As the star and title character of Marvel Studios’ first self-financed movie, one that kicked off the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and planted the seed for The Avengers thanks to Nick Fury’s post-credits cameo, there’s no denying that Iron Man has been the franchise’s flagship character from the very beginning. In the hands of Robert Downey Jr., Tony Stark became one of the most popular and iconic figures in modern cinema, rejuvenating the actor’s career in the process and turning him into one of the biggest names in the business.
While the MCU has gone on to enjoy unprecedented success at the box office, with all four Avengers flicks among the ten highest-grossing movies in history, the newly-formed studio took a huge gamble putting Downey Jr. front-and-center in their debut effort, given his history of well-documented personal issues and concerns that his reputation didn’t make him the ideal fit for leading a PG-13 summer blockbuster.
As we all know, the 54 year-old would go on to become the face of the entire MCU, making ten appearances in the interconnected superhero series across eleven years, renegotiating his contract with the studio on several occasions. Such was his importance and impact as Tony, that Downey Jr. went from a $500,000 salary on the first Iron Man to earning a reported $150 million from the Infinity War and Endgame double-header.
Based on the sheer amount the studio was paying him, as well as his importance to the MCU overall, many people speculated that Downey Jr. held some sort of creative control over his character, but in a recent interview to promote the critically-maligned Dolittle, he insisted that wasn’t the case.
“I love that you think I had to have the authority to say, ‘Did you cast this guy?’. Alright, let me get a taste of him. I’ll tell you if he can stick around. My M.O. is always, ‘Let’s mind-meld. Let’s get together. Let’s work weekends. Let’s spend time together’. Because you can’t replace that familiarity, so you have to try to build it. And sometimes, it happens very naturally. The whole Marvel universe, possibly without exception, just happens to be a really well-curated group of souls.”
Marvel Studios chief Kevin Feige has always been the man spearheading the MCU, and it seems unlikely that he’d cede any sort of creative control to one of his actors, even the franchise’s biggest name. Downey Jr.’s co-stars have also always praised his work ethic, and he’s even acting as an off-screen mentor to Tom Holland, so it seems unlikely that he would be demanding influence over the direction of his character in the already-collaborative Marvel Studios environment.