Iron Man 3 not only represents the second most successful comic book film of all-time at the worldwide box office, sitting behind only its Marvel predecessor in The Avengers, but it represented (at the time) the last film on star Robert Downey Jr.'s contract. RDJ, who banked huge off of The Avengers and Iron Man 3 with a percentage of the box office gross, was a no-brainer, must-sign for Disney and Marvel Studios and they did just that, much to the pleasure of moviegoers around the world.
Robert Downey Jr. is the current poster boy of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, their undeniably most bankable actor, so Marvel worked out a deal to have him return for both The Avengers 2 and The Avengers 3. While there's no doubt interest in an Iron Man 4 and there will absolutely be Avengers films after this contract runs out, RDJ's version of Tony Stark may not be there. So how do you replace the most bankable star of the franchise and the most interesting personality? Call up Johnny Depp.
It's the type of casting that fans dream of in fantasy polls and speculation, and it actually fits quite well. In fact, the source claims that it's the fan speculation that made the meeting happen, much like it did in putting Marvel and Vin Diesel in a room together. We had heard about the possibility of Doctor Strange filling in the void left by Robert Downey Jr.'s scene-stealing Tony Stark before, and Johnny Depp is the closest thing you can get to Robert Downey Jr. on screen. Not to mention, Depp's part of the Disney family and earns similar epic paychecks from them for his Pirates of the Caribbean films to what Downey Jr. gets for his Marvel appearances.
Can you picture Depp appearing on stage at Comic-Con this summer when Marvel Studios unveils their Phase 3 films taking up their already-claimed 2016-17 release dates? Feige practically confirmed already that Doctor Strange will join Ant-Man has a new property in Phase 3.
Last year's The Lone Ranger may have flopped financially, but Depp has helped Disney earn billions with Pirates and Alice in Wonderland (both franchises with sequels coming starring Depp). He's a go-to guy for Mickey Mouse and a comic book fan himself. Disney can build an entire scheduled of billion dollar blockbusters around Depp. I'm sure some executive is wondering how they can work schedules to fit him into Star Wars...
And that brings us to a legitimate question. Doctor Strange is either being planned as a summer 2016 or summer 2017 release. Disney delayed Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales to July 2016 and Alice in Wonderland 2 is scheduled two months earlier in May 2016. That would mean that Strange would need to be a 2017 release for Depp to be available for a full production.
Assuming any of this is true, and factoring in the fact that Kevin Feige flat out told us it's going to be sequel followed by new property each year going forward, our Phase 3 release slate may look something like this:
- Ant-Man (July 2015)
- Thor 3 (May 2016)
- The Inhumans/Guardians of the Galaxy 2 (July 2016)
- Captain America 3 (May 2017)
- Doctor Strange (July 2017)
- The Avengers 3 (May 2018)
Remember, Marvel already has a rough idea of what they're doing up until 2021, so barring any box office fails, they're following a plan. Where Depp may have been too big of an A-lister back in the day when Marvel put faith in lesser knowns to build stars out of them, they're now living in a world where competition is fierce, competition that is embracing the model they created.
Just look at the latest rumors from Warner Bros and DC Entertainment which have namedropped the likes of Oscar winners Joaquin Phoenix and Denzel Washington, with Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson also potentially joining in the fun for a Justice League film which may shoot alongside Batman vs. Superman starring Ben Affleck. We won't even get into the most expensive superhero movie of all-time in X-Men: Days of Future Past already having a sequel in the works for 2016, one that will share the same cinematic space as the rebooted Fantastic Four (2015).
No wonder every single day brings crazy superhero casting news. Excited? Is this believable? Must Marvel go this big to introduce new, lesser known characters? Share your thoughts and theories in the comments!
Captain America: The Winter Soldier hits theaters on April 4, 2014, Guardians of the Galaxy on August 1, 2014, The Avengers: Age of Ultron on May 1, 2015, Ant-Man on July 31, 2015, and unannounced films for May 6 2016, July 8 2016 and May 5 2017.
Follow Rob on Twitter @rob_keyes for your Marvel movie news!