouble. Marvel’s head of film division Kevin Feige returned to his home university in Southern California to speak about the class of 2023. He shared a number of stories, and there was even talk of Iron Man. And he surprised those in attendance with who Marvel originally wanted to cast in the role.

“When we were looking to cast Iron Man, we tried a lot of different actors. We had to find the perfect combination of inner strength, heart and charisma. Since this was our first Marvel movie, the stakes couldn’t have been higher. The success of the film and the future of our entire studio rested on the shoulders of this one person, and that was no easy task. Together with my team, our casting directors, and director Jon Favreau, we ultimately chose an actor from an extensive list who we felt met all of these requirements and who we were confident would be successful in the role. His name was Clive Owen. But he didn’t accept. He wasn’t interested,” Feige said of the casting.

Owen, known for Agent Without a Past, Descendants of Men and Sin City, is undoubtedly a talented actor and it would be interesting to see how he would handle the character of Tony Stark aka Iron Man. Personally, however, I’d venture to say that he wouldn’t have at least given it the charming mischievousness that Downey naturally possesses and that the swashbuckling hero (at least in the current setting) largely benefits from.

After all, even Feige himself believes that everything turned out as it should have. “Sometimes the best thing that can happen to you is when the first choice doesn’t work out, because you mainly need the right choice to work out. Well, in our case, it was Robert. The first film we made as a studio ended up being one of the highest rated and highest grossing films of the year,” Feige said, smiling at the students.

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Author of this article

Kristýna Bezděková

Kristýna is a student of marketing and communication in an undergraduate program. She writes and translates content into the Czech language


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