Imagine living in a parallel universe where Robert Downey Jr. never played Iron Man! What would have become of that now great franchise?! Would Joss Whedon have gotten the chance to bring the Avengers to the big screen? And, most importantly, who would they have picked to play Stark and his hi-tech suit of nuts and bolts?
To me, RDJ is Iron Man just as much as - say - Keanu Reeves is Neo, and Christian Bale is Batman/Bruce Wayne, to highlight a few choice casting coups. But how differently would these great characters have been received in the hands of another actor?
Fun Fact: Did you know Cillian Murphy screen tested for the role of Batman/Bruce Wayne in Nolan's stunning Bat-reboot Batman Begins?
I love hearing stories about actors that nearly got their hands on an iconic role, like Marvel Studios, before they were Marvel Studios. And Marvel originally had seven actors in mind to bring the "lovable asshole" Tony Stark to life on the silver screen.
I know it's ridiculous to think, now that RDJ has slipped into and subsequently owned the role like a seal does the ocean, but there were a few incredibly talented men being courted by Marvel, and a few staggeringly mind-boggling choices to say the least...
So let's take a look at the:
7 Actors Who Could've Been Iron Man
Let's find out what went on in Marvel HQ, and see why these guys didn't end up in the suit and what they got up to instead.
1. Tom Cruise
It's been widely reported that way back in the early '00s, Tom Cruise's name was firmly attached to play everybody's favorite tin-man, and even produce the feature. But he apparently lost interest in the project due to the script not being up to his standards:
I don’t know. It just … they came to me at a certain point and … when I do something, I wanna do it right. If I commit to something, it has to be done in a way that I know it’s gonna be something special. And as it was lining up, it just didn’t feel to me like it was gonna work.
Cruise ended up starring in Lions For Lambs.
2. Nicholas Cage
From nearly playing Superman to almost playing Iron Man, Nic Cage is one guy who never ceases to surprise. He was interested in playing Stark as far back as '97, but, fortunately some may say, it didn't come to fruition and Cage moved on to play another Marvel character in Ghost Rider.
3. Timothy Olyphant
Olyphant's name was also attached during the early stages of the project, and he apparently read for the role. To no avail. The star went on to perform in Hitman, and can be seen in the hit series Justified.
4. Leonardo DiCaprio
I think it's safe to say that nearly every actor was considered for Marvel's first self-funded movie, so Leonardo DiCaprio should come as no great surprise. While I'm not sure why this didn't come to pass, DiCaprio went on to make Body of Lies in 2008.
5. Clive Owen
One of Britain's finest performers, Owen was considered for the role by Iron Man's director Jon Favreau, but Owen went on to appear in the insanely excellent Shoot-Em-Up instead. How's that for recompense?
6. Hugh Jackman
This one comes as a mad surprise, as ol' Wolverine himself was rumored to be the next sure thing for Iron Man. But, of course, that didn't happen and he went on to star in three movies the following year, including Australia and Deception.
7. Sam Rockwell
Apart from Tom Cruise, no one really got any closer to slipping on Stark's shoes than Rockwell. He was invited to read for the role, showed his qualities, but then it slipped from his grasp and into the pocket of the legend himself, Robert Downey Jr. But, at the end, it wasn't all heartache and near-misses, Favreau was so impressed with Rockwell, he eventually went on to cast him in Iron Man 2, as Stark's nemesis Justin Hammer.
What an insane list of casting "could have beens." Imagine Nic Cage as Iron Man! I would've loved to have seen that. Though I surely doubt DiCaprio would've ever really come aboard. He's more of an anti-franchise, indie sensibility kinda guy.
But if it wasn't for the insistence of Jon Favreau, Iron Man 1&2's director, RDJ wouldn't have had his stunning and well deserved renaissance. Think about that for a minute...
What do you guys think?