Kevin Feige’s Marvel Cinematic Universe is a behemoth of pop culture property. From its relatively humble beginnings with Jon Favreau’s Iron Man in 2008 to its eventual global box office takeover with Avengers: Infinity War (2018) and Avengers: Endgame (2019), the MCU continues to bring Marvel Comics heroes to the big, and small, screens.
It’s hard to believe that the MCU is over a decade old and shows no sign of slowing down, but by the end of this year alone, fans will have received six television series and four feature films. Throughout the past 13 years, there have bound to have been many risks taken to bring these fan-favorite comic characters into the MCU and Feige has just revealed the biggest one they took.
The MCU is gaining steam once again following a release shut down due to the effects of the pandemic. This year saw WandaVision, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Loki, and now What If…? build up Marvel’s small-screen slate while Cate Shortland’s Black Widow (2021) finally debuted in theaters (and on Disney+).
The feature film release schedule heats up going into the final quarter of the year with Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021), Eternals (2021), and Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021) coming to theaters. Hawkeye and Ms. Marvel will also premiere on Disney+ before the end of the year.
With just as much to come as what came before, it must be an interesting time for the execs at Marvel to reflect on the MCU as Phase 4 continues to be fleshed out.
Speaking at a press conference that Inside the Magic attended, and while promoting Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Kevin Feige said to the moderator Ronny Chieng, who plays Jon Jon in Shang-Chi, what he thought was the biggest risk the MCU had taken so far.
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.
Many fans will rally behind Feige’s claim that the MCU wouldn’t be the same without its first Avenger. At first, the studio didn’t back Downey Jr. for the role and if it wasn’t for Favreau’s passion and dedication to cast the actor, he may never have donned the famous Iron Man suit of red and gold armor.
Recently, Downey Jr. trended online after an article proposed that “anyone with wit” could have played Tony Stark — it’s safe to say Iron Man fans were not happy.
Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark has been a staple and fan-favorite character of the MCU since his introduction in Favreau’s Marvel movie. Iron Man, arguably due to Downey Jr.’s excellent portrayal, has acted as a gateway character into the grand, entangled web of the Marvel Universe. RDJ finally left the franchise after finally beating Thanos (Josh Brolin) in a showstopping climax but Marvel’s Avengers will never be the same again.
That being said, the next time fans will see Tony Stark on-screen will be the first time someone else has played the part in the MCU. Marvel’s What If…? explores the realm of alternate realities and welcomes new incarnations of well-known characters like Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) and Black Panther, T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman), who appear as Captain Carter and Star-Lord in the Multiverse, respectively.
Marvel has brought back many of its portfolio of actors but there are some replacements. Chris Evans (Steve Rogers/Captain America), Scarlett Johansson (Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow), Brie Larson (Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel), and Tom Holland (Peter Parker/Spider-Man) are among those joining Downey Jr. as actors who have been recast for the series.
What do you think of Robert Downey Jr.’s performance as the hero Iron Man? Let us know in the comments!