When chatting with a journalist friend Robert Downey Jr. mentioned a few days ago as a joke that he’d make Iron Man 4 if his pal Mel Gibson were directing it. It was an offhand remark about a very real movie fans want that exploded into headlines in typical billion dollar franchise fashion. The star, Hollywood’s highest paid actor, made fun of that reality earlier today in a video for The Howard Stern Show where he jokingly said he’d come back for Iron Man 4 if Stern directed too.

All jokes aside, Iron Man 4 is going to happen. Whether that will be many years away with a new actor or whether it could come in the relative near future is entirely up to Robert Downey Jr. – the poster boy of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. After Iron Man 3 made $1.2 billion at the global box office, RDJ re-signed with Marvel Studios for two more appearances in The Avengers 2 & 3 but according to the latest rumors regarding the third team-up, it may not be as simple as that and there could be some major event movie happening after The Avengers 3 that he – and other headlining Avengers stars – could be saved for.

Since he’s conducting the press tour to promote The Judge, Robert Downey Jr. can’t avoid talking about the future of Marvel and the momentum practically reached a boiling point on The Ellen DeGeneres Show where he was flat out asked if Iron Man 4 is happening. The video up top shows the answer, and while the confirmation that it’s happening is not actually an official confirmation that it is, the explanation that he’s currently in negotiations for Iron Man 4 is a big revelation.

Perhaps it’s not a surprise for Iron Man 3 director Shane Black who seemed rather confident last year that Robert Downey Jr. would come back for Iron Man 4 & 5, but the news eradicates words from RDJ last month when he appeared at the Toronto International Film Festival and stated in interviews that there are no plans for Iron Man 4. Now there clearly are.

Perhaps this is part of the reason Marvel Studios was gun shy about announcing more of their large schedule of untitled films. They did announce Guardians of the Galaxy 2 and it’s all but confirmed that Doctor Strange is coming in 2016, but that leaves 7 other movies that haven’t been officially announced. Maybe they were waiting to confirm a plan for the future of Iron Man solo movies? Perhaps part of it could be due to the latest rumors about Spider-Man potentially coming back to Marvel.

So many questions and so many exciting possibilities. And this all comes just a few short weeks after finding out Fox is making Deadpool happen. Comic book movie fans have a lot to look forward to, at least 40+ DC/Marvel movies in the next six years. If Robert Downey Jr. signs for Iron Man 4 don’t be surprised if the contract extension also includes Iron Man 5 as well or at least appearances in other ‘event’ movies. We’d love to see him in a Guardians of the Galaxy followup since Iron Man joins the team in the comics and since Downey Jr. said Guardians was his favorite Marvel movie.

More: When Can Marvel Studios Launch Iron Man 4?

The Avengers: Age of Ultron releases in theaters on May 1, 2015, followed by Ant-Man on July 17, 2015, Captain America: Civil War on May 6 2016, Doctor Strange on November 4, 2016, Guardians of the Galaxy 2 on May 5 2017, Thor: Ragnarok on July 28, 2017, Black Panther on November 3 2017, Avengers: Infinity War – Part 1 on May 4 2018, Captain Marvel on July 6 2018, Inhumans on November 2 2018 and Avengers: Infinity War – Part 2 on May 3 2019.

Follow Rob on Twitter @rob_keyes for your Marvel movie and TV news!

Source: Ellen