How do you get Robert Downey Jr. to sign for another Marvel movie? He's already the highest paid actor and top earner in Hollywood. He has the type of contract Marvel will never handout again. It comes down to giving his character, Tony Stark, a role that's worth his time and is different than traditional superhero flicks since he finds that to be "getting old."
That's why Iron Man had a key, lead role in The Avengers; that's why writer and director Joss Whedon says Captain America and Iron Man are co-leaders of Earth's Mightiest heroes in The Avengers: Age of Ultron; and that's why RDJ isn't signing anymore long-term deals with Marvel Studios anytime soon. There's sadly no Iron Man 4 on the way, but as a fortunate surprise, the star who helped launch the Marvel Cinematic Universe with 2008's Iron Man, is coming back for at least one extra feature in Captain America: Civil War.
In fact, the third Captain America film is only using the story and subtitle "Civil War" - based on the major crossover event from Marvel Comics - thanks to Robert Downey Jr.'s involvement. Speaking with Empire magazine in their Avengers 2 cover issue, RDJ speaks to how Marvel convinced him to add another picture to his contract (a contract that before only included The Avengers 2 & 3).
"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."
Those directors of course, are brothers Anthony and Joe Russo who made their feature film debut with Captain America: The Winter Soldier last spring. That sequel won over fans, critics - and Marvel's decision makers - as it set box office records pre-summer. Their work on the feature had them in talks to return for Captain America 3 before Cap 2 even hit theaters and all signs point towards them continuing with Marvel and helming The Avengers: Infinity War, parts 1 and 2.
As for Robert Downey Jr.'s character following a path that puts him at odds against Captain America, the star explains that everything has been building to this, the seeds of which we saw in The Avengers, and built upon heavily in Age of Ultron this summer.
"It's natural to change your views. The main thing to me is, what sort of incident could occur, and what sort of framework could we find Tony in? The clues about where we might find him next are in Ultron. But what would it take for Tony to completely turn around everything he's stood for? Joss brings this up all the time. It's kind of weird that these guys would have all these throw downs all over planet Earth and yet when the movie's over, nobody minds. What would the American government do if this were real? Wouldn't it be interesting to see Tony doing something you wouldn't imagine?"
Giving RDJ something wildly different to play with in a lead role in a Captain America film, was mighty appealing for the actor, but it was Marvel Studios president of production Kevin Feige who made it happen. Whether Civil War could be built into Phase 3, bridging The Avengers sequel with everything that comes next, was centered around whether or not Marvel could re-sign RDJ for another feature. His massive pay salary reportedly didn't too well with Disney high-ups and just as talks seemingly diminished, Feige took it upon himself to chat with Downey Jr.'s reps and make something happen. And now, Cap 3 is essentially another Avengers film, one where heroes battle other heroes.
RDJ's point about helping bolster another Marvel property (especially with Batman V. Superman previously gunning for the same opening weekend release date) just goes to show that he loves position as the poster boy of the franchise.
In the Civil War comics, Iron Man could easily be seen as the "villain" of sorts. Will it be that way in Captain America: Civil War?
"I wouldn't put it that way. The biggest question is, for Chris and for Cap, how do we bring Cap to a place where people go, 'Man, I never thought I would see such a vast change in Steve.' After you see Snowpiercer, you're like, 'I want to see a little bit of that guy.'"
It sounds rather clear that the film will make both the actions of Steve Rogers and Tony Stark seem somewhat questionable, and it should. The actions of each party should push into a morally gray area, where fans can understand the motivations of the key players as everyone else (especially new hero Black Panther in this case) are caught up in the middle. And in the end, years down the road, everyone will have to put aside their differences and re-team when Thanos comes to visit Earth in The Avengers: Infinity War.
For now, we all have to wait for The Avengers: Age of Ultron to see where the heroes are left after their toughest battle yet. In the meantime, tell us who you think you'd side with in the comments!
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.