Kevin Feige reveals why casting Robert Downey Jr. was the biggest risk Marvel ever took
Today, Robert Downey Jr.’s name is synonymous with the Marvel Cinematic Universe. They are two sides of the same coin, and despite Downey Jr.’s retirement from the MCU, the fans still miss Iron Man. However, back in 2008, that was not the case. Marvel had gambled all of their money on the success of Iron Man. But, despite this huge financial undertaking, the biggest risk that Marvel ever took, according to Kevin Feige, was on Robert Downey Jr. himself.
Before donning the role of Iron Man, Robert Downey Jr. had done some notable roles in Hollywood. These included movies like Zodiac, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Chaplin, and many other. However, there were some serious issues with his personal life that was holding his career back. Therefore, for Marvel to put all their eggs in one basket that had a questionable build, was a huge undertaking.
While talking to Cinemablend, Kevin Feige was promoting the upcoming Marvel film Shang-Chi and The Legend of the Ten Rings. He also talked about the complications faced by the studio in 2008 with Iron Man. He revealed:
I was lucky enough to be involved in early Spider-Man films and X-Men films. But we wanted to do an Iron Man movie. And I do think, still, the biggest risk — which seems outrageous to say now — was casting Robert Downey Jr. It was both the biggest risk and the most important thing in the founding of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Without Robert, we wouldn’t be sitting here today. I really believe that.
How Robert Downey Jr. turned around his career as well as the MCU
At the time, Robert Downey Jr. was still recovering his public image. For years, he was plagued with issues like alcoholism, drug abuse, and even a few public arrests. And even putting that aside, few people ever imagined Downey Jr. as a superhero. After all, back then the superhero was less complicated and more of a virtuous and venerated character. But, that all changed with Iron Man. Feige recalls:
Everybody knew he was amazing actor. But he hadn’t been an action star. He wasn’t a marquee star, necessarily. And we quickly realized the risk, I’ve said this before, was not casting him. And Jon Favreau really had that vision for that movie and for Robert in that role. That decision, and the success of that decision, I think empowered us with further risks and further choices.
The success of Iron Man didn’t just resurrect Robert Downey Jr.’s career but also established the MCU as the flagbearer of superhero films. It galvanized the superhero film brand to unprecedented levels, bringing in billions upon billions for Marvel and Disney. As a result, Robert Downey Jr. played the role of Iron Man in 8 more films, including multiple Avengers films. And fans got to see their favorite lineup of superheroes reunite in Avengers: Endgame and Avengers: Infinity War. That shows the level of success the franchise achieved. And they owe a big chunk of that to Robert Downey Jr. It may not have been pretty behind the curtains, and some may disagree with the brand of films they churn out. But, the success and the joy that fans got are undeniable.