It's unrealistic to think that one actor can play the same role forever. The characters that we love to watch on screen have an almost infinite lifespan so that way they can keep making more movies starring those characters.
Actors Dedicated to their On-Screen Personas
A few examples to look at would be like James Bond. I'm sure there were many fans out there, my father included, who would have loved to have seen James Bond, forever and always be played by the great Sean Connery.
Sean Connery played the part of the suave spy a total of seven times:
- Dr. No (1962)
- From Russia with Love (1963)
- Goldfinger (1964)
- Thunderball (1965)
- You Only Live Twice (1967)
- Diamonds are Forever (1971)
- Never Say Never Again (1983) (unofficial)
It would have been great to see an immortal Sean Connery continue the franchise forever, perhaps doing an adaptation of every 007 book that Ian Flemming wrote. But it's just not realistic.
Another good example is that of Hugh Jackman's Wolverine.
Hugh Jackman has officially played the role of Logan aka Wolverine as many times as Connery has played Bond (6 times in a starring role and 1 time as cameo).
- X-Men (2000)
- X2: X-Men United (2003)
- X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)
- X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009)
- X-Men: First Class (2011) (cameo)
- The Wolverine (2013)
- X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)
We also know that Jackman is set to have a final, R-rated Wolverine movie next year which will make it 8 times he's starred at the savage character since 2000 and if he ends up making a surprise cameo in this year's X-Men: Apocalypse, then we can chalk that number up to 9. That's almost 10 movies in almost 20 years! That's the kind of dedication fans like to see out of their actors.
Sadly, next year's as-of-yet-untitled Wolverine threequel will be Jackman's last and already there are talks of who would replace the Australian actor; even Jackman himself threw out his two-cents on who should play Wolverine when he voted for Tom Hardy (a decision I would stand by, by the way).
Change in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is Inevitable
So looking at the examples above, we know that we've seen a similar dedication from actors in the MCU, especially from Tony Stark/Iron Man actor, Robert Downey Jr. (who first took the role of Tony Stark at the age of 42). In just 8 years, Downey has played up the charismatic superhero in a total of 7 times. That's 6 times in a starring role including one cameo, similar to Hugh Jackman's current Wolverine record.
- Iron Man (2008)
- The Incredible Hulk (2008) (cameo)
- Iron Man 2 (2010)
- The Avengers (2012)
- Iron Man 3 (2013)
- Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
- [Captain America: Civil War](tag:994409) (2016)
The actor has done just as much work for his role as Tony Stark in less time than Hugh Jackman has for his role as Wolverine. I mean, his part must be easy honestly because he's playing himself every time he steps onto screen. But still, I can't even begin to imagine how exhausting it must be for him to put in as much dedication to this role as he has so far.
We can't expect the 50-year-old actor to keep going on. Dude's going to want to take a break at some point. He's only really given a year between films and sometimes maybe even less if you look at the demanding schedule to shoe-horn these Marvel films every year or so.
What does Robert Downey Jr. think about it?
Two years ago, in an interview with Variety, the actor responded with the following statement when asked about a fourth Iron Man movie:
"There isn’t one in the pipe. No, there’s no plan for a fourth Iron Man."
Then a year ago, the actor seemed to contradict his quote from a year earlier while appearing on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, take a look at the 22-second video below:
And now in more recent news, the actor spoke to USA Today and gave the following statement regarding a fourth Iron Man outing:
“I don’t think that’s in the cards. In a way it’s Captain America: Civil War, but for me, it’s like my little Iron Man 4.”
It seems that whatever the Iron Man 4 plans we thought might be in the works may end up just being what we see in this year's Captain America: Civil War film.
How do the people behind the camera feel?
One of the Captain America: Civil War directors, Joe Russo had the following to say when discussing the re-casting of Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark aka Iron Man:
"It’s almost impossible to replace Robert, he’s the biggest movie star in the world. One close up from Robert is worth another actor’s entire performance, he’s incredibly gifted and insanely talented. I think if and when he is done with the character I think you will find that Iron Man might disappear for a while. I think the only way that you could reboot that character is to give a generational gap that would allow another actor to at least have a chance to redefine that character without the enormous spectre of Robert hanging over it. There are so many characters in the Marvel universe that can pick up the ball and run without it through the next phase or two before you need to see Iron Man again, frankly."
I have to say that I agree 100% with the director and feel like that there are so many more Marvel characters who deserve to be in the limelight. We've got Spider-Man coming to the MCU for the first time (though I have mixed feelings about that since Sony doesn't seem to be "all-in" since they're doing a solo Venom film).
But we've got so many other characters that haven't even been introduced into the MCU just yet that hold just as much potential as Iron Man did when he kicked the MCU off in 2008.
It's pretty sad, knowing that we're already nearing a day and age where we might be without Robert Downey Jr's Tony Stark/Iron Man in the MCU for "generations" as Joe Russo proposed. I've really enjoyed almost everything I've seen from the Downey's Iron Man in the MCU but I also realize that we have to keep our expectations grounded in reality, no matter how fantastic our fandoms seem to be.
What do you guys think should be done with the future of Iron Man in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Be sure to let me know in the comments section below and don't forget to vote in the poll!