Will Robert Downey Jr. Retire from ‘Iron Man’ After ‘The Avengers 2′?

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iron man main Will Robert Downey Jr. Retire from Iron Man After The Avengers 2?

Phase Two of the Marvel cinematic universe is about to kick-off with Iron Man 3 – meaning superhero fans are on the cusp of an interconnected set of film experiences unlike anything seen on the big screen before. In addition to Iron Man 3, 2013 will include Thor: The Dark World, then in 2014 Steve Rogers will return for Captain America: The Winter Solider and the studio will debut an entirely new set of heroes in Guardians of the Galaxy – all leading up to The Avengers 2 in 2015 (along with Edgar Wright’s highly-anticipated Ant-Man project).

Of course, along with titular characters, Marvel films often introduce important supporting players (such as Black Widow, Nick Fury, and War Machine) – a trend that we already know will continue in Phase Two. As a result, the Marvel stable of movie heroes is growing rapidly, causing some fans to wonder what the future might entail for some of the original cast members – especially franchise hype man Robert Downey Jr.

Downey has kept busy in his Marvel role since debuting in 2008 as Iron Man – churning out four Tony Stark starring roles in five years (not including his Incredible Hulk cameo). As a result, with no sign of Marvel reducing the amount of movies they intend to explore through their shared universe, industry insiders have begun to speculate on the in-demand star’s future interests. Tony Stark hasn’t prevented Downey from taking other projects (Sherlock Holmes, Due Date, etc) but it has, without question, significantly limited the number of non-Marvel films he can accept each year.

Sherlock Holmes 2 Game of Shadows Clips Will Robert Downey Jr. Retire from Iron Man After The Avengers 2?

Now, in an interview with GQ, speaking about the injury he sustained on the Iron Man 3 set, Downey suggests he’s starting to wonder how many installments in the series he’ll headline – before the ride is no longer fun:

“[The injury] 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 were 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. It’s not unlike: I heard Brady signed on for three more years with New England, and then he’s done being a QB, because he’ll be 40. I’m 47, and I’ll be 50.”

After GQ posted their interview, the Internet responded with fans and insiders speculating that Downey may not have simply been waxing poetic – that he was actually hinting at walking away from Tony Stark after The Avengers 2.

First off, it’s important to note that the quote was framed by Downey talking about his injury – which led the actor to consider the strain of blockbuster movies and his aging body. Future Marvel productions could easily take precautions (more stunt doubles, CGI models, etc) to ensure that similar injuries don’t occur – whether the actor signs-on for two or twenty-two more Marvel films. Furthermore, as Downey ages, his role doesn’t have to be as physical – as the character could, down the road, spend less time in the Iron Man suit and more time advising and supporting younger Avengers heroes. For that reason, while the quote focuses heavily on Downey’s age and physical limitations, odd-are that, should the actor walk away from the Marvel universe, it will be because he’s burned out on the character.

Iron Man 3 Preview Tony Stark Farmhouse workshop Will Robert Downey Jr. Retire from Iron Man After The Avengers 2?

Keep in mind, this isn’t the first time the actor has addressed questions about his future with the franchise and, looking at the bigger shared universe strategy, it’s much more likely that Downey isn’t going anywhere. Instead, as we’ve asserted numerous times on the Screen Rant Underground podcast, Marvel will utilize their steadily growing roster of characters to take some pressure off of the main Avengers – rotating them in and out as the series presses forward. This isn’t to say that the Phase Three Avengers team-up will only see Ant-Man, the Guardians of the Galaxy, and Doctor Strange together but, depending on cast member interest, it’s possible that Marvel might, for example, hold-off on Iron Man 4 until Phase Four – allowing Downey (in this case) a lengthy break.

After all, only one month ago at the Iron Man 3 press day, Downey told us that he would likely be back for The Avengers 2 (even though his four picture deal concludes with Iron Man 3) because he likes being a “company man.” The actor further added that there are still elements of the character that he wants to explore:

“There’s, to me, that kind of wish list or grab bag of things. ‘We haven’t been able to get this in the movie yet—maybe this time we’ll get to—!’ or whatever. I put so much onus on Iron Man 3. Iron Man 3 was supposed to answer all the questions for the audience, cure all of my uncomfortable moments in the past with playing this character, and get in every idea that fell by the wayside in the last three movies. And then we shot the movie and I still feel there’s a couple other things we’ve gotta do.”

