Tue
Mar 5 2013 10:00am
Who Should (And Could) Replace Tony Stark?

who should replace Tony Stark Robert Downey Jr. Iron Man 3 quote

Without a doubt, the release of Iron Man in 2008 reinvigorated both the superhero genre and Robert Downey Jr.’s nosediving career. But something that the older, wiser Downey Jr. has learned is when it’s time to leave the party. In a recent interview with Empire magazine, the actor confessed that he might not play Tony Stark forever.

Say it ain’t so, RDJ!

Downey Jr. was characteristically matter-of-fact about the whole thing, acknowledging that after too many Avengers and Iron Man outings, what used to be a fantastic role becomes more of a product:

“Let’s just say the only thing I ever let go of had claw marks in it. There’s a little bit of soul reclamation going on. I feel that the first time I played Tony, I did it best. Sorry! The affinity with Tony now is: how do you sustain something? I’m not stupid, I like to play ball, I love the company, I love the character, and the business side of things, I’m not too picky about that, either.”

Really, he emphasizes, it’s all about moviegoers’ comfort level. Regarding someone else stepping into Iron Man’s boots, he said,

“It would probably be the best thing in the world for me. You know, ego... but sometimes ego just has to be smashed. Let’s see what happens. I take audiences very seriously—I feel bad when I see folks doing movies and the audience is like, ‘Don’t do that anymore.’ I don’t have to overstay my welcome.”

Personally, I wonder why Downey Jr. wants to mess with a solid thing. I wasn’t really moved by superhero movies until I saw his embodiment of Stark, thorniness and glitches and all. But is it selfish of us fans to cling to a working formula until it exhausts the franchise from the inside-out, like Tony’s arc reactor?

who should replace Robert Downey Jr Tony Stark

Canonically, it’s not as easy for Tony to bequeath his superhero identity the way, say, Batman does. Not that we want to see him go, but if we had to choose a new Iron Man... we’d be talking one of two distinct changes for the franchise:

  1. Casting who should play various characters who pick up the Iron Man mantle.
  2. A new actor takes on the role of Tony Stark.

First, let’s look at existing characters in the franchise. Considering that we finally get to see Rhodey as Iron Patriot in Iron Man 3, I wouldn’t be surprised if the next installments focus more on him. After all, Don Cheadle is technically one movie behind RDJ, having replaced Terrence Howard in Iron Man 2.

When asked about the possibility of recasting Tony Stark almost a year ago, Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige didn’t seem too bothered by the possibility of losing RDJ:

“I think Bond is a good example. Let’s put it this way: I hope Downey makes a lot of movies for us as Stark. If and when he doesn’t, and I’m still here making these movies, we don’t take him to Afghanistan and have him wounded again. I think we James Bond it.”

Fortunately, there are an astonishing number of alternate-reality Tony Starks (and/or folks who call themselves “Iron Man”) in the Marvel universe, so storywise a clearer replacement wouldn’t be so difficult to pull off.

who should replace Robert Downey Jr. Tony Stark Iron Man Brady Corbet Simon Killer Arno Stark

In Iron Man 2020, Arno Stark (Tony’s first cousin, once removed) starts out as a time-hopping mercenary but ultimately decides to use his iron suit for good. For some reason, Brady Corbet immediately springs to mind. He’s still a relative newcomer despite memorable roles in Thirteen and Martha Marcy May Marlene, but it’s something in his face that makes me see part bratty kid, part ruthless killing machine.

You know who I would love to see play an AU Tony? Jensen Ackles, if Supernatural ever goes off the air. In the early seasons he cultivated that similar ladykiller role, but after going to hell and back a few times, he possesses the necessary gravitas to play Tony’s constant state of near-death. Then there’s Lee Pace, who seems determined to challenge himself in his theater and film choices. But would Tony Stark be daring enough for him?

It’s difficult where to look agewise with Tony Stark, but on both ends of the spectrum you’ve got James Roday—who’s honed his comedic timing playing a fake psychic on Psych—and Mad Men’s Jon Hamm—who’s certainly got the look down.

who should replace Tony Stark Sandra Bullock Iron Woman Natasha Stark Robert Downey Jr.

Then there’s some good old-fashioned genderbending with Natasha Stark, from the alternate universe where Tony was born a woman, has a similar origin story, and fights baddies as Iron Woman. Artist Josh McMahon recently created a photo manipulation imagining Sandra Bullock in the role, and I have to say I really love it. I can’t think of another actress of a similar age to RDJ who possesses the same dry wit and necessary wariness.

You’ll notice that I’ve proposed mostly one-shots, because I still can’t wrap my head around a single person carrying the franchise and tossing around Tony’s one-liners movie after movie without getting exhausted. Who do you think would be up for the task?


Natalie Zutter is a playwright, foodie, and pop culture blogger. Her writing has appeared on BlackBook, Ology, and Crushable, where she discusses celebrity culture alongside internet memes (or vice versa). Weekly you can find her calling in to the Hunger Games Fireside Chat podcast, reviewing new releases at Movie Mezzanine, and on Twitter.

13 comments
Marcus W
1. toryx
My first thought of a Tony Stark other than RDJ was laced with a considerable portion of dread but I have to say, you caught my attention when you mentioned Jensen Ackles. I can see that, and I'd love to see him move on to another franchise.

