What if Robert Downey Jr. was overlooked during the casting process for Iron Man? It’s fun to think about with Iron Man 2 right around the corner. Let’s be honest here, he wasn’t exactly a huge star back in 2006. Sure, his career was experiencing an upswing, but from a box office perspective he was far from a sure bet. That’s especially true when you consider that Downey Jr. had a troubled past and the role was going to be at least a half-decade commitment. Nonetheless, Marvel rolled the dice and found the perfect Tony Stark due to their willingness to gamble. But what if they hadn’t been so willing to go all in on Downey Jr.?
Here’s what their post-Downey Jr. thought process might have been like:
“Who else? What about Leo? Remember Catch Me if You Can? He’d be perfect as this vulnerable, genius, loner superhero. What? He won’t do superhero movies. Fuck! Well, we can’t do Tom Cruise either. He’s too polarizing. Besides, everyone will think Iron Man’s gay and that he sticks some weird Scientology crystal in his chest. Brad Pitt’s a lot of things, but I don’t see him as a brilliant engineer, scientist type. Hugh Jackman would be effing perfect, but he’s under contract to play Wolverine. Edward Norton would also be perfect, but he’s got a hard-on for the Hulk. Bale and Bana are out for obvious reasons. We have to go with an man, too. It’s Iron Man, not Iron Boy or Iron fucking Hunk. We’re screwed…”
Here are six other actors who legitimately could’ve been cast as Tony Stark, aka Iron Man.
It’s no secret; most of the staff here at FlickSided really digs this Irishman. He gets a somewhat bad rap, but Farrell cab really act his ass off. Could he play a talented, womanizing, badass alcoholic? Just by rolling out of bed every morning. The accent wouldn’t be a big deal either, as it was a non-issue when Christian Bale was napped to don the cape and cowl. His Miami Vice flop might have crippled his chances a bit, but I’m sure he was considered. The biggest stretch here would be him pulling off Stark’s genius. He doesn’t seem like a cretin, but a younger, cooler version of Steve Jobs? Yeah, that’s a stretch.
Jon Favreau actually almost cast Rockwell. He was apparently super, super close to being the Golden Avenger, and Favreau has even admitted as much recently. Personally, I think Rockwell plays a better villain, but anyone who has seen Confessions of a Dangerous Mind knows he could own a role which would require him to be brilliant, reclusive, egocentric and slightly neurotic. Hell, after seeing Moon, I wouldn’t put anything past Rockwell. He’s got a good sense of humor, too, which seems to be an important part of Favreau’s directing formula.
Phoenix has been so damn weird lately that we’ve all almost forgotten his amazing abilities as an actor. Think about the career-defining turn he pulled off as substance-abusing, ladies man Johnny Cash. Think about his arrogance playing Commodus. There’s certainly hints of Shellhead in both of those roles. It would’ve been a more serious Tony Stark, and probably one better suited for a different director, but a good one nonetheless. One has to wonder if he would’ve had this crazy, antisocial ZZ Top phase had he been cast in Iron Man.
The evidence that Crudup could have pulled off Iron Man? His previous superhero work as Doctor Manhattan in Watchmen. Check it out; brilliant scientist who suffers a tragic accident, somehow survives, but only as a weapon so dangerous humanity cannot handle his power even if he can. In many ways, in its essence it is the exact same role as Iron Man. They might not have taken a long look at him, but they should have. Especially considering that mean mustache he grows (remember Russell Hammond?).
This is probably the most obvious actor on this list. Depp and Downey Jr. are similar actors with off-the-charts charisma and ridiculous versatility. They both also possess swashbuckling sensibilities that make them throwbacks to the Golden Age of Cinema. Honestly, I’m not sure that Depp would be right for this role. Or that he could have even taken it on due to his POTC contract. But I have this theory that anything Downey Jr. can do, Depp can do and vice versa. It would be fun to see that theory put into practice with Depp doing his version of Tin-Britches.
This is some inspired casting here, but I think had Downey Jr. not have worked out Owen might have been the next best choice. Rugged. Dashing. Manly. Sophisticated. Smart. Tough. Charming. Handsome. Even funny when he has been asked to be. He turned down Bond, but was versatile enough to be cast as Theo in Children of Men, a damaged alcoholic turned reluctant savior. He also rocked Sin City as bad boy good guy Dwight. It’s like he’s had all the prerequisite training necessary to play Stark.