Iron Man 3 Trailer TCL Will Robert Downey Jr. Retire from Iron Man After The Avengers 2?

Looking at the bigger picture, it’s pretty clear that Downey isn’t done with the character yet. Marvel Studios head, Kevin Feige has previously claimed that Marvel is prepared to recast key roles if necessary (a la James Bond) but everyone knows that wouldn’t be ideal – especially in the case of Tony Stark. Assuming Disney is willing to give the actor some time away from the Marvel universe, Downey could easily get excited about returning to Tony Stark for future installments – assuming they were a bit more spread out than the pre-Avengers movie slate. In fact, a year ago, Downey stated that as long as Marvel was cognizant of the series’ quality, he’d be interested in showing up for Iron Man adventures.

Rushing out an Iron Man movie every three years would be hard on the cast, franchise, and shared universe storyline and, at this point, it’s unlikely that Disney even intends to punch out Thor, Captain America, Hulk, and Iron Man movies in each “Phase” of the shared movie universe. Considering the amount of new (and less-grounded) characters that are on the horizon, Feige has stated that the filmmakers are keenly aware of franchise fatigue – as well as the dangers of over-saturating the market with too many superheroes.

Ultimately, Downey’s interest in non-Marvel projects may be a non-issue – allowing the actor to jump back into Iron Man armor at key moments (i.e. an inspired solo story or an Avengers team-up). The right amount of money will be a factor in any future Marvel movie appearance but with other actors taking key roles in the Marvel universe, Downey will have less responsibility on his shoulders. Should the actor be given more time for “artistic” personal projects, it’s easy to imagine that Disney will be able to work with Downey on acceptable compensation.

Iron Man 3 Hall of Armor Art Will Robert Downey Jr. Retire from Iron Man After The Avengers 2?

After all, while Marvel is notorious for low-balling potential cast members, Disney is known for rolling out dump trucks full of money for key stars - such as Johnny Depp who gets well-over $50 million for each Pirates of the Caribbean installment. Money will definitely be a factor but it’s probably less of a deal-breaker than Downey’s interest in diversifying his schedule.

As a result, will we see less of Downey in Phase Three of the Marvel cinematic universe? Probably. Is he going to be entirely done with the series after The Avengers 2? Not likely.

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Iron Man 3 releases May 3, 2013 and The Avengers 2 on May 1, 2015.

Source: GQ

Follow me on Twitter @benkendrick for more on Iron Man 3 as well as future movie, TV, and gaming news.

Follow Ben Kendrick on Twitter @benkendrick
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  1. I am still thinking TIMESLIP, but hey ya never know, but it is still a possibility. another thing is Iron Man director of Sheild, or Sectatary of Defense. Jut have to wait and see

  2. Agree with the author. It’s unlikely Downey will walk away from the role altogether. Don’t know if it’s just me, but I sense he really enjoys playing the character. So long as they don’t overplay the franchise, he should be fine and still interested.

  3. I hope he doesn’t retire I don’t think anyone could fill his iron shoes.

  4. I think after Avengers 2 RDJ should just play Tony Stark and pass on the Iron Man mantle to someone else. They could easily make War Machine an Iron Man representative on the Avengers or something. Plus by the time Avengers 2 rolls around Marvel shouldn’t have to rely on Iron Man as their biggest solo series. By then Thor and Captain America should be just as big and seeing as how Chris Evans and Chris Hemsworth are younger they can stick to this franchise for a while and be the leading men.

  5. i would love for him to play stark forever, but i cant fault him for not wanting to do it the rest of his life either. they can james bond this character if need be. sure, fan-boys will get all pissy and what-not, just like with james bond, but that’s worked out pretty well so far


    • well, i thought i was!

  6. I respect his decision to retire. At least from Iron Man. He is getting old, it makes sense. WHAT I WON’T HAVE RESPECT FOR IS.. when Disney/Marvel starts hunting, the minute he retires, for a new Iron Man.

    • What do you expect them to do, just forget about Iron Man once RDJ leaves?

