Iron Man 2’s Villain Was the Original Choice to Play Tony Stark in MCU Over Robert Downey Jr

From Iron Man to Justin Hammer... the tale of recasting MCU's lead

iron man 2’s villain was the original choice to play tony stark in mcu over robert downey jr


  • Robert Downey Jr. was not the first choice for being cast as the iconic MCU character Iron Man
  • Director Jon Favreau wanted to cast the Sam Rockwell as the lead character of Iron Man but later on chose RDJ over Rockwell
  • Sam Rockwell returned to the MCU as the antagonist of Iron Man in its 2010 sequel and he feels fortunate to have been chosen for the part.
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MCU’s superhero wonder, Iron Man, won over hearts since his first feature in 2008. Given the popularity, subsequent parts, Iron Man 2, Iron Man 3, and appearances in the Avenger series were released. However, one aspect that remained constant was star actor Robert Downey Jr., which Marvel claimed was probably the biggest risk the franchise had ever taken.

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Robert Downey Jr
Robert Downey Jr as Iron Man

Quite surprisingly, RDJ was not the first choice for the movie. Director, Jon Favreau once revealed in an interview that the antagonist of Iron Man 2 was rather his first choice. Moreover, the MCU franchise was adamant about not casting RDJ, but things panned out differently. 


Also Read: “I’m still here”: Tom Hiddleston Teases Robert Downey Jr. Can Return as Iron Man Despite His Endgame Sacrifice for Secret Wars

Sam Rockwell was set to be Iron Man

Sam Rockwell
Sam Rockwell was to be cast as Iron Man

According to a report by CBR, the $140 million budgeted film was expected to star Sam Rockwell. MCU and Favreau did not want to cast Robert Downey Jr. because of his past antics. Almost outperformed by Rockwell, the 58-year-old actor was in the right place at the right time. Recalling his standpoint at that time, Favreau said in a 2008 interview with Rolling Stone,


“Under no circumstances are we prepared to hire him for any price.”

Nevertheless, the real universe had different plans for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and RDJ was in favor. Marvel took a step back and reassessed the Hollywood star’s finesse. Safe to say, it played out advantageously to both parties. RDJ got a headstart in the superhero cosmos and Marvel got their perfect fit for Iron Man. Favreau and Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige vouched for the actor over Rockwell, which was also Marvel’s greatest risk, per sources. 

Nevertheless, it was not the end for Rockwell in the Marvel world. Favreau did not cast him for the titular MCU character but had other plans for him. 


Also read: “I just had chills rolling down my spine”: Tom Hiddleston’s Fiancé Zawe Ashton Left Everyone on The Marvels Set Speechless With One Moving Scene

Sam Rockwell returned as Iron Man’s nemesis

Sam Rockwell as Justin Hammer in Iron Man 2
Sam Rockwell as Justin Hammer in Iron Man 2

Favreau was dazzled by The Green Mile actor’s villainy. Thus, he could think of no other actor who could better play the antagonist of Iron Man in its 2010 sequel. Rockwell finally returned to Marvel as Justin Hammer, the evil entrepreneur and head of the infamous Hammer Industries. 


The 55-year-old star felt grateful for being offered the role and appreciated his friend and script-writer Justin Theroux’s efforts in casting him. He told AV Club,

“I was lucky on Iron Man 2 because I had Justin Theroux, who had written the script.”

The Academy-award-winning actor also acknowledged that Favreau and Justin had chipped the idea of the villain’s character dichotomy. 


Fans ponder over Rockwell’s version of Iron Man and whether it could have been a better representation of the MCU superhero. But we will never know, and honestly, the fans don’t seem to have any regrets. Regardless, Rockwell looked forward and grabbed some jaw-dropping roles that earned him massive recognition in the cinematic sphere. In a parallel universe, probably, Rockwell was cast as the Iron Man. 

Also Read: “With so much at stake…”: Even Kevin Feige Couldn’t Save One Director after He Broke a Cardinal Rule That Guaranteed a Ticket Out of MCU

Tiyasa Biswas

Written by Tiyasa Biswas

Tiyasa Biswas is a Content Writer at FandomWire. With more than a year of expertise in content spanning over multiple fields: entertainment, sports and features, Tiyasa seeks to bring her flair to the world of fandom. Her journalistic works have garnered significant viewership, with her articles gauging a worldwide audience.