Is it time for a new Iron Man? We aren’t sure how many times he’s going to put us through this, but it’s possible that Robert Downey Jr. may be leaving the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It’s really tough to fault the man for getting bored of playing the same character for 8 years and 6 movies (not counting cameos), but it’s still a shame to think that he might be leaving.
Replacing actors rarely goes well for franchises. Jeremy Renner was no substitute for Jason Bourne, and Batman wasn’t the same after Michael Keaton left. But Marvel movies are seemingly breaking that trend. The switch between Terrance Howard and Don Cheadle as Rhodes was seemless, and each new Hulk received more praise than the guy before. However, Rhodes at best is a side character and The Hulk was replaced by choice, not by need. What will they do when their biggest headliner finally decides to put Iron Man behind him? Here are 10 reasonable replacements for Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man.
10. Matt Damon
Matt Damon has two Oscar nominations for playing geniuses. On multiple occasions he has played a hero saving the world. With his long time best friend (Ben Affleck) putting on the Batman cowl, it would be no surprise if Damon decided to put on the mech suit. Whenever news comes out about a new movie, Damon’s name comes up as the potential star. Fans have assumed that he would be playing a myriad of different heroes, from Aquaman to Daredevil, and for good reason. His run as super-spy Jason Bourne turned the franchise from a group of mostly unknown books into a household name. Damon has said that he never wants to do a superhero movie, claiming that the Bourne series was close enough. However, if the role of Iron Man opens up, the offer might just be too good for Matt to turn down.
9. Jeffrey Dean Morgan
Honestly I’m not sure how good he would be as Tony Stark, but the dude looks exactly like Robert Downey Jr. Seriously, look it up. If they can’t get RDJ to come back, then they may as well use his look alike and change Tony Stark to a more supporting role – perhaps as the role of a teacher to the next Iron Man (see entry #7). For now look out for Jeffrey Dean Morgan playing Thomas Wayne in Batman vs Superman and playing Negan in the upcoming episodes of The Walking Dead.
8. Bryan Cranston
Bryan Cranston is amazing. Seriously, the man is ultra talented and has the ability to play any role, including Iron Man. However, if the great Cranston were to take over the role it would not be the same Stark that RDJ has mastered. If you’re not familiar with Tony Stark in the ‘70s and the ‘80s, there is one storyline that encapsulates the character; Demon in a Bottle. It’s the story arc that delves into Tony’s alcoholism, which ends up in him losing some of his closest allies and his company. Bryan would play a dark and realistic, alcoholic, Iron Man. An Iron Man that, by the end of the movie, has successfully pushed Rhodes and Pepper away, lost his company, and even lost the Avengers’ trust. After destroying all of our hearts in Breaking Bad, this role will be a piece of cake for Cranston.
7. Ty Simpkins
Before clicking your Google tab, I want you to think about who this is. You don’t know? Well here’s a hint, he’s already appeared in an Iron Man movie. Ok fine, Ty Simpkins may be best known for playing the role of Harley Keener, the little boy that, somewhat, melts the frozen heart of Tony Stark in Iron Man 3. We know what you’re thinking, but he is not too young to take up the mantle. It’s likely that Iron Man 4 won’t be coming out until 2020 (or later) meaning that Ty potentially will be 18 at the time of release. Now we aren’t saying that Ty will be playing Tony Stark, in fact he can’t, he’s already signed a deal to play Harley in 3 more movies. In this scenario Iron Man 4 will be about a teenaged Keener learning how to be Iron Man after Tony Stark’s death in the Infinity Wars (this is all speculation, Tony is fine, stop crying). Whether he stars in Iron Man 4 or not, get ready for a bunch of Ty Simpkins. Not only does he have the 3 picture deal with Marvel, he was also prominently involved in Jurassic World as Gray Mitchell, a role he may return to in the sequel.
