IRON MAN, Robert Downey Jr., 2008. ©Paramount/Courtesy Everett Collection

Jon Favreau says Robert Downey Jr. was originally considered for a different Marvel role

Over the course of 15 years and 32 films, Marvel Studios went from a Hollywood underdog to an unstoppable force. Kevin Feige and his team revolutionized franchise cinema with their concept of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, delivering interconnected content that delights loyal studio fans year-round. The studio has grown into an entertainment juggernaut, but it all started with a risky film: Jon Favreau’s ‘Iron Man’.

In a new conversation posted on Marvel’s official YouTube channel, Favreau and Feige celebrated the 15th anniversary of “Iron Man” by discussing the film’s legacy. Naturally, the conversation quickly turned to the topic of Robert Downey Jr.’s casting.

There has been a lot of talk about Marvel’s decision to bet Downey and give him a comeback role after years of publicly battling addiction. But Favreau revealed that the Marvel team had been looking to work with the actor long before the “Iron Man” role opened up. He explained that Feige and his team had previously met with Downey for other roles, including an iconic villain.

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“I remember you all met with him (Downey) before like Doctor Doom or something on another project,” Favreau said. “I think he came in as maybe ‘Fantastic Four’, so everyone knew who he was.”

Both men explained that once Downey signed on to play Tony Stark, everything else in the film seemed to fall into place.

“It used to be him, that’s when my life got so much easier because he understood the character’s voice,” said Favreau. “And then, one by one, people were just signing on board because now it’s become something interesting.”

Marvel’s reputation as a Hollywood behemoth that’s too big to fail makes it easy to forget what a risky proposition the Marvel Cinematic Universe was at one point. Feige reminded fans that many of the studio’s early projects fell short of expectations. He credited Downey’s star power with keeping the brand alive during times of uncertainty.

“I remember in the later films – we’ll talk about them in the 15th anniversary of those – there were dark days,” said the Marvel boss. “I would tell Robert, ‘We wouldn’t be in this mess if it weren’t for you,’ meaning we wouldn’t have a studio if it weren’t for him. Or you (Favreau).