Robert Downey Jr. Will Do 'Iron Man 4'... If Mel Gibson Directs

One of the most epic will-they-won't-they storylines currently playing out in pop culture isn't a TV romance, but Robert Downey Jr.'s back-and-forth regarding Iron Man 4. He suggests he's done with the franchise, then clarifies he's "open" to returning. He says there's "no plan," then hints that he wants to keep riding that wave.

Now, Downey's latest comments add an interesting wrinkle to the plot. Downey says he'll do Iron Man 4 if Mel Gibson directs it. Hey, it worked for Matt Damon and Paul Greengrass. Get on the Iron Man 4 Mel Gibson talk after the jump. 

DEADLINE: Marvel badly wants Iron Man 4 and you've said you aren't doing it. How about the idea you'll do that movie if Mel directs it?

DOWNEY: Correct.

DEADLINE: Is that our headline?

DOWNEY: Why not? That movie would be bananas.

Based on the context, it doesn't sound like Downey is saying he'll only do Iron Man 4 if Gibson directs. Earlier in the conversation, he suggests a lot of different factors are at play on that front.

To me, it comes down to what's the half-life of people enjoying a character? It's different on TV, where you expect the longevity over seasons while movies get a two or three year break. Marvel keeps stepping up its game, and I appreciate the way Kevin Feige and all the creatives there think. They are as in the creative wheelhouse as any great studio has been at any point. So it becomes a matter of, at what point do I cease to be an asset to what they're doing, and at what point do I feel I am spending so much time either shooting or promoting these films that I'm not actually able to get off the beachhead and do the kind of other stuff that is good for all of us. Each one of those movies is spread over two years and some people fit other things in. But I'm not 42, I'm turning 50 and now I'll have two small kids instead of one grown one, and eight Team Downey projects with people who are imagining I'm not just spending Warner Bros' money out of vanity, but that I'm taking it seriously. It all has become this thing that has to be figured out. It has come to a head, right now, where the points of departure will be.

However, Downey is serious about wanting to help Gibson out. They're close friends in real life. Gibson helped Downey through a low point and Downey, in turn, has publicly pleaded with Hollywood to forgive Gibson's transgressions. (Watch the video at the bottom of this post for proof.)

Speaking to Deadline this time, Downey argued that Gibson had changed, then added: "But honestly we are talking about a competitive business and it all comes down to this: because he is so gifted as a story teller and a director, I don't know that he requires some sort of mass forgiveness."

Interestingly, this isn't the first time we've heard Downey wants to pull Gibson into the MCU. Back in January, rumor had it he was lobbying to get Gibson and their other pal Jodie Foster involved in one of the Avengers movies.

So yes, Downey probably would be more inclined to star in Iron Man 4 if Marvel let Gibson direct. But he isn't taking a hardline stance here like Damon did for Greengrass and Bourne (at least not yet). And considering how much controversy still surrounds Gibson, it's tough to believe Marvel will think he's worth the headache.

Watch Downey's 2011 speech defending Gibson below: