Here's a story we know: in 2008, Marvel Studios launched their ambitious shared cinematic universe with Iron Man, and suddenly star Robert Downey Jr. was now the face of not just a freshly-minted franchise, but the Marvel Cinematic Universe as a whole.
A half-decade later, Marvel has had a supremely successful run of comic book movies, with their franchise-starter Guardians of the Galaxy topping the 2014 stateside box office. RDJ's Tony Stark/Iron Man is still the MCU's biggest star, but the future does not necessarily hinge on further solo Iron Man films, as we found out with Marvel's one-two punch of Internet-melting footage from The Avengers: Age of Ultron and their Phase Three release slate.
After a couple of reports and a great deal of speculation, it was confirmed that Robert Downey Jr. would appear in Captain America 3, which will pit Tony Stark against Steve Rogers in the famous "Civil War" crossover storyline. With the next installment of The Avengers split into 2018 and 2019's two-part Infinity War, the question remains: Wow much longer with RDJ play what may safely be considered his signature role?
We now have some quotes from Downey which might clarify how much longer fans can expect to see Tony Stark included in the MCU. Downey very recently told News Media Gallery (courtesy of CBM): "It's a commitment but I love being a part of it."
While being honored at the BAFTA Los Angeles Britannia Awards, Downey was asked by EW about the total number of times he'll appear in the Marvel Universe. According to Downey:
"You know, it may verge on double digits, but it will probably wind up being a little shy."
If we count RDJ's cameo in the post-credits tag of 2008's The Incredible Hulk (which is technically part of the MCU canon but is sometimes forgotten), Downey will have played Tony Stark/Iron Man a total of seven times when the 2016 film Captain America: Civil War rolls around. Assuming he appears in both parts of The Avengers: Infinity War, those films will bring the total to nine.
It's unclear if Downey is counting his Incredible Hulk cameo, but if he is - and if he really wants to walk away after ten appearances or so - this tally still leaves room for a final solo outing in Iron Man 4. That particular title has been considered dead for a while unless Downey's teasing conditions are met. And though it was supposedly back on as a possibility, it seems clear now that all these reports about a fourth Iron Man were really about the expanded role he'll have in Captain America: Civil War, leaving his future plans with Marvel purposely vague in the wake of his reported $40 million payday for Civil War.
Since it's entirely possible that the next iteration of The Avengers could include a different lineup of heroes, and with new potential franchises in the form of Ant-Man, Doctor Strange, Black Panther, Inhumans and Captain Marvel on the way (not to mention Guardians of the Galaxy 2), this might be Downey's way of orienting fans for his eventual departure from the MCU.
Still, all of these projects are years away, and for the next two years, RDJ will very much be front and center in the MCU. Tony Stark is absolutely central to both Age of Ultron and Civil War, and until some of these new characters really take off, fans will still flock to the theaters to see Stark, Captain America (Chris Evans) and Thor (Chris Hemsworth) in action.
What do you think, Screen Rant readers? How many Marvel movies do you want to see Robert Downey Jr. appear in? Let us know 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, The 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.