It’s almost impossible to imagine comic book movies today without the MCU in the picture, and just as impossible to imagine the MCU without Iron Man at the center of the cinematic universe. The impact that Robert Downey Jr. had with his iconic character in the franchise cannot be expressed through words alone, it needs to be felt through the films.
With the first film of the franchise all the way back in 2008, the introduction of Tony Stark made headlines in the film industry following the success of Iron Man. But back in the ’90s, there was an attempt by 20th Century Fox to bring the superhero to the audience, and at that time, Nicolas Cage showed major enthusiasm for the role.
Nicolas Cage Wanted To Play Tony Stark Before Robert Downey Jr.
As many fans of comic book films know by now, the advent of the MCU may have been the most successful venture for superhero cinema in history, but it was by no means the first one. For decades before Robert Downey Jr. donned the Iron Man armor in the 2008 film, there had been countless tries from both Marvel and DC to create a space for superheroes to flourish in cinema.
Leading that charge was 20th Century Fox, who were best known for their iconic X-Men and Fantastic Four franchises in the early 2000s
But even before these films, the studio was developing a project featuring Tony Stark as the leading character for the then-titled The Iron Man. This film, which was proposed to Fox by Kurt Busiek, the writer of I, Robot, and the legendary Stan Lee himself. The film was being penned and developed in pre-production alongside the aforementioned franchises and 2003’s Daredevil
When the script was proposed for production, many stars, including Nicolas Cage, showed interest in playing the role of the armored genius in the film. But it was revealed that the role of the character was actually penned with Hollywood icon Tom Cruise in mind, which was quite ambitious for that time, considering the star’s reputation in the industry. Cage later would be seen playing the role of Johnny Blaze in the cult-classic Ghost Rider series.
Ultimately, even after the screenwriting was completed, Fox decided to shelve the project and focus on X-Men and Fantastic Four instead, majorly due to its high production costs. Thus, Iron Man remained in the shadows until Marvel Studios regained the rights to the character, and the rest is history.
Why Did Iron Man Succeed?
Despite not being the first origin film for a superhero, Iron Man is still regarded as one of the greatest executions of telling a story and a journey of the hero we all came to love.
In parallel to Downey Jr.’s unparalleled performance as Tony Stark in the film, the decision not to introduce the character as a chivalrous savior, but a misguided man who slowly develops into a hero was probably the best progression that the world had seen. Along with that, the iconic post-credit scenes at the end of the film suggested that there was still more to come, which got fans excited and provided an incentive for them to stay till the end.
Iron Man, streaming on Disney+.