The pairing of Robert Downey Jr with the character Tony Stark, also known as Iron Man, is undeniably one of the most iconic actor-role pairings in the history of cinema. However, the journey to cast Downey in this role was not a straightforward one. In fact, Marvel Head Quarter initially hesitated to hire him for the part. When the casting process for Iron Man was underway, there were several discussions and deliberations involving numerous talented actors.

Iron Man
Iron Man

One particularly intriguing twist in this casting saga was the consideration of Mission Impossible star Tom Cruise for the role of Iron Man. Tom Cruise, known for his action-packed roles and charisma, was a compelling candidate. However, he ultimately declined the opportunity, which opened the door for Robert Downey Jr to step into the iconic red and gold suit.

The Evolution of Robert Downey Jr into Iron Man

Robert Downey Jr
Robert Downey Jr

When Robert Downey Jr auditioned for the role of Tony Stark, he brought with him a unique combination of factors that made him an unconventional choice. His journey to securing the iconic role was undeniably fraught with challenges and hurdles. Despite his impressive acting career and some awards, he lacked the usual big box-office success associated with Hollywood stardom. Furthermore, his past struggles with substance abuse and alcohol-related issues loomed over his professional life.

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These personal struggles made Marvel Studios understandably hesitant to entrust him with such a pivotal character in their nascent cinematic universe. At the time when Marvel was making the crucial decision to cast Iron Man, the stakes were incredibly high. The success of Iron Man was essential to Marvel’s ambitious plans for a shared cinematic universe. Marvel, as a responsible and risk-averse studio, was initially refused to hire him, fearing the potential complications and negative publicity that might come with it. The Marvel board members from New York told (via TIME),

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

Despite the doubts surrounding Downey Jr.’s suitability for the role, director Jon Favreau believed in his talent and potential to bring Tony Stark to life. The turning point in Downey Jr.’s casting came when the news of his audition and potential involvement in Iron Man spread across the internet. Movie fans reacted with overwhelming enthusiasm, endorsing the choice of Robert Downey Jr as Tony Stark. This groundswell of support from the audience played a vital role in convincing the New York executives to finally greenlight the decision.

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Tom Cruise’s Near Miss as Iron Man in MCU

Tom Cruise
Tom Cruise

It’s nearly impossible to picture anyone other than Robert Downey Jr as Tony Stark in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Yet, at one point, Tom Cruise was considered for the role, showcasing his leading man status. Despite his history of action hero roles, Cruise ultimately turned down the opportunity to play Iron Man, feeling it didn’t suit his style. Cruise told (via Movie Web),

“[Marvel Studios] came to me at a certain time and, when I do something, I wanna do it right. If I commit to something, it has to be done in a way that I know it’s gonna be something special. And as it was lining up, it just didn’t feel to me like it was gonna work. I need to be able to make decisions and make the film as great as it can be, it just didn’t go down that road that way.”

Marvel Studios initially hesitated to cast Downey Jr as Tony Stark for the launch of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, considering Tom Cruise a safer, more financially bankable option. Surprisingly, Cruise not only gracefully passed on the role but also endorsed Downey Jr.’s suitability for the character, recognizing his unique qualities. In hindsight, Cruise, like many fans, couldn’t envision anyone else portraying Tony Stark as effectively as Robert Downey Jr did, given the character’s complexity and depth.

Also Read: Robert Downey Jr’s Weird Demand in Avengers: Endgame May Have Left Many of His Co-stars Miserable

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