A huge part of the MCU’s world-conquering success lies at the feet of Robert Downey Jr. His performance as Tony Stark in 2008’s Iron Man made what was then a B-list superhero a pop culture phenomenon. That film successfully launched the MCU, with Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark drawing audiences to massive hits like The Avengers, Captain America: Civil War, Spider-Man: Homecoming and many others.
Of course, Stark got the perfect conclusion to his decade-long story in last year’s Avengers: Endgame, where he sacrificed himself to defeat Thanos and save the entire universe. Not a bad way to go out, and after such a great send-off, it’s understandable that he’s reticent about returning to the role.
In a recent interview on The Joe Rogan Experience, Downey Jr. was quizzed about whether he’d ever strap on the armor again in the MCU and said that it would take a “super compelling argument” to get him back in the franchise.
“To me, starting up again is off the table. I feel like I’ve done all I could with that character. There would have to be a super compelling argument and a series of events that made it obvious. But the other thing is, I wanna do other stuff.”
I have to agree with him here. Stark’s sacrifice was one of the most memorable moments in the MCU’s history and walking it back would definitely cheapen it. However, he is scheduled to appear in some form in Black Widow, which is set just after the events of Civil War. That will probably amount to nothing more than a cameo (I don’t know whether original footage has even been shot), but if he is to return, that’s the extent to which I’d be happy with.
Fortunately, Marvel Studios seem aware that they need to push forward with new characters post-Endgame. Their upcoming slate boasts The Eternals, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings and Blade, not to mention heroes like She-Hulk coming in the Disney Plus show.
But hey, if the MCU went into decline and audiences started losing interest, Disney could always offer Downey Jr. a monumental amount of money to return as Iron Man. So never say never.