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.

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  1. Best way to re-cast RDJ is to go the Controller route or Secret Invasion. Where Tony isn’t really himself. That way someone else could play him but not really be him and still get away with it. And stay away from time travel and alternate universes, it’s a cop-out.

    • That’s a terrible idea

  2. I really dig the idea of Downey just stepping in every now and then. If I were in charge, I’d have him become the Director of SHIELD at the end of Avengers 2, and then he’d appear in Avengers 3 where Ultron attacks. Then later he’d appear in Avengers 4 where it’s Civil War. Rogers vs Stark. But otherwise skipping most of Phase 2 and 3

  3. If RDJ should ever retire from Iron Man, I prefer they kill him off than recast him. I know Marvel has successfully recasted hulk and war machine but RDJ, to me, is tony stark because he went through most of the same eperiences on a personal level. RDJ definitely needs to take more non marvel roles but if he retires, no one can come close to RDJ as Iron Man.

  4. If he leaves more continuity is off in this series…

  5. Slightly off topic but I don’t know where else to post it.
    TV spot # 11, 12, and 13 have been posted to YouTube.
    Titled “life”, “build”, and “nightmares” respectively.
    Revised footage in first; extra comedy, extra extremis and heartbreaker in second; and more lady in cafe, more extremis, and more unknown blue armor in third.

  6. RDJ is to IM what Connery is to Bond. I can’t say he couldn’t be replaced but there’s a chance 90% of the replacements won’t be as good just like in Bond.

    PS: the injury comes from accidents… It’s not like it was required for the role.
    He could just as easily break a leg at home.
    If I had a choice about what I was doing when I got hurt I’d rather it was playing a superhero than taking the dog for a walk.
    I say he retains the role and simply spaces out the releases.

    PS again… Isn’t he supposed to be some martial arts guru who knows all about taking care of himself?

    Nuff said!

    • Have to disagree with you on the Bond thing. Everyone has their fair share of favorites, it’s always an equal amount for each Bond. I can’t stand Roger Moore’s Bond, but there is a bunch of people who love him. I love Daniel Craig’s Bond the most, but there are a lot who hate him.

      It’s just preference. Tobey Maguire will always be Spider-Man to someone, Andrew Garfield will always be Spider-Man to another. Some people love Michael Keaton’s Batman, some people love Christian Bale’s Batman. Heck, some people love Val Kilmer’s Batman.

  7. I think the best way to do it is to just kill him in avengers 2, Marvel started the cinematic universe with him in phase 1 I would end phase 2 with the death of Tony Stark that way it gives meaning as to why new members would join the avengers in avengers 3 for the climatic battle whether it be world war hulk or civil war.

  8. Thanos does punch his head off in the infinite gauntlet story line. If it weren’t for you Warlock… tony would still be dead…

  9. Keep him but gradually integrate other marvel characters into his iron man film so as to use the success of the franchise while also limiting downey’s physical exertion.

  10. Id like to see them keep RDJ aslong as they can. But after Ironman 3, there could be a break for him imo before seeing a 4th film. I just hope he’ll be in Avengers 2.

  11. This is after he injured his ankle. Didn’t Screenrant have an article on this subject months ago? You are responsible for speaking it into existence. Darn you, Screenrant.

    Seriously, I am not feeling he is saying for sure he is retiring, but that after the injury other things are becoming important to him. The idea that he deserves to chill after the life he has lead kind of makes sense to me. He is married, and is now making so much money from the few movies he is doing that he isn’t having to chase roles down like he was 7-9 years ago.

    Oh by the way he is replaceable as Tony Stark. Just because his performance has been great, doesn’t mean he is the definitive Iron Man. We don’t know who could be up for the role if he departed. And Marvel hasn’t had to really think about it, but come crunch time they would put some serious thought into it, and I trust the brain trust they are building up to figure it out. Joss Whedon is responsible for Chris Hemsworth’s casting as Thor.

    And maybe Disney will continue to pay him enough to keep him interested but they hopefully have learned to pay for quality rather than quantity as is the case of Depp in the overlong franchise that is PotC.