But not for a long time to come, hopefully.
Sharat Buddhavarapu
2. spinfuzz
I am pretty alarmed by the studio characterizing Iron Man, or any of it's comic book properties, as James Bond-esque. While I'd love to see comic book characters in mainstream movies more and more, I'm a bit worried at Disney over-milking the cash cow/slaying the goose that lays the golden eggs. I'd hate if Marvel, having been acquired by Disney, and DC's main line turn out to be the only two players in the market. I think we'd really benefit as a genre from having independent filmmakers take on titles from, say, Vertigo ie Y: The Last Man.

As for replacing RDJ, how about Donald Glover, since we didn't get to see him as a Black Spiderman... It could even have a comic book tie-in with a completely new black Iron Man.
Kallistrate
3. Kallistrate
I was going to say no one (as no one could embody Tony Stark better than RDJ, so any replacement will suffer horribly by comparison) and that they should simply replace the character if RDJ decides to leave (come to think of it, by that time the team itself will probably be in need of some new blood to keep things interesting). Then I saw the suggestion of Sandra Bullock in the role, and I was sold.
Jenny Thrash
4. Sihaya
I've assumed for a while that we're just heading for some sort of Iron Legion plotline. Aftwards Iron Man would continue with whomever in the suit, and Downey being part mentor, part 'Q.'
Paul Lewandowski
5. Snowkestrel
Much as I would love to see something as wonderfully different as an Iron Woman, it's never going to happen outside of an animated direct to video or motion comic release (which I would still pay to see).

Personally, I think that by the time RDJ is ready to leave the role, it should probably be retired, except perhaps for further crossover titles like Avengers 3 or 4.
Jenny Thrash
6. Sihaya
Isn't Iron Woman just called 'Rescue'?
Kallistrate
7. BDG91
Maybe they could give the role of Iron Man over to War Machine as they orginally did in the comics. Rather than having different actors play as Tony Stark, it might be easier to have different characters to become Iron Man.
Kallistrate
8. Veejay J
I'm hoping RDJ is merely saying this as a negotiation tactic to increase his salary when contract negotiations begin.

If not, only the following actors are suitable:
- Jude Law
- Michael Fassbender
- Richard Armitrage
- Timothy Oliphant
- Tom Hardy
- Aidan Gillen
- Ewan McGregor
- Ryan Gosling
- Chris Hardwick (he'd actually fit quite well)


And, for the record, they shouldn't go for the JAMES BOND model. Tony Stark is Tony Stark PERIOD. They should just seamlessly replace RDJ with one of the actors I stated above
Kallistrate
9. Megpie71
I suspect a lot of this is coming out of the same context as Mr Downey's comments in earlier interviews (such as the DVD extras for Iron Man and Iron Man 2) where he points out that he is getting older - he's in his late forties, after all - and thus has a rather limited amount of time during which he'll have the physical capacity to perform such a role. Make no mistake, the Tony Stark/Iron Man character is actually a lot of physical work to perform (even the light "marker" armour they put on him for scenes to show the digital people where the movement would be weighs a lot more than most clothing) and he's well and truly aware that as he gets older (he's going to probably be about 50 by the time Avengers II hits the screen) he's simply not going to have the physical capacity to perform such roles without essentially devoting more of his time to the role than it's going to pay him back in enjoyment and cash. To put it bluntly, as a bloke gets older, it takes a lot more time in the gym to maintain the kind of musculature that will allow him to carry the extra weight of even mock-up, light armour for a sustained period - and that means he'd have to be pretty much putting in peak gym time for months on end.

Of course, there's also the studio considerations to be added in as well - as RDJ gets older, and particularly when he starts to reach the point where long shoots in armour become physically less possible, they're going to have to look at the profit and loss side of things, and make decisions on the side of breaking even. There's a limit to the kinds of things that stunt performers can do to fill in, there's a limit to the amount of stuff that can be done digitally, and realistically, the main reason the Tony Stark character is still involved in the Avengers and the superhero business in the comics is because the Marvel Universe periodically resets itself to update things - otherwise a superhero who got his start in the 1970s (over 40 years ago) would well and truly be out of the business by now (The Iron Man comics posit Tony Stark as being in his early thirties at the start of his career; he'd be in his seventies if the Marvel Universe aged year-for-year). Superheroics are a young person's job, just like front line fighting and professional athletics are.
Liz J
10. Ellisande
Of course they're going to recast Tony Stark eventually. They already recast Rhodey and Hulk (twice), and much as I like RDJ it'll happen with Tony Stark as well. Nobody's irreplaceable and why would we want it to be, really? Ruffalo's Banner isn't the same as Norton's, but I'm glad I had a chance to see it. Who's to say a new actor's take on Tony Stark can't be just as fun and interesting, even if it's not the same? Besides, I would much rather have a new actor excited about playing Tony than RDJ phoning it in five years down the line when it's gotten boring for him.
Kallistrate
11. loveloki
WHY SHOULD ANYONE REPLACE ROBERT DOWNEY JR??? If he doesn't reprise the role, ELIMINATE THE CHARACTER!!! Nobody will be better!!!
Kallistrate
12. Mike Grony
In the comic books, Rhodey replaced Tony as Iron Man for a rather significant amount of time. I think this is the best way to go, and would make the transition easier for alot of fans. Maybe RDJ Tony succumbs to alcoholism or is paralyzed, both storylines from the comic books, leaving Rhodey to step up and take on the Iron Man mantle. And though I liked Howard's Rhodey better, I think Cheadle is more than capable of being the lead dog.
The ending of Iron Man 3 was kinda vague, but those wheels might already be in motion.
Kallistrate
13. edgygirl
what about AARON PAUL?????

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