The tension has been building for fans of the #MCU; we know that many Marvel superstars are on their final movies, and so speculation is running rife that one or more of the iconic heroes will die in #InfinityWar. #RobertDowneyJr., for example, has been renegotiating new contracts for pretty much every appearance (he's due to show up in next year's Spider-Man: Homecoming), while #ChrisEvans officially only has one movie left before his contract comes to an end!
"Luckily we don’t have to make that decision anytime soon. There are a lot of movies that everyone is signed on for, and we get to enjoy them for a long time. Robert Downey Jr. is Iron Man, and right now I can’t envision anyone else. Chris Evans has embodied Captain America as well as any actor has ever embodied an iconic pop-culture figure like that. I go back to Chris Reeve as Superman as the gold standard, and I think Evans is right there. I couldn’t imagine anybody else."
What Does This Mean?
While historically we know a lot about how many movies the various actors have been signed up for, that information is pretty out-of-date. Last year, you see, Kevin Feige forced an organizational restructure over at Marvel — Marvel Studios was separated from the rest of the Marvel group, with Feige reported directly to Disney's CEO. This is important because that took Marvel's controversial CEO, Ike Perlmutter, out of the loop.
As I've discussed in an earlier post, Ike Perlmutter is notoriously frugal. As the MCU flourished, he was becoming increasingly vocal about cutting costs by not bringing back the more expensive stars. The real issue was Robert Downey Jr., who was paid more than $40 million for Avengers: Age of Ultron, and wanted an even better deal for Captain America: Civil War. Perlmutter initially refused, and even asked Feige to make Civil War without Iron Man! Feige challenged his boss, and — this being one of the final straws for him — forced the reorganization, and got on with the film he actually wanted to make.
The results have been pretty remarkable. Robert Downey Jr., for example, is now openly talking about sticking around for an Iron Man 4.
Chris Evans, who was previously thinking about heading off to be a director rather than an actor, now seems much more interested in sticking around. As he commented last year:
"I think it’s almost like high school. You’re kind of always looking ahead, about when you’ll graduate, but then when graduation day arrives you kind of don’t want to leave. I AM gonna try and focus on directing a bit more, but by no means am I done acting. And if they’d have me back, yeah, I’d probably consider it."
It looks as though the restructured Marvel Studios is a lot more interested in retaining its top-billing stars than Ike Perlmutter's Marvel Studios was — and, if Feige's comment is anything to go by, that may be paying off.
Recasting Can Still Happen, Though
With that said, Feige isn't averse to the idea of recasting.
"But you also look to history: We have a new Spider-Man right now who was in our “Civil War” film and is in “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” and the audience has embraced it. And you can look to Sherlock Holmes, James Bond, and Batman as characters that last longer than any one actor playing them. There’s a precedent for it in other franchises that suggests it’s possible."
He's got a point. Countless franchises have easily survived changing their lead actors — you just have to choose the new lead with care. The classic example is James Bond, who's been portrayed by seven different actors, while fan reactions to Batman casting decisions have been rather amusing; where Ben Affleck was originally mocked as DC Film's choice for Batman, he's now generally viewed as one of the best Batmen ever.
Of course, Marvel faces a more difficult proposition. In many cases (including Batman and Spider-Man), these recast characters starred in rebooted franchises. In others, such as James Bond, nobody actually cared overmuch about continuity. In contrast, the MCU is build on the idea of an overarching narrative, so rebooting isn't an option for Marvel Studios, and Marvel fans are pretty committed to continuity (check out my ultimate MCU chronology as an example!).
Feige will be far more aware of that fact than I am, of course, and so his comments on recasting end with a single relieved comment:
- Will Marvel Make 'Iron Man 4' After All?
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- From 'Iron Man' To 'Doctor Strange': The Ultimate Marvel Cinematic Universe Chronology!
It seems that fans can relax — Marvel's superstars aren't about to leave anytime soon. In the wake of last year's reorganization, Marvel seem to have prioritized keeping their top talent, and those efforts are paying off. Perhaps Iron Man 4 and Captain America 4 really are on the cards after all!
Which film would you be more interested in?
Poll Image: Marvel Comics