    I feel Marvel actually shot themselves in the foot. RDJ would have been best as Dr. Strange.

  12. $40-50 million is quite an incentive to keep going. Just saying.

    • Sure it is, but RDJ is pretty bankable with just about anything these days. He’s talking about legacy here, so if Iron Man stops being enjoyable to him, I’m sure he’d still be able to bring in a livable wage (yes, that’s sarcasm) taking projects he’d be more passionate about.

  13. I hear what you are saying, but just some thought to the idea that maybe money isn’t his motivation. Coming from a life of excess, drugs and money, does that mean much to him? I’ve read several interviews of his, and in my opinion he is not one to jump for a paycheck.

    He seems to not be trying seriously for an Oscar as of late but he is capable of more substantial roles than what he is getting by playing in Marvel’s sandbox. He plays the roguish and callous cavalier attitude quite well, but he is a rather intellectual and deep actor. His legacy as an actor is probably on his mind. This injury might have given him a little bit of a reason to doubt the physical commitment to a role that has officially ended its initial trilogy arc. Even if he has more ideas to bring to the table for the role, that’s just a sign of a good actor. Unexhaustible creative energy it’s called. All good actors should bring that to their jobs.

    Though I ask, what will box office totals mean in twenty years for actors like him? Marvel’s paychecks total have already guaranteed him the freedom to do what he wants for the rest of his life. I have read very little where he states his plans for the future but this GQ article quote above makes it sound like his age is on his mind. I’ve read that he enjoys the company of his wife over anyone else. I theorize he just wants to spend as much time with her as possible and Iron Man has made that possible.

  14. I’m happy with the idea of him showing up once in a while, maybe out of the Iron Man suit. He could be secretary of defence, he could be the new director of SHIELD or like it was said in this article, a supporter of younger heroes.

    Tony Stark doesn’t have to be in the middle of battle to be an amazing addition to any marvel movie.

    Keep RDJ around!

  15. ^That’s what I’ve always said too. Make him Secretary of Defense (like in the comics at one point). It was even hinted at in IM2…

    I for one, never want RDJ to leave the MCU – and in fact, if he wants to, he can keep playing the character till he’s 70 (there are options – like scyllaya mentioned) – but the sad truth is, he’ll probably get tired of playing the character at one point, and when that happens, I’d prefer it if they kill him off in a blaze of glory…

    But, that’s probably not what Marvel has in mind (seeing as Iron Man is now one of their most lucrative assets ). So they’ll most likely go the 007 route like Kevin Feige mentioned a while back.

    • I agree with you on how to handle RDJ’s exit. I rather have them kill off Iron Man. Not just Tony Stark, but Iron Man as well. No one’s going to live up to RDJ’s incredible performance. RDJ was basically Tony Stark his whole life. Even if they write in that the mantle of Iron Man is passed on to a different character, I’ll still find it tough to watch Iron Man without RDJ. That’s why I prefer they kill Iron Man off if RDJ retires.

  16. Well, I wanted to take some time to think this over before I posted, so I did.

    RDJ has given us some awesome times as Tony Stark and I am thankful for that. He has really pumped out some great IM movies plus Avengers over the last 6 years and I am grateful. I am sad to hear his attitude on the whole Stark/Iron Man role, but I understand it. I think there are a few things to consider here.

    1. He just got done shooting IM3, so this isn’t probably the best time to ask him how he feels about doing it again.

    2. I think he’s burned out. Even if I do my favorite thing enough times, I’ll get tired of it, that’s just human nature. I get that.

    3. As great as the other Avengers are, and they are great, he is stil the face of Marvel, he carries the bulk of the load in many regards for this studio, not just the IM franchise. That’s a lot of pressure. I get that.

    4. He goes on to say in the article that Marvels “pissed off” about the 50 million they payed him for Avengers. That could be a future factor. He is not contractually obligated to be in Avengers 2, he says it himself.

    5. I love RDJ, but the tone in the article toward the end concerns me a bit, as he sounds like he is beginning to forget where he came from a bit. Marvel pulled him off of the actor scrap heap and took a real chance giving him the IM role. I hope he doesn’t forget that. If his pride gets in the way, that could be bad for him both professionally and personally.