      • No, but he’s the face of Iron Man. Handle it like Batman. You can’t just go straight to the next generation. You have to give it a rest or it diminishes the value of Iron Man.

  7. After Avengers 2, I could easily see RDJ stepping away from playing the character full time and taking a smaller role in the overall franchise. He could pop up and do cameo stuff as Tony Stark in Phase 3 for fan service. I doubt he wants to continue with physically demanding roles as he gets older.

    Plus, I personally would like to see him in a few more non-Marvel movies. Tony Stark is great, but his turn in Tropic Thunder was hilarious and I’d like to see him lead an awards contending picture.

    • I get the impression that he is grateful to the Iron Man character for helping him get his career going again and so I hope he would at least do some little cameo for the fans. If he is replaced at some point in the future I think it would be great to have him appear in some Stan Lee style cameos :)

  8. NOOOOOOOOOOOooooooooooooooooooo….

  9. Robert Downey Jr. happens to be great actor.
    Not something you hear very often these days.
    At the time of Chaplin it was an often reminder.

    Robert is a great Iron Man because he is a great actor.
    He has made the character compelling. Robert is the Man.

    Robert is the kind of talent whose legacy should include a number
    of varied landmark roles and he is not now on such a trajectory.
    He knows what he is capable of more than anyone and his
    inner voice is saying get on with it — time is not infinite.

    And he should get on with it. Robert is that good.
    He owes it to himself and his talent to move on.

    My prediction is Iron Man 3 is his last Iron Man.
    He will be in Avengers 2 for certain and Avengers 3
    will probably be a reality too but that is as far as it goes.

    Which is pretty damn far for a great actor who
    should and needs to be known for much more.

  10. Food for thought. I guess Marvel and Disney will see RDJ as the main man in the entire MCU, so I expect that they will somehow get him to stick around and money could definitely sway this. It wouldn’t surprise me if they go for a contract that has him appear in two more avengers and at least one more solo outing worth something in the region of $150 mil + % of box office. I don’t know maybe this is way too much.

    I really like the idea of giving him phase 3 “off”, that would give him a chance to do Sherlock Holmes, which I read somewhere they were interested in doing in a Part 1 and 2 style, and other stuff. He could possibly have an extended cameo in phase 3 in a hulk or cap film depending on story e.g. hulkbuster scene or just a simple office confrontation with fury (a fury scene could be done and filmed in a day).

    I do wonder what will happen though because replacing RDJ incorrectly could seriously hurt Iron Man as a character in cinema form. The important thing to remember is that no one is bigger than their character!

  11. I wonder now if Hugh Jackman would ever tire of playing Wolverine but last I checked from a recent interview, he loves playing the character. Then again, he hasn’t played him in a full time role since 2009. So maybe RDJ needs the same kind of space in between installments as Hugh.

  12. I think RDJ likes to play the character but I can understand wanting to take a step back. Marvel seems to feel they can do well without having him at the forefront, but the numbers for Thor and Cap sequels may change that. I could seem them push the Maria Hill and Nick Fury in Cap 2, Avengers 2, and the TV series and eventually move Tony Stark into a SHIELD Director position to give RDJ less stunts but we’ll see what happens.

  13. instead of him doing more iron man movies he could just have small roles or cameo in later avenger movies

  14. i thnk he needs to do it till the avengers and he know it but marvel have already said they will go with or without RDJ which i respect and its not marvels fault at all.

    ths also makes you wonder, this can at least for a couple decades because marvel can just recast or do what comics do and get the original to pass the torch. they cannot just simply reboot iron man because that screws with the universe. they need to reboot the whole MCU

    • why would they need to reboot? Just pull a James Bond type recast and keep the ball going

  15. You guys think Downey would really cameo on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.?

    • He has done TV before.

  16. Of course he should go out on top with Avengers 2…doesn’t anyone remember how old and flabby Roger Moore looked in “A View To A Kill?”

    There’s going to come a point when the same people who are insisting RDJ should stay will demand that he must leave.

    Knock the ball out of the park before you leave to remind folks who was the “Sean Connery” of the Marvel Movie Universe.

  17. I would f*cking cry if he leaves the Role of Tony Stark.

  18. All I know is whoever plays Stark in the future is going to have some huge shoes to fill.

  19. Kill Iron Man route :)

    • Yup, I keep saying that. Any other actor would be just a poor replacement. Downey Jr. IS Tony Stark, just like Ian McKellen IS Gandalf. If he retires from the job they need to retire Iron Man/Tony Stark from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It would be a tough loss, but anything else would just be a cop out. They’d still have Rhodes/Warmachine for the iron-suit ass-kicking action and I’m sure there are pleny of other characters in the Marvel Universe that can add a similar kind of sarcastic/comedic spice to the mix. Too bad the rights for Deadpool are in Fox’s hands…

  20. First, I’d rather see Downey leave the character than take it down the Jack Sparrow route. However, I think Marvel could still make it work – they just have to not overplay the character. Already he’s done four movies in five years – that’s a lot by anyone’s count. If they spread it out more so Downey would only put out an Iron Man appearance once every three years, for example, it’d mean that they burn through the character slower AND allow Downey more time to pursue other things. At present they’ve raced through Stark’s character arc and there’s only so much they can do with the character.

  21. I’ve already put my two sense into this on ComicBookMovie.com, and I still feel the same way.

    If they do decide to recast him, or anything… it SHOULD be after The Avengers 3

    • You only have two cents about this? I figure most of us nerds have a least a nickel to chip in.

  22. Thanks for that serving of spam.

  23. I think if each Iron Man film at least offers something new to really flesh out the characters, he’d be all for.

  24. If he’s gonna be out, they should replace him with Iron Patriot.

  25. How about Disney and Marvel accept RDJ is getting old and write him becoming The Director of Shield or apart of Shield and he gives the Iron Man role to Some young Person(Don’t Know who that would be)

  26. Why would he retire? They’re still paying him right? Let me be iron man, I’ll do it for half his salary

  27. Heck, age is a worry? To play Iron Man?! Nuts, I’LL DO IT! And I’m 55!

    Robert Downey Jr. has created the part’s interpretation, and while it is not the same as the comics of the 60s and 70s’ character, as far as the movies go, he and the character have become one. I don’t think anyone else could do a good job of playing the character as it has been presented in the movies.

    Heroes I want to see in The Avengers franchise really soon: Goliath (Hank Pym; cool blue/yellow outfit, just like the old comic design–exactly like it, in fact, from the costume design to the goggles); wasp; Quicksilver; Scarlet Witch. And I want all of their costumes to be just like in the coimics of the 60s and 70s. And make hawkeye’s like his old blue/purple one, also. maybe later on in the franchise, if more heroes are to be added, I might consider Black Panther and Vision. Maybe. But these other 4 first.

    Villains we need to see in Avengers: Kang; Ultron; Skrulls; Whirlwind. And Mandarin, battling his nemesis IM with rings zapping and everything, one on one!

  28. RDJ is an excellent actor and bought Starks character to life. But the man deserves his right to pursue his other goals outside of Iron Man. I would miss him a great deal though.
    On another note, just maybe ( and this is the fanboy speaking) Disney can do a joint venture with Fox and Sony and collab in an Avengers movie with Spidey and Wolverine… Highly impossible but one can dream.

  29. Fox, Sony, and Disney partnering would be awesome but they all would fight over who got the biggest piece of the money pie. I so wish Marvel had rights to all their characters again for film but Sony and Fox know very well that as long as they quickly churn out Spidey and X-flicks, they keep the rights. Bummer.

    • @Joshua its a good thing Marvel doesn’t own all the characters because there is no way we could get all those franchises in the amount of time we get them. You see how long its taking to get another Hulk movie and he stole the show in Avengers. I would really like for a Disney and Marvel to allow Spidey to cameo in Avengers though. It really does seem like that franchise was rerouted to seem like its in a similar world in a kind of implied way. But it would hard to cinematically build up a villain that’s both INTERESTING AND POWERFUL enough to build up tension to the point you wonder can the Avengers, X-Men, Spiderman, and so forth not take him out. It would be really difficult to keep all those movies in continuity yet build a compelling Villain. Then each franchise would have to explain why every other franchise can’t appear in each other’s following movie. Its hard enough for Marvel to explain why the Avengers can’t show up in every movie, now they would have to explain the Xmen and Spidey too.