Robert Downey Jr. Reveals Why He Was Almost Passed Up for IRON MAN and Tony Stark’s Return for VANITY FAIR Magazine

Posted on December 04, 2023


In a new cover story for VANITY FAIR, senior Hollywood correspondent Anthony Breznican speaks to those closest to Robert Downey Jr. to discuss his Marvel legacy, why he was almost passed up for his role as Tony Stark in IRON MAN, and his OPPENHEIMER transformation that left wife Susan Downey worried he might have gone “too far.”


Robert Downey Jr. was nearly passed over for Iron Man: Downey was nearly passed over for the role of Iron Man because executives at Marvel Entertainment didn’t want soon-to-be Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige and Iron Man director Jon Favreau to cast him. “It purely came down to the Marvel board being nervous at putting all of their chips in their future films on somebody who famously had those legal troubles in the past,” Feige says. “I wasn’t very good—and I’m still not great—at taking no for an answer. But I also don’t pound my chest to try to get my way. I try to figure out ways to make it as clear to other people why we should head in a direction. And that’s when the idea of a screen test came up.”

Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige says Tony Start Won’t Return: Marvel has a reputation for resurrecting characters, but Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige says that won’t happen to Stark. “We are going to keep that moment and not touch that moment again,” Feige says. “We all worked very hard for many years to get to that, and we would never want to magically undo it in any way.”

Downey was reluctant even to do reshoots and redo a single line of dialogue, Stark’s last, for Endgame: “We’d already said tearful goodbyes on the last day of shooting. Everybody had moved on emotionally,” director Joe Russo says. “We promised him it would be the last time we made him do it—ever.” Anthony Russo adds, “That was a difficult thing for him to do, to come back to pick up that line. When he did come back, we were shooting on a stage directly opposite where he auditioned for Tony Stark. So his last line as Tony Stark was shot literally a couple hundred feet from his original audition that got him the role.”

Wife and producer Susan Downey on Robert Downey Jr.’s Oppenheimer transformation:  “Chris doesn’t really do prosthetics, and he didn’t want to do wigs and those kinds of things,” says Downey’s wife, producer Susan Downey. “They were doing some of the tests for it, I believe, and I just remember Robert came home and he was like, ‘Yep, we decided we just need to shave it.’ He created this balding head,” she tells Vanity Fair. Then she began to worry he was going too far. “He was losing weight for the role. I was looking at pictures, saying ‘I don’t think that Lewis Strauss is a really skinny, skinny guy.’ Then I saw the movie for the first time—and I’d lived with him through it, I’d seen some stills, and I was like, ‘Oh, my God, I get it now.’ ”


[Photo Credit: Marco Grob for Universal/Vanity Fair Magazine]

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