Robert Downey Jr. may have spent over a decade as the face of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and was undoubtedly the franchise’s marquee name, but for a while following the release of Iron Man 3, the actor’s future looked somewhat uncertain, with Kevin Feige even admitting at the time that it wasn’t outside the realms of possibility that the role could eventually be recast in the same vein as James Bond.
Downey Jr.’s contract had expired following his third solo outing, and despite being the star of the movie that launched the biggest game in town, he wasn’t even the highest-paid actor on Iron Man after picking up just $500,000, with Terrence Howard ironically going home with the biggest payday before being swiftly dumped as Rhodey and replaced by Don Cheadle.
Of course, we all know that RDJ agreed to new terms with Marvel several more times in the future after signing new deals for both Captain America: Civil War and Spider-Man: Homecoming, which saw him pick up a percentage of the box office profits and made him one of the richest names in the business, ultimately walking away from his swansong in Avengers: Endgame with $75 million for his troubles.
It seems ludicrous to imagine anyone else stepping in to play Tony Stark, and in a recent interview, Paul Rudd admitted that nobody else could have embodied the character anywhere near as well as his former co-star.
“He’s an amazing guy. People are drawn to him. He has this crazy, unique energy. He’s very smart, really funny, and very sweet. There are a lot of kids at Make-A-Wish that want to meet Iron Man. That’s a lot of responsibility, and he owns it. He’s a spectacular person. I’m really impressed with him, I really like the guy. If you asked everybody on that film set, they’d all say, ‘He’s kind of amazing’. He’s one of those guys where it’s, ‘Where do you separate the actor from the part?’. I mean, who else can play Iron Man? He’s Tony Stark. I can’t even imagine anybody else in that part.”
That’s high praise coming from someone like Paul Rudd, who also has a reputation for being an all-round good guy, and while there’s no chance that anyone else will be stepping into Robert Downey Jr.’s shoes as Iron Man, rumors still continue to swirl that he could eventually be tempted back into the fold in the future.