Robert Downey Jr. isn’t coming back as Tony Stark, Marvel Studios president says

Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige said they won't "touch that moment again."

December 4, 2023, 2:38 PM

Robert Downey Jr. won't return as Tony Stark, Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige says amid rumors of the original "Avengers" team reassembling.

In a new Vanity Fair cover story that dives deep into Robert Downey Jr.'s journey from Hollywood bad boy, to box office superhero, to what many believe will be his third Oscar nomination, for his portrayal of Lewis Strauss in "Oppenheimer," Feige said that Downey Jr.'s exit in "Avengers: Endgame" in 2019 is a moment that Marvel won't "touch."

"We are going to keep that moment and not touch that moment again," Feige said.

PHOTO: Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark in the 2008 Marvel movie, Iron Man.
Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark in the 2008 Marvel movie, Iron Man.

"We'd already said tearful goodbyes on the last day of shooting," "Avengers: Endgame" co-director Joe Russo added. "Everybody had moved on emotionally."

Downey first portrayed Tony Stark in the 2008 film, "Iron Man." He went on to play the superhero in two more "Iron Man" films as well as three "Avengers" films between 2015 and 2019, "Captain America: Civil War" in 2016 and "Spider-Man: Homecoming" in 2017.

Jon Favreau and Feige pushed for casting Downey as Tony Stark in the first "Iron Man" film.

Feige recalled, "the Marvel board being nervous at putting all of their chips in their future films on somebody who famously had those legal troubles in the past."

"I wasn't very good -- and I'm still not great -- at taking no for an answer," Feige added. "I try to figure out ways to make it as clear to other people why we should head in a direction."

That included a screen test that netted Downey the job.

PHOTO: Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark in the 2008 Marvel movie, Iron Man.
Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark in the 2008 Marvel movie, Iron Man.

Billions of dollars at the box office later, Downey said farewell to Tony Stark: With a finger snap, he defeated Thanos and sacrificed himself to save the world in "Avengers: Endgame."

"We all worked very hard for many years to get to that [moment], and we would never want to magically undo it in any way," Feige said.

That momentous finger snap — and Tony's defiant last words: "I am Iron Man" — came via a reshoot after the "tearful goodbyes" when the movie wrapped, co-director Joe Russo says.

Co-director Anthony Russo says it was "difficult" for Downey, noting, "[W]e were shooting on a stage directly opposite where he auditioned for Tony Stark. So his last line as Tony Stark was shot a couple hundred feet from his original audition that got him the role."

"We promised him it would be the last time we made him do it -- ever," Joe Russo added.

In November, actor Chris Evans, who played Steve Rogers/Captain America in several Marvel films, addressed rumors about the "Avengers" cast reuniting for a Marvel Studios project and he said that "it's news to me."

"I think every couple months someone says that they're getting [Robert] Downey [Jr.], and [Chris] Hemsworth, and Scarlett [Johansson], and everyone's coming back! No one's spoken to me about it," he said.

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