Marvel Willing to Replace Robert Downey Jr; No Plans for 'War Machine' or 'Falcon' Solo Films

Iron Man Robert Downey Jr

It's been a roller coaster ride of a week for Marvel movie fans. First, Iron Man 3 launched with the second largest opening in U.S. box office history - despite a mixed response from some die-hard comic book fans. Then, we got word that the contract negotiations between star Robert Downey Jr. and Marvel Studios were expected to be "challenging" - since the Disney-owned production company is known for low-balling its cast members (while at the same time raking in record-breaking revenue).

Even before the reports of the arduous contract renegotiation process, studio head Kevin Feige once again prepared fans for the possibility that Marvel will (eventually) part ways with Robert Downey Jr. - claiming that the filmmakers could simply re-cast the character (a la James Bond).

Speaking to Entertainment Weekly, Feige said:

“I believe there will be a fourth ‘Iron Man’ and a fifth, sixth and a 10th and a 20th. I see no reason why Tony Stark can’t be as evergreen as James Bond, Batman, or for that matter, Spider-Man.”

Iron Man 3 Box Office

We've already broken down the issues facing the Marvel Studios/Robert Downey Jr. negotiations (as well as identified the likely outcomes) - so, until we hear something official, anything is still possible. Still, as evidenced by Feige's James Bond comment (along with the hope of "Iron Man 20"), Marvel fully intends to make Iron Man (as well as Thor, Captain America, etc) films for as long as they can. As a result, fans need to be ready (in the long run) to see fan-favorite actors swapped out of these iconic roles. Not only is their already a precedent for it in the Shared Universe (since Edward Norton's Incredible Hulk is a Phase One film), Feige has already, on multiple occasions, asserted that they won't hesitate to recast Tony Stark or any other character. While that might not be what fans want to hear, even if Robert Downey Jr. returns for The Avengers 2 (and 3) as well as Iron Man 4 (and 20), eventually the studio will hand the Iron Man armor (and possibly the Tony Stark character) over to someone else.

It may be awhile before we have a clear idea of how involved Downey will be in future Marvel installments but Feige also took the time to clear-up other rumors that have been causing a stir in the Screen Rant comments.

First up, in an interview with Collider, Feige outright stated that the studio has no current plans for either a standalone War Machine (aka Iron Patriot) or Falcon (seen soon in Captain America 2: The Winter Soldier). Speculation had surfaced that Marvel could be interested in tapping either character for a solo adventure - mainly because both Don Cheadle (War Machine) and Anthony Mackie (Falcon) were out promoting their latest films, Iron Man 3 as well as Pain and Gain, respectively. This doesn't mean that either character couldn't eventually get the green light for a solo film - nor does it rule out the possibility that Falcon and/or War Machine might make an appearance in The Avengers 2 or enjoy further sidekick duties in other Marvel films.

Iron Man 3 Preview - War Machine (Iron Patriot Colors)

For the time being, we can put rumors of these solo films to rest - unless of course Feige is outright lying. Anyone who follows the constant back and forth of comic book news, leaks, denials, and confirmations, knows that studio heads will sometimes downplay in-development projects as nothing but unsubstantiated rumors to help keep the focus on the current batch of films that are ready for promotion (i.e. Phase Two not Three). That said, given the roster of forthcoming releases and confirmed in-development projects (like Doctor Strange), War Machine and Falcon are probably not at the forefront of Marvel's plans.

So what other film projects are Marvel Studios actually developing? In addition to Thor: The Dark World, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Guardians of the Galaxy, The Avengers 2, Ant-Man, and Doctor Strange, we also know that Iron Fist, Black Panther, and The Runaways have at least been discussed. Now we're getting word that the studio has also toyed with a Ms. Marvel script as well as a rebooting Blade (after the rights reverted back from New Line Cinema).

Blade should be pretty familiar to comic book movie fans already after Wesley Snipes introduced the character to mainstream filmgoers in 1998 (continuing with two more films through 2004). Though, it's unclear exactly how Marvel would approach rebooting the character - specifically how they could differentiate the new installment from the prior trilogy as well as whether the character has any place in the larger shared universe. Maybe they'll use Blade to launch a MI-13 team-up? Probably not.

Ms. Marvel, while probably less familiar to casual movie fans, is a more obvious fit for tie-in with The Avengers - given that she's been a member of the team before. Rumors within the last year even suggested that the character would appear in The Avengers 2 - possibly played by Emily Blunt (Looper) or Ruth Wilson (Luther). Given that Disney interested in upping the number of female heroes in their Avengers roster, there's no reason to think they wouldn't also want to add a few female-centric solo films too.

Nevertheless, the THR report that revealed the studio has scripts for Ms. Marvel and a Blade reboot also suggests that they were the result of an internal writing program that serves as a "concept generator" - meaning that the scripts might only be thinly drawn blueprints at this point - not projects that are actively being prepared for the inevitable Marvel Phase Three.

Iron Man 3 is now playing in theaters, Thor: The Dark World on November 8, 2013, Captain America: The Winter Soldier on April 4, 2014, Guardians of the Galaxy on August 1, 2014, The Avengers 2 on May 1, 2015, Ant-Man on November 6, 2015, and Doctor Strange sometime after that.

Follow me on Twitter @benkendrick for more on Marvel Studios as well as future movie, TV, and gaming news.

Source: Entertainment Weekly [via The Playlist], Collider, and THR

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