6. Hugh Laurie
When determining whom RDJ should pass the Iron Man torch to, we determined that few would be more deserving than Dr. House. When looking at the two characters you can’t help but notice the similarities. They’ve got the same sarcasm, the same intellect, the same bravado, the same addiction issues, and both have a crippling injury. Seriously, if Stark were a doctor he would be House. After realizing this, the idea of Hugh Laurie putting on the red and gold suit just seemed like an obvious choice.
5. Nathan Fillion
You know Joss Whedon is chomping at the bit to get his buddy into his Avengers films. He already cast Alexis Denisof as a CGI crony for Thanos, so why not Fillion? With Castle seemingly nearing an end, Nathan may be looking for some new work anyway. If producers decide that having Iron Man and the Guardians of the Galaxy team up (as they often do in the comics), then who better to fill RDJ’s metal shoes than Captain Mal? Fillion already has a huge fan base and has experience playing a space-traveling hero. The real question is whether Fillion will take on a different space-themed superhero before the role of Iron Man is official vacated. Think about it… In 2020 The Green Lanterns are coming back, and somebody will be playing Hal Jordan.
4. Jon Hamm
What if Don Draper was Iron Man? Very few other actors have played the suave and intelligent alcoholic as well as Jon Hamm did during his time on Mad Men. Honestly the list of actors who could take on the role and play it exactly like RDJ stops and starts with Jon. He’s got the “cool uncle” charm to go along with the rugged handsomeness. Seriously all he is missing is the facial hair. The problem is that Hamm probably wouldn’t want the role. He has made an effort over the past few years to play a variety of characters that widely differ from Draper. Even though he’s working not to be typecast, the amount of zeros on his check might sway Jon’s decision if it came to that.
3. James Franco
While guys like Hugh Laurie and Jon Hamm have had success playing arrogant a-holes, James Franco is an actual arrogant a-hole. That sounds very mean, but Franco would be the first to tell you that it’s true. Seriously watch 15 minutes of This is the End and try to tell us that Franco didn’t just play himself. Being an a-hole only adds to how perfect Franco is for the role. He’s used to being thought of as the smartest guy in the room (how many colleges does he teach at again?) and has experience with Marvel from his time in Spider-Man. In a couple years Franco will grow up a bit and stop doing things like sharing pictures of his dong on Instagram (totally a Tony Stark move by the way). Once that happens what’s to stop James from taking on the role?
2. Bill Murray
Bill Murray has passed on a lot of great movies. He wouldn’t pick up the phone for Monster’s Inc., supposedly missed the call back to play Willy Wonka. Apparently in 2008 he was M.I.A. when both RDJ and director John Favreau came calling about a part in Iron Man. While we can only speculate as to what part was being offered, we feel like they had the right idea of putting Murray in Iron Man. His wit and charm fit the movie and more importantly the character. While Bill may be a little on the older side to fill the role, with Iron Man not set to release for some time, maybe the producers are looking for someone to play an aging Tony Stark. And hey, it’s not as if RDJ is getting younger.
1. Tom Cruise
Ah, the prodigal son has returned. Back in 2007 it was pretty much fact that the upcoming Iron Man movie would be having Tom Cruise as the lead and as the executive producer. The rumors go as far back as 2004 when a Marvel Studios executive, Kevin Feige, told IGN that Cruise had been in talks with them for “several years.” Then Cruise read the script and quit. He had seemingly become disinterested after waiting at least 3 years to get the project off the ground, and the script that he read at the time was terrible (Howard Stark was going to be the lead villain… did they not see Hulk?). This all worked in Marvel’s favor, as after Cruise departed they were able to hire RDJ and Favreau and gained more creative control when reworking the script. If the role opens again, perhaps no one will be louder than Cruise when demanding a shot. Sure, he seems like a weird (certifiably insane) man, but he’s one of the highest grossing actors of all time, and his time working on the Mission Impossible franchise cements him as one of the greatest action stars ever. Iron Man was his pet project for years; maybe Tom deserves a shot to play the role.