The recently released book, The Story of Marvel Studios: The Making of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, written by Paul Perry and Tara Bennett, contains hundreds of pages of new information regarding the creation of the MCU, including the casting of various actors. However, one of the most curious pieces of information contained in the book actually goes over the casting of Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark for the first Iron Man film. According to the film’s director Jon Favreau, before getting tapped to play Iron Man, Stark almost played another wealthy Marvel character who fights his battles encased in high-tech armor, and it wasn’t a dude living in Malibu.
Favreau (via The Direct) told the authors, “Marvel had previously met with Robert Downey Jr. before, I think, to play Doctor Doom.” It’s important to note that — not counting the unreleased by heavily pirated 1994 Fantastic Four — there are two live-action iterations of Doctor Doom; one portrayed by Julian McMahon in 2005’s Fantastic Four, and the other portrayed by Toby Kebbell in 2015’s Fantastic Four. Given that Iron Man was released in 2008, in between the two box office flops, Jon Favreau is obviously referring to the 2005 version of Fantastic Four. In all honesty, considering the film’s poor ratings, Robert Downey Jr. probably dodged a bullet on that one. So instead, the role was given to Julian McMahon, a talented, award-winning actor who was, unfortunately, given a poor script to work with.
However, with the introduction of the Multiverse within the MCU and reports suggesting Robert Downey Jr.’s return to the MCU, his appearance as Doctor Doom shouldn’t be easily dismissed. In the end, there’s also a What If…? animated series, which toys with the idea of different characters and actors assuming different roles, so who’s to say what may transpire in future releases? The previously announced Marvel’s Fantastic Four still hasn’t got its Doctor Doom, so there might still be a chance to see RDJ back in the MCU, though as a character entirely different from Tony Stark/Iron Man
Back in 2008, no one could’ve predicted that Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) would become a multi-billion-dollar franchise, and Robert Downey Jr. one of the highest paid actors in the industry. Sure, the pre-MCU films, like Blade and X-Men, have set pretty good foundations for Marvel’s future cinematic releases, which wouldn’t have gone anywhere if the very first MCU film, 2008’s Iron Man, wasn’t a massive success.
Admittedly, the film’s critical and commercial success could be credited to Robert Downey Jr.’s portrayal of Tony Stark, which became so iconic, that it became difficult to imagine the actor as anyone else but Iron Man, though his performance as Sherlock Holmes in the same name film was equally as good.
With everything said, things have turned out for the better. Robert Downey Jr. would probably be an incredible Doctor Doom, but as far as the MCU fandom is concerned, he’ll always be Tony Stark/Iron Man. Conclusively, the role of Tony Stark did the actor well, so it’s pretty improbable that he feels any loss towards not playing Doctor Doom since his career wouldn’t be as prosperous as it is today.