Robert Downey Jr.’s version of Tony Stark helped kickstart the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and he’s remained a linchpin of that world for the better part of a decade. But what will happen when he calls it quits?
Marvel Studios head honcho Kevin Feige has already teased that, once the A-listers eventually decide to hang up their tights, they’ll likely look into recasting those roles for future films (much as they’ve already done with The Hulk and Rhodey). But Downey is a question all his own — so how might the studio handle his eventual exit?
Joe Russo, who is directing Captain America: Civil War along with his brother Anthony, chatted with Forbes about the state of the MCU and touched on Downey’s eventual exit. The actor is already 50 years old and will be pushing mid-50s once The Avengers: Infinity War saga wraps up in 2019 (which is also being directed by the Russos). Sad but true: You can only play the brash, young hero for so long.
Once Downey leaves, Russo posited that the studio will likely let the character rest for a cycle before potentially trying to bring another actor into that role. Here’s an excerpt from his comments:
"It's almost impossible to replace Robert, he's the biggest movie star in the world. One close up from Robert is worth another actor's entire performance, he's incredibly gifted and insanely talented. I think if and when he is done with the character I think you will find that Iron Man might disappear for a while. I think the only way that you could reboot that character is to give a generational gap that would allow another actor to at least have a chance to redefine that character without the enormous spectre of Robert hanging over it. There are so many characters in the Marvel universe that can pick up the ball and run without it through the next phase or two before you need to see Iron Man again, frankly."
Considering the indelible mark Downey has left on the role, giving Tony Stark a breather probably isn’t the worst idea. By that point, we’ll have Black Panther, Captain Marvel and the Inhumans all in the fold — so there should be more than enough characters to go around for a release cycle, until a new Tony Stark can come out of “retirement” and help save the day.
What approach do you think Marvel should take with the changeover?