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“It was ready to be written off”: Robert Downey Jr. Reveals Marvel Studios Nearly Treated Iron Man Like Batgirl For Tax Write-Off if Film Failed

robert downey jr iron man batgirl

Marvel’s Iron Man IP has never been more successful than its reign and existence within the cinematic adaptation of the comic book franchise. The armored superhero, another popular Marvel comics character, was a notch below Captain America when it came to the glazed paperback issues. But Robert Downey Jr.’s cinematic debut as Iron Man was a vision and a delight when it came to showcasing the hero’s fraught journey and an origin story.

However, all of that comes to a standstill when one learns how the MCU fandom was to be robbed of all the tantrums, snark, humor, and heroism that accompanied Tony Stark if Iron Man failed to be a commercial and critical success.

Iron Man (2008)
Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark

Also read: “Why is this jelly belly playing a superhero”: Robert Downey Jr. Confessed His Biggest Insecurity Before Playing Iron Man in MCU

Robert Downey Jr. Walked the Plank With MCU’s Iron Man

Robert Downey Jr.‘s debut in the Marvel Cinematic Universe as the genius playboy billionaire philanthropist was walking the plank even before boarding the ship. When the actor, vetted and backed by industry legends like Bill Murray and Jon Favreau, stepped into the role of Iron Man, he realized how the studio was armed with a backup plan in case the eponymously named film tanked at the box office. During the Director’s Guild of America’s Afternoon with Robert Downey Jr. event, the actor claimed:

Well, I mean first of all, not too many people were thinking Iron Man was going to have an opening weekend or do much of anything, so we were a little bit left alone. I find out more every day about how that thing was financed, it was basically ready to be written off if it tanked.

And so it was the perfect thing where there were not a lot of creatively aggressive eyes on us. And by the time they gave it to us, it was like united artists, like the lunatics took over the asylum. And I remember Jeff Bridges too, he was like, ‘man, we’re doing a $200 million independent movie, man.’ And there was just that sense that, of course, it was much more organized.”

RDJ in Avengers: Endgame (2019)
RDJ in Avengers: Endgame (2019)

Also read: “The only thing I ever let go of had claw marks in it”: Robert Downey Jr. Claimed His Ego Wouldn’t Let Him See Anyone Else Playing Iron Man, Wouldn’t Tolerate Recasting Tony Stark

It’s especially scary to learn how, on the edge of bankruptcy, Marvel Studios was ready to assign Iron Man to a fate similar to that of Warner Bros. Discovery and DC’s Batgirl. The $90 million Leslie Grace film’s axing not only cause a deafening uproar but gave the industry its first taste of David Zaslav’s iron-fisted reign to pull DC out of the rubble.

Kevin Feige Goes All In With Marvel’s 2008 Iron Man

When Marvel Studios began its foray into ambitious grounds, Kevin Feige’s appointment as its President in 2007 brought will and agency to the vision of an expansive universe. The Academy Award-nominated producer has never since looked back and now holds the esteem of the highest-grossing producer of all time. However, it all started with an experiment that could very well have been chucked into the bottomless vaults of the studio as a tax write-off if Iron Man failed to impress.

Iron Man legacy remains Marvel's biggest success story
Iron Man’s legacy remains Marvel’s biggest success story

Also read: “He was too heavy to fly”: Iron Man Film Rights Was Given to Marvel By New Line Cinema Because They Thought It Didn’t Make Any Sense

At the time, Marvel had already pawned off its IPs throughout Hollywood to the highest bidders. During the 90s, over the course of an especially bad run, characters like the Hulk and Namor were lent to Universal (who still owns the distribution rights), and superhero groups like the X-Men and Fantastic Four were picked up by 20th Century Fox, while Spider-Man is famously owned by Sony.

Of all the remaining IPs that could have launched Feige’s vision, the producer boldly began his planning by interconnecting Edward Norton’s The Incredible Hulk with Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man. And the ambition presented in the story that the Marvel President set forth displayed such an innate level of borderline genius that Universal too pitched in on the effort to launch the world’s highest-grossing and most successful CBM franchise to date.

Iron Man is now available for streaming on Disney+.

Source: Twitter | Chris Gardner

Written by Diya Majumdar

It's 2023 and Diya Majumdar's social life is defined by a 365-day binge-marathon of films and television shows. Having graduated with honors in literature from Miranda House, she now has more than 1000 published articles on Fandomwire, and her passion and profession both include dissecting the world of cinema. She happens to be a liberally opinionated person with an overbearing love for Monet, Edvard Munch, and Van Gogh, and hardly anything fascinates her more than painting exact replicas of all their troubled works – in oil, of course.