Marvel confirms Downey Jr. wasn’t first choice for Iron Man

Marvel confirms Downey Jr. wasn’t first choice for Iron Man

Written by 

Tom Chapman


15th May 2023 16:38

Ever since Robert Downey Jr. said "I am Iron Man" at the end of Jon Favreau's Iron Man back in 2008, we knew the Marvel Cinematic Universe was in safe hands. For those who've seen his audition tape, you'll know RDJ perfectly encapsulated everything you needed to play the billionaire playboy.

Having played the smart-mouthed lead of the Avengers from Iron Man through to Avengers: Endgame made him a figurehead of the world's highest-grossing franchise, and since his departure, things haven't been the same. However, in some Marvel Multiverse, it wasn't Robert Downey Jr. in the suit.

Robert Downey Jr. wasn't Marvel's first choice for Iron Man

Clive Owen in Sin City
Click to enlarge

The casting process of any movie is a big thing, and while Favreau and co. likely didn't know what Iron Man would lead to, Downey Jr. landing the part was a long process. There were several big names in the mix, and although Downey Jr. nabbed the part, it was nearly a different story. 

Speaking to an audience at a graduation ceremony for the University of Southern California (USC) (via The Direct), MCU overlord Kevin Feige confirmed RDJ wasn't their first choice for Anthony Stark. "When we were casting the role of Iron Man, we looked at so many different actors," said Feige.

"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."

As for what happened next, Feige explained, "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."

So there you have it, the Children of Men and Sin City actor turned down the chance to play Iron Man and become one of Hollywood's highest-paid stars. Owen hasn't publically discussed the opportunity or why he turned it down, but we imagine he's kicking himself. 

What about Tom Cruise playing Iron Man?

You might've also heard those wild rumours that Tom Cruise was going to play the armored Avenger in a pre-MCU Iron Man movie. These blew up when fans thought they spotted him playing a Multiverse Iron Man for Doctor Strange in the Multvierse of Madness, but it turned out to be Lashana Lynch as Captain Marvel.

Discussing the Iron Man thing with the Phase Zero YouTube channel, Cruise says he was "not close" to portraying Iron Man. Cruise added, "I love Robert Downey Jr. I can't imagine anyone else playing this role and I think it’s perfect for him."

Neither Cruise nor Owen have suited up for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and while the former is pretty busy with the Mission: Impossible movies, he's exactly the kind of star we can imagine making a mark on the MCU. 

Tom is Trending News Editor at GGRecon, with an NCTJ qualification in Broadcast Journalism and over seven years of experience writing about film, gaming, and television. With bylines at IGN, Digital Spy, Den of Geek, and more, Tom’s love of horror means he's well-versed in all things Resident Evil, with aspirations to be the next Chris Redfield.

Sonic movies leading up to 'Avengers-level events', according to producer
Amazon's live-action Fallout series is dropping early
Invincible Season 2 finale has a bizarre Fortnite Easter egg
Sonic 3 wrap photo teases Jim Carrey’s return
Forget Mario 2, Jack Black wants a Red Dead movie