There would be no Marvel Cinematic Universe if it wasn't for the huge sucess of the first movie in the MCU, Iron Man.
On a budget of $140 million, it made $585 at the box office and received glowing reviews from critics. The main reason for the positive reception was the performance of Robert Downey Jr. who perfectly morphed into the role of Tony Stark, with his intelligence, sharp wit and charm perfect for the genius/playboy/billionaire/philanthropist.
Stark is undoubtedly Downey Jr.'s most famous and celebrated role - one that launched him into megastardom. Due to his problems with addiction and troubles with the law in the past, the actor was very nearly not hired by Marvel.
It was the insistence and persistence of director Jon Favreau that eventually wore Marvel bosses down. Remarkably, Downey Jr. was only paid an up front fee of $500k to play Tony Stark in the first Iron Man.
By the time the first Avengers hit theaters, he was taking home a cool $50m.
Before Downey Jr. was cast, several other Hollywood stars were considered for the role of Tony Stark...
When rumours of a potential alternate version of Iron Man started to gather pace with regards to Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, fans speculated that it would be Tom Cruise featuring in a cameo as the hero. Those rumours were proved to be pure speculation when no version of Iron Man appeared in the movie.
But, they were generated from factual events, as Cruise was mentioned for the role of Stark in the mid 2000s.
In 2005, he was asked about playing Iron Man, and he said: "It's not happening. Not with me. They...came to me at a certain point, and you know, when I do something, I want to do it right. And, you know, if I commit to something, it has to be done in a way that I know it's going to be something special. And that...as it was lining up, it just didn't feel to me like it was going to work."
In 2018, he was asked how close he came to playing Iron Man.
"Not close," he responded.
"Not close and I love Robert Downey Jr. I can't imagine anyone else in that role and I think it's perfect for him."
Before the MCU was as established as it is now, with intertwining storylines over various movies and television shows, it was possible that an actor could play two Marvel heroes, especially if one movie wasn't actually produced by Marvel.
Hugh Jackman had already featured in a couple of movies as Wolverine but that was for Sony, and it would be years later before Marvel acquired back the rights to the X-Men universe.
The Australian actor could very well have played Logan and Tony Stark for two different studios.
The idea seems strange now, but it wasn't outwith the realms of possibility back then.
Nicolas Cage is a self-proclaimed DC fanboy and came extremely close to playing Superman on-screen in Superman Lives, the infamous unproduced Superman movie.
He also has a son named Kal-El.
In the late 1990s into the start of the 2000s after Superman Lives fell apart, Cage was linked with playing various comic book characters, from Green Goblin to Scarecrow to Iron Man. None of those roles materalised for him, but as a comic book fanatic he would eventually land one of his dream roles as Ghost Rider.
This one never came that close to happening.
Timothy Olyphant auditioned for the role of Tony Stark on the same day as Downey Jr.
We'll let him tell the story...
Before the screenplay for the first Iron Man movie was even completed, Favreau approached future Oscar winner Sam Rockwell about taking the role.
He reportedly had the job in the bag before Downey Jr.'s screentest blew everyone away.
Rockwell would go on to play Justin Hammer in Iron Man 2, but he recalled a phone conversation regarding how he was initially approached to play Tony.
"We had a phone conversation about it, and then I didn’t hear anything and that was it," he told MTV News.
"They were like, we don't have a script but this is the deal and this is the character,"
Iron Man 2
Action / Scifi
2010 • 124 minutes
Action / Scifi
2008 • 126 minutes
Iron Man 3
Action / Adventure
2013 • 130 minutes