Celebrated Actor Nearly Stole Iron Man From Robert Downey Jr.

in Marvel, Movies

Robert Downey, Jr. as Iron Man

Credit: Marvel Studios

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is, without a doubt, the current most dominant brand in cinemas, raking in billions of box office dollars and making Marvel superheroes household names. All that started with Iron Man (2008), starring Robert Downey Jr. However, we almost didn’t get to see his take on the titular Tony Stark.

Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America teaming up in Avengers: Age of Ultron
Credit: Marvel Studios

After getting his start as a Saturday Night Live (1975-present) Cast Member in 1985, Robert Downey Jr. had his big break as a member of the Brat Pack in The Pick-Up Artist (1987). Downey Jr. then earned critical acclaim in multiple roles, including an Oscar nomination for his leading performance in Chaplin (1992). Unfortunately, his success would get derailed after numerous arrests for drug use from 1996-2001.

It was long considered that Downey Jr.’s career was dead. Then Iron Man happened, and everything changed forever. Not only has he reprised the role almost a dozen times, but he’s starred in blockbuster hits like Sherlock Holmes (2009)Due Date (2010), and Tropic Thunder (2008), the latter of which earned him a second Academy Award nomination. He soon became considered one of the most bankable leading men in Hollywood.

However, RDJ almost didn’t land the role that revitalized his career. Instead, the people who put their money behind Marvel Studios wanted a much different actor. Fortunately, MCU creator David Maisel was there to put his foot down.

Marvel Board Didn’t Want Iron Man “In The Hands of an Addict” Like Robert Downey Jr.

Tony Stark building his first Iron Man suit
Credit: Marvel Studios

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Former Marvel Studios president David Maisel revealed in an interview with The New Yorker that he had to fight to get Robert Downey Jr. in the Iron Man suit.

“My board thought I was crazy to put the future of the company in the hands of an addict,” Maisel said. “I helped them understand how great he was for the role. We all had confidence that he was clean and would stay clean.”

So who was the actor they wanted instead of Robert Downey Jr? One Timothy Olyphant.

Timoty Olyphant as Deputy Raylan Givens
Credit: FX

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Now recognized for his roles in Justified (2010-2015), The Book of Boba Fett (2021-2022), and Daisy Jones and the Six (2023), Timothy Olyphant was a star on the rise during the 2000s with his leading performance in Deadwood (2004-2006).

While Timothy Olyphant certainly would have done a great job, it’s still hard to think of anyone else playing Robert Downey Jr. Much like everyone else in the early MCU, Downey Jr. is synonymous with his character. If anyone else is going to play it, they will have big mechanized boots to fill.

Who else do you think could have played Iron Man? Let Inside the Magic know in the comments down below!

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