    What I would be happy with and what I think would be a nice compromise would be a three picture deal consisting of Guardians of the galaxy, Avengers 2 and one more stand alone IM movie to pass the torch so to speak to the next Tony Stark/IM.

    Ideally I would like RDJ to play Tony Stark forever, but I know that that is not realistic at this point.

    I’m sure back in the day when Sean Connery no longer played Bond and Roger Moore people freaked out. Same will happen here, but I think Iron Man will go on with or without RDJ.

    • well said, save for the attitude part I believe, he loves the character but the suits involved, see Terrence Howard, have a tendency to blow smoke and don’t always deliver. like Johnny Weissmuller as well we wouldn’t want to see an aging flabby RDJ either who can’t get any other gigs. just saying :)

  17. I propose Charlien Sheen, because of his age and nacisit

  18. He’s getting old and life goes on. After the Avengers 2, james bond it with Colin Farrell. There’s your new tony stark.

  19. First, Seeing how Robert Downey Jr, has come such a long way in his career, is impressive. He brings characters to life in just about everything he does and you can tell he has fun doing it. With him, its not just the money but how much fun he’s having in a film. I remember when he made Iron Man, and in an interview he said that he loved playing him so much that he would love to do as many movies as they want him to do. Of course things change, and Iron Man was something that just hadn’t been done yet.
    With money only being one part of the equation, I believe, as long as he’s wanted to do any of the Marvel movies and as long as the storyline is something he finds interesting and appealing, Downey won’t have a problem saying yes to it.

  20. Cameos in other shared-universe films until he feels that he wants to come back. But no one knows what future box office Marvel/Disney will enjoy w/IM and other comic characters, as well as other actors who may “burn out”; and what impact this may have on the macro universe or RDJ/Tony Stark specifically. There are other variables that will come into play here. The way it is now is not the way it’s going to be in terms of success with these characters and films. RDJ’s fatigue could be symptomatic of the future for this whole enterprise.

  21. This saddens me. :(

  22. I am puzzled by this statement

    Rushing out an Iron Man movie every three years would be hard on the cast, franchise,

    is the writer not aware of how hollywood works over and over and over again

    this has happened tons of times with movie, except it was not 3 years, it was 2

  23. RDJ is human. These movies and his roll in them will always mean more to the audience as a whole than it does to him. It is what it is. He cannot do the character forever. You have to recast IM at some point in the near future. Just get ready for it fellow ranters.

  24. I think the Marvel universe is so vast and ever-evolving that they could probably get away with actually having a superhero like Iron Man calling it quits and having it all move on, unlike in the comics.

    Tony Stark (they could still cast Robert Downey Jr. for special guest appearances in later movies) could still be working for S.H.I.E.L.D. and so on, but Iron Man would effectively be retired.

    Maybe they could even have a final Iron Man movie in a ‘Never say Never again’ vibe, and let that movie end Tony Stark’s story on a good note. Have him marry Pepper or something like that.

    And then at a later point, perhaps the movie universe will be what the comics never were: evolving. The Iron Man mantle could pass on to somebody else. And perhaps inspire the comics to do so, as well.

    I’m sure the Marvel film universe will eventually have to reboot at some point. No need for it to have to be 3 years after the last Robert Downey Jr. movie.

    • I agree with your notion. Comics have done little to grow up. Batman should have passed the mantle several times. The Punisher should have died and stayed dead. The X-Men: Final Class. There are only a few things that have changed in superhero comics. Wolverine is a dad. Ghost Rider is now a woman. Bruce Wayne is Batman (even though Dick Grayson has filled the job twice). A movie like Hancock which follows it’s own path without having to coincide with a comic is probably the only route for a complex story with superheroes to be told.

