Iron Man May Disappear Whenever Robert Downey Jr. Is Done With The Role

Earlier this week, Robert Downey Jr. said that he didn't think an Iron Man 4 was in the cards, calling the forthcoming Captain America: Civil War something akin to his own little Iron Man sequel. That prompted us to think about just how much longer we'll have the actor around to play Tony Stark, the role that he was simply born to play.

Downey is contracted for The Avengers 3, but when that contract was signed, the movie wasn't split into two parts. So we're not sure yet if he'll be partaking in both parts of The Avengers: Infinity War. But beyond that, Downey doesn't have any more Marvel Studios movies left in his contract. So what happens after Robert Downey Jr leaves Iron Man? Captain America: Civil War co-director Joe Russo has given us one possibility.

Speaking with Forbes, Joe Russo talked about just how important Downey has become to the franchise before hypothesizing what will happen to Iron Man once he decides to hang up the armor:

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.

That's probably the best idea, if only because there needs to be some time that passes before someone new takes up the Tony Stark mantle. Even if we get Iron Man back, if the new version of the character exists in the Marvel cinematic universe, it would probably need to be a new person under the armor due to the passage of time. But no matter what is done to reboot the character, Russo thinks some time will have to pass before audiences are ready for a new Iron Man:

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 specter 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.

With all the new heroes who are being introduced, there's bound to be a new hero who can fill the gap left by the absence of Iron Man. Those are some big shoes to fill, but it's something that's inevitable. 20th Century Fox will be dealing with the same issue when Hugh Jackman is done with Wolