“He was not interested”: Robert Downey Jr. Was Never the First Choice For Iron Man, Neither Was Tom Cruise

robert downey jr, tom cruise and iron man
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Robert Downey Jr. has left an everlasting impression in the hearts of fans with his iconic role of Tony Stark/ Iron Man in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. With his debut in 2008, the actor set the foundation for the Marvel Cinematic Universe that we know and love today. With his role and iconic dialogues, he put the audience under his spell, as his arrogance and charm made him flawed which the viewers loved about the character.

Robert Downey Jr.
Robert Downey Jr.

Robert Downey Jr. eventually became the face of the franchise to make it more renowned around the globe. While the Sherlock Holmes actor died a hero by saving the world from Thanos’ snap in Avengers: Endgame. In the process, making an exit from the franchise and retiring his role. And, contrary to popular belief neither the Oppenheimer actor nor Tom Cruise were the first choice actors for the role of Tony Stark in the MCU.

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Robert Downey Jr. Was Not The First Choice To Be The Face of MCU

Recently, Kevin Feige, the President of Marvel Studios was present at the University of South California on 12th May 2023, to give a commencement address at the university’s graduation ceremony. During the ceremony, Feige shared some new information about the decision of casting Robert Downey Jr. for his role in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Kevin Feige
Kevin Feige

The Marvel President shared that his team and he were looking for an actor who would have “the perfect mix of heart and strength and charisma,” to play the role of Marvel’s Genius Billionaire Playboy Philanthropist. The stakes were immensely high because the role would determine the foundation for the franchise’s success.

“When we were casting the role of Iron Man, we looked at so many different actors. We had to find the perfect mix of heart and strength and charisma. Being our first Marvel film out of the gate, the stakes could not have been higher. The success of the film and the future of our entire studio rested on the shoulders of this one person.”

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Kevin Feige continued and shared that they felt that Clive Owen would be the perfect choice for the role of Tony Stark/ Iron Man. However, Owen was not interested in playing the role of The Armored Avenger, and that led Feige and his team to cast Robert Downey Jr. in 2006.

“And it was not an easy task, but together with my team and our casting directors and our director, Jon Favreau, we culled down our list, we pinpointed the right guy, and we extended an offer to our top choice – an actor who checked all of those boxes and who we were confident would be a huge hit. And his name, of course, was Clive Owen. He passed. He was not interested.”

Feige shared an important life lesson with the attendees, he shared how “not getting your first choice is the greatest thing that can happen to you.” And he continued that casting Robert Downey Jr. was their best decision and their first movie of him playing his iconic role was a smash hit, collecting best reviews and becoming one of the highest-grossing movies in 2008.

Iron Man 2
Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark in Iron Man 2

“And that is the unwritten rule of life. Not getting your first choice might just be the greatest thing that can happen to you. Because you know what’s better than getting your first choice? Getting the right choice. And in our case, of course, that choice was Robert Downey Jr., and the first movie we ever made as a studio ended up being one of the best-reviewed and highest-grossing movies of the year.”

Despite not being the first choice for the role he played so flawlessly, that he made fans believe that superhero movies are worth the watch, irrespective of your age. But how did the role also help the actor in the process?


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How Did The Role of Tony Stark Help Robert Downey Jr.?

There is no denying that Marvel is one of the biggest superhero franchises that we know and love, and a major part of the credit goes to Robert Downey Jr. played the role with such originality and charm in the movies like Iron Man, The Avengers, Captain America: Civil War and many more, that it added to the popularity of the MCU. The actor is now one of the highest-paid actors in the industry, but before making his way to the top of Hollywood did not have an easy beginning.

Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man
Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man

The Due Date actor rose to fame in the early 90s by playing the role of Charlie Chaplin and he was recognized by Academy Awards as he was nominated for Best Lead Actor for Chaplin in 1992. However, in 1996, he was arrested for possession of heroin, cocaine, and an illegal firearm, all while speeding down Sunset Boulevard. And a month later he broke the rule of his parole, leading him to spend six months in jail.


Due to his addiction to drugs, and building up a notorious reputation no one was interested in hiring the actor. Slowly, Robert Downey Jr. had a wake-up call, came clean, and the role of Tony Stark/ Iron Man in the MCU helped him in getting his career back on track.

Iron Man can be streamed on Netflix.

Source: The Direct

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Written by Tushar Auddy

Articles Published: 1049

Tushar Auddy, Content Writer. He has been in the entertainment industry for 3 years and is always on the lookout for a captivating story. He is a student of Linguistics and is currently pursuing his Master's degree in the same field. He has a passion for literature that runs deep and loves nothing more than getting lost in a novel for hours on end. When he isn't reading, you'll find him capturing the beauty of language.