      But the thing is when those properties start lagging, they will reboot it. Instead of the natural progression or advancing the story along it’s course we get everything zeroed out. Refried and rehashed in the newest format with the best artist and hottest writer trying to tell the story again. As you can probably tell this is a huge deal for me. I spent the 80′s and 90′s reading DC. Innocent of comic book sales and marketing. Then Zero Hour happened. It traumatized me. I admit it did fix some problems for the continuity and did herald in my favorite incarnation of Justice League. But everything I had absorbed of their stories up to that point mattered no more. Poof, everything was gone. New, hipper versions of characters came out of nowhere (Kyle Rayner Green Lantern and Aquaman with a hook being prime examples). My little brain figured it out. Comics are a business. Yes, we all know this but it’s a multi-tiered platform for selling brand names and toys and comic book movies are just another tier in that platform.

      Rebooting a character or shared universe is not doing it for me anymore. Zero Hour should have been enough. I know that it will only before so long and they retcon the 52 universe. I know I am talking comic superheroes, but if you read these books you can see a lot of adult themes involved. As a former fanatic if you want me back your going to have to have the layers of good adult characterization and a plotline that has repercussions for its heroes. This is a disease that will plague the comic book movie franchises. The Dark Knight Rises is maybe the only movie to buck this trend, but the future of the Dark Knight movies involves probably a reboot.

  25. Lets face it marvel can churn out movies for the next century but Robert Downey Jr. is undoubtedly going to bow out at some point within the next ten to 12 years, so yes recast the character.

    They let every comic book artist put their personal touch on each character in each volume or particular issue, side story etc right.

    So why not do exactly the same with Mr Downey Jr. But allow the guy some say on who should play either the next Tony Stark or the Child of Stark.

    I love Iron Man, the Vision, Charles Xavier, Thor, Doc Doom, Mephisto, the Tinkerer and every other Marvel Character that I have ever laid my eyes on.

    Because they always interconnect, and if Avengers 2 is truly going to be “awful” for the characters then I should imagine we would all only be riveted to our seats with arched backs like crazy people.

    But for the moment just enjoy the ride that Mr Downey Jr. has so courteously invited us to come along for:)

  26. What could they do after Extremis in Iron Man 4? He becomes more connected to his armour, how about he actually literally becomes an “Iron Man” with some crazy scifi mumbo jumbo. It could also make a statement about society’s relationship with the overdependence on technology. That way, no particular actor would be needed to play him, just a motion capture guy with the “Iron Man” being done with CGI or maybe just some guy in a practical suit.

    • I’m guessing the following;

      Zeke Stane – He was literally combining his body with bio-technological implants. Also the son of Obadiah so it links to previous films.

      Ultron – He would be a villain that forces Tony to return.

      Justin Hammer – If he returns and becomes Titanium Man he could attack Pepper causing her to be saved via getting the ‘rescue suit’ and gaining her own ‘arc reactor implant’ or something that mirrors what Tony had.

      Yensen – the return of Yensen as a villain (Similar to Iron Man 2011 Anime series) this would be a perfect finale to Iron Man and bring it all full circle.

      In all honestly I wouldn’t be surprised if they kill him off in Avengers 2. If he dies saving the planet and leaving an opening for Ant-man who would be his replacement.

  27. Iron Man 4 doesnt sound right why couldnt they just end it with avengers 3

  28. Robert downy jr is tony stark. To many resmblances in real life. Just make the iron man movies with a suporting cast. Iron man 3 was great. The iron man trilogy was way better than the batman. Besides he is the star of the avengers anyway. He stole the show.

  29. Okay, so I think they should just keep doing what they’re doing, but just space out the movies. That can give him time to pursue other movie roles he would like to take, or to take a break if he chooses to. And they can have the same amount of physical stuff. They can just use stunt doubles and put him “in the suit” for extreme things, since its computer generated. At this point RDJ and Iron Man are really one in the same. People see his face and don’t think, oh, it’s Sherlock Holmes! They automatically associate him with Iron Man.
    Also, they shouldn’t stray too far from the actual comic book storyline. If he really has to go, which will really disappoint a lot of people, they should give the suit to Rhodey.
    I feel like if they recast, they’d have to start over. Much like Spider-Man. And if they started over with IM with a new origin story, they’d have to redo all The Avengers stuff as well, like reintroducing them and stuff. So yeah.

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