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Would the “Iron Man” films and the character’s involvement in the Marvel Cinematic Universe be just as good with an actor other than Robert Downey, Jr. playing him? That’s a question the U.K.-based Sunday Times dared to ponder over the weekend, and it swiftly worked MCU fans and Downey’s passionate defenders into a tizzy.
The Sunday Times tweeted this hot take Aug. 1, daring to ask if any other Hollywood leading man could have stepped into the role of Iron Man and made the films just as memorable.
“The big titles of the past decade are brands and franchises established in numerous prequels and sequels. Robert Downey Jr is a leading man, but his Iron Man could be played by almost anyone with wit; the character is more important to audiences than the actor,” the Sunday Times wrote on its official Twitter account.
The replies immediately flooded in, with many people pointing to MCU architect and Iron Man co-creator Stan Lee’s remarks that he thought Downey was born to play the role. “I think of all of them, when Robert Downey Jr. played Stark, he was just great,” Lee said at Rhode Island Comic-Con in September 2017. “That man was born to be Iron Man, you know? He’d be on the top of the list.”
Stan Lee said that Robert Downey Jr. Born to be Iron Man, any other actor would have the potential to be Iron Man, but none of them would be Robert Downey Jr.
— Matthews Martins (@helloimatthews) August 1, 2021
Actually, another Hollywood household name came close to playing Iron Man. Tom Cruise was considered a solid bet given his tenure as an action star already, but he turned down the role and it ultimately fell to Downey to portray billionaire playboy and tech genius Tony Stark.
And fans are oh-so happy about that, standing in defense of Downey and push-backing on The Times’ suggestion.
This is a ridiculous take. Can you see Tom Cruise (one of the contenders) pulling off this line with the same casual snark? pic.twitter.com/FGB9a6vR5f
— Hellcat (@Catherineamcc) August 1, 2021
“Guardians of the Galaxy” director James Gunn quickly shot down the idea that Downey wasn’t the man for the role and said Sunday afternoon, “I’ve seen the screen tests. This is bulls—.”
Another fan (and Harvard University lecturer) Christopher Rhodes noted, “this take ignores that much of the ‘wit’ and other specifics that made Tony Stark/Iron Man so compelling and popular were innovations of Robert Downey Jr. A different actor might be able to mimic his Iron Man now, but they wouldn’t have come up with it in the first place.”
Even if Downey wasn’t Marvel Studios’ first choice, it doesn’t matter now, as his face and portrayal of Tony Stark/Iron Man were entertaining enough to make the Iron Man franchise one of Marvel’s most lucrative, ever. Since effectively launching the Marvel Cinematic Universe with the Jon Favreau-directed “Iron Man” in 2008, Downey has reprised the role in two sequels as well as appeared in eight other MCU films, including all “Avengers” movies. Securing Downey as Iron Man brought with it some big checks for Marvel — the first film grossed over $585 million worldwide and “Iron Man 3” grossed over $1.2 billion globally.
Check out more reactions to the Sunday Times’ take below.
The big titles of the past decade are brands and franchises established in numerous prequels and sequels. Robert Downey Jr is a leading man, but his Iron Man could be played by almost anyone with wit; the character is more important to audiences than the actor. pic.twitter.com/Cjpmyp2U6L
— The Sunday Times (@thesundaytimes) August 1, 2021
The man already been nominated for an oscar for chaplin and was the youngest writer on SNL. He been a lead in the late 80s . Killed tv in the 90s/2000s. Then has kiss kiss bang bang. And completely OWNED the past 10yrs as Iron Man and Sherlock. Fuggaoutta here.
— Malcolm Mays (@iMalcolmMays) August 1, 2021
This but the complete opposite.
— Seth Masket (@smotus) August 1, 2021
Iron Man can be played by anyone? 😂 Your article lost all credibility right there. Completely ludicrous statement. RDJ is absolutely brilliant in the role and only he could have created such a complex, hilarious, and interesting character out of a metal suit.
— Paul LeCoque (@paullecoque) August 1, 2021
I know, right?
-laughs in how many times someone has said "____was born to portray ____."
Guess anyone can be Deadpool, hence why it took so long for it to be made, or anyone can be Black Panther, whom Chadwick made them both more iconic than imagined.
— GoPo aka Jawn Swanson (@theghostpossum) August 1, 2021
I disagree with every fiber of my body that says that Robert Downey is not what makes Iron man sell. He is completely integral to the role of Iron man and if it wasn't for him I don't think the character would have been nearly as beloved as he is.
— Dan Grant 🇨🇦 (@baumer72) August 1, 2021
I'm sorry but I disagree. You can't just have anyone playing that character. He had the entire MCU on his shoulders and @RobertDowneyJr played him perfectly… The arrogance, the playboy, the snark and the love and belief he had in his team. The father figure for Spiderman.
— Iffy_k2002💙 (@IffyK2002) August 1, 2021
How quickly they forget that before Iron Man nobody had any idea who Tony Stark was and RDJ was seen as a washed-up addict who couldn't get insured.
— Matt 'Starman' Morrison (@GeekyGeekyWays) August 1, 2021
The Marvel fans hate this, but it’s true. I’m personally not a fan of Super Hero movies, but if you enjoy them that’s okay, nothing wrong with that. Look at Joker, people loved both Ledger and Phoenix, so the Marvel fans getting upset, yes somebody with wit could have been
— Billy (@realbilly556) August 1, 2021
Absolutely not. His performance as Tony Stark literally changed every other portrayal of the character from the comics and video games to animated series.
— Chock'lit Gidddyup (@JAMALIGLE) August 1, 2021
This is such a bad take. No one knew or cared about Iron Man until RDJ brought him to life. Most of that first film.was unscripted. It would have been a flop, dead in the water with any other male lead, because RDJ made that wit and charm look effortless.
— Mel ⎊ 🏴☠️ (@Melissa_Bosquez) August 1, 2021
Congrats on being utterly wrong here. It was Downey's personal and creative idiosyncrasies that made the character work.
— Richard Whittaker (@YorkshireTX) August 1, 2021
Read original story Iron Man ‘Could Be Played by Almost Anyone’? Marvel and Robert Downey Jr. Fans Revolt At TheWrap