While Iron Man may now be regarded as one of the most important and influential blockbusters ever made after it served as the launchpad for what would quickly go on to become the single biggest franchise in the history of cinema, the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s opening installment was far from a sure thing when it was released in the summer of 2008.
There were a lot of doubts surrounding an upstart studio spending $150 million on their first self-funded feature, especially when the title character was viewed by most general audiences as a B-tier hero that was nowhere near the level of a Batman, Superman or Spider-Man in terms of recognition and visibility.
Then there was the leading man himself, with Marvel initially very reluctant to cast Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark based on the well-publicized personal troubles that had seen his star fade dramatically after numerous drug-related arrests and stints in rehab, with the actor struggling to find work at his lowest point after being deemed uninsurable.
All it took was one massive hit to completely turn his career around though, with the success of Iron Man launching Downey Jr. to the top of the Hollywood A-list and establishing him as the face of the MCU. But in an ironic twist of fate, Marvel Comics actually fired a couple of shots in his direction years before he became the marquee attraction of their movies, which you can see below.
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Robert Downey Jr. wasn’t even the highest-paid cast member on Iron Man, but soon became one of the most financially comfortable stars in the industry, with the $500,000 salary for his MCU debut snowballing into a $75 million payday by the time he finally bowed out in Avengers: Endgame. Which just goes to show how far he’d come over the previous decade.