Iron Man isn't the only big screen Marvel hero we have Robert Downey Jr. to thank for!
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If it wasn’t for the casting of Robert Downey Jr. in the eponymous role of 2008’s Iron Man, moviegoers would have been robbed of not only one of the most iconic superhero performances in cinema, but his appearances as the character in nine more blockbusters. That’s not really news, but what you may not know is that there’s another beloved Avenger who would’ve been played by someone else if it weren’t for Downey’s intervention. Without Downey, Marvel fans would still know Chris Evans primarily as the Human Torch, rather than as Marvel’s own sentinel of liberty — Captain America.
That’s according to the new book The Story of Marvel Studios: The Making of the Marvel Cinematic Universe by Tara Bennett and Paul Terry (via ScreenRant). According to the book, Chris Evans was extremely hesitant about playing Steve Rogers and at first wouldn’t even audition. While Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige and Captain America: The First Avenger co-producer Stephen Broussard wanted someone else to play Cap, producer Joel Silver — who’d just worked with Chris Evans on The Losers — insisted Evans was the only choice and he’d already talked to the actor about the part. It was finally a call from Robert Downey Jr. to Evans that got the future Captain America to agree to an audition.
Even once everyone concerned agreed that Evans was the guy to play Cap, Evans himself wasn’t convinced right away, regardless of what Robert Downey Jr. thought. Evans told The Story of Marvel Studios writers that he was initially offered a nine picture deal which eventually went down to six, but even then he wasn’t sure because “six movies can last a really long time.” Thankfully, of course, Evans ultimately said yes, and the actor told the writers that it was “the best decision” he ever made.
While so far this hasn’t proven true of John Krasinski of The Office fame, The Story of Marvel Studios says that without Robert Downey Jr.’s intervention, whoever was chosen to play Steve Rogers would likely have been actors who have since gone on to play other Marvel roles. Along with Krasinski, Sebastian Stan — who plays Cap’s best friend Bucky Barnes — was considered. In fact, Stan was the actor Feige and Broussard wanted to cast before Silver stepped in. Wilson Bethel — who played Benjamin Pointdexter aka Bullseye in Season 3 of Netflix’s Daredevil — was also considered. Fittingly another contender was Wyatt Russell, who played John Walker, aka U.S.Agent and the second Captain America in this year’s The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.
The release of The Story of Marvel Studios has been marked with a series of surprising revelations about what was really going on behind the scenes since before the beginning of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Among other things, we’ve learned about how reading the script for 2019’s Avengers: Endgame reduced Robert Downey Jr. to tears, that Oscar-winner Anthony Hopkins was ready to leave acting behind for good before director Kenneth Brannagh tapped him to play Odin in 2011’s Thor, and that Samuel L. Jackson was originally never meant to show up beyond the post-credits scene of 2008’s Iron Man.