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MCU’s Boss Kevin Feige Regrets Doubting Robert Downey Jr. Before Hiring Him For $500,000 in Iron Man: “Without Robert we wouldn’t be sitting here today”

MCU's Boss Kevin Feige Regrets Doubting Robert Downey Jr. Before Hiring Him For $500,000 in Iron Man: “Without Robert we wouldn't be sitting here today”

To try and explain the essential contribution of Robert Downey Jr. to the success of Marvel Studios and making it the billion-dollar movie machine that it has grown into today will be a complete and utter blunder. Primarily, it is an experience that just cannot be overstated, and also, there exists no soul that is not aware of the phenomenon that began with the rise of the CBM franchise, especially starting with the actor’s 2008 film, Iron Man. 

Sure, to ignore the contributions of Donner-Reeve’s Superman (1978) and Burton-Keaton’s Batman (1989) to the comic book movie franchise is sacrilege. But, even though these films established the formulaic recipe for success decades before RDJ came into the picture, it wasn’t until the latter made his character look so effortlessly grounded, human, troubled, realistic, and yet capable of greatness (all the while looking cool when doing it) that superheroes began to rise as the new icons and role models of this generation.

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

Also read: ‘The man had a good ending and people want to cheapen that’: Fans Support Marvel Boss Confirming Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man Won’t Fight Kang in Secret Wars Rumors

Kevin Feige Admits the Risk of Hiring RDJ as Iron Man

A while after the premiere of Iron Man, a Jeff Bridges interview led to countless reports of the set conditions and the working environment being terrible in the Jon Favreau film. And even though Bridges clarified it was because, to him, the improv-heavy production felt like he was shooting a $140 million “student film,” the rumors of perhaps the film being a fated one since the beginning began to take off. In 2021, Kevin Feige opened up about the gravity of the risk-imbued decision that he took by hiring the film’s leading man, Robert Downey Jr.

“He was an amazing actor. Everybody knew he was an amazing actor. But he hadn’t been an action star. He wasn’t a marquee star, necessarily. And we quickly realized the risk, I’ve said this before, was not casting him. And Jon Favreau really had that vision for that movie and for Robert in that role. That decision, and the success of that decision, I think empowered us with further risks and further choices.”

Iron Man
Iron Man (2008)

Also read: “Iron Man is So Fascinating”: Robert Downey Jr.’s Avengers Return Gets Approval From Major MCU Star

With the success of Iron Man and RDJ’s breathtaking command over the character that he was destined for, Feige soon realized that the risk was perhaps the greatest thing to happen to Marvel:

“I was lucky enough to be involved in early Spider-Man films and X-Men films. But we wanted to do an Iron Man movie. And I do think, still, the biggest risk – which seems outrageous to say now – was casting Robert Downey Jr. It was both the biggest risk and the most important thing in the founding of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Without Robert, we wouldn’t be sitting here today. I really believe that.”

Now, with the company taking a step beyond into the future with new generations of actors and characters taking over from the old, Robert Downey Jr.’s tenure as Iron Man has come to an end. With the actor’s departure, the world mourned, and yet, the decade that the fans shared in his presence was undeniably the best so far.

Robert Downey Jr. Was Marvel’s Biggest Risk…

… and also its biggest reward. Kevin Feige had just been promoted to the role of President at Marvel Studios the year before Iron Man’s premiere. The newfound responsibility was nothing to be proud of – Marvel was already sinking, on the constant verge of bankruptcy, and loaning out its treasured trove of IPs left and right to the highest bidder, while simultaneously trying to keep itself above water by crawling out of its hiding space and making a movie or two once in a while before scuttling back into its panic room.

Iron Man establishes Marvel legacy
Iron Man establishes Marvel’s legacy

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

So, when Feige finally had the chance to turn things around, he went all in. Jon Favreau was the first to come on board – followed by Robert Downey Jr. and Jeff Bridges and Gwyneth Paltrow. Although relatively well-known at the time as an actor, RDJ was more infamous for his addiction and arrest, a dire combination that wouldn’t allow him to be taken seriously even after he got clean, became sober and committed to finding his way back into acting again. 

So (with a bit of help from Mel Gibson), once Robert Downey Jr. did end up finding a way in, the call from Marvel served to act as a lifeline for both parties. The studio had nothing more to lose and RDJ had a lot to prove. A year later, history was rewritten through the reels of Iron Man.

Iron Man is now available for streaming on Disney+

Source: CinemaBlend

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.