Before scoring the lead MCU role as Iron Man in 2008, Robert Downey Jr. was supposed to play an entirely different Marvel Studios character. In time for a 15th anniversary Iron Man retrospective via Marvel Entertainment, director Jon Favreau (who also starred in the film as Happy Hogan) shared that Downey was originally interested in playing Doctor Doom in 2005’s Fantastic Four.
“I remember you had all met with [Downey] already for like Doctor Doom or something on another project,” Favreau said during a conversation with Marvel president Kevin Feige. “I think he had come through on maybe Fantastic Four, so everybody sort of knew who he was.”
Actor Julian McMahon would later play Victor Von Doom in Fantastic Four, while Downey would suit up as Iron Man/Tony Star in nine MCU films, ending with 2019’s Avengers: Endgame. In the interview, Favreau and Feige agreed that Downey was the right choice and that the MCU would be changed entirely without him.
“He was the puzzle piece that made it all work,” Favreau shared. “I remember sitting down with the guy, and I was like, ‘He’s got that spark in him in his eye and he’s ready.’ That’s when we were in your office, and we were pointing to his headshot, saying, ‘We got to try to figure this out.'”
He continued, “Once it was him, that’s when my life got a lot easier. Because he understood. He understood the voice of the character. And then one by one, people were just signing on board because now it became something interesting.”
Feige also complimented the 58-year-old actor, who will next star in Christopher Nolan-directed biographical thriller Oppenheimer.
“That tone that you and Robert discovered on that movie, I would say became the template in a way for much of what the MCU became.”
He added, “I remember on later movies – we’ll talk about them on the 15th anniversary of those – there were dark days. And I would say to Robert, ‘We wouldn’t be in this mess if it wasn’t for you.’ Meaning, we wouldn’t have a studio if it wasn’t for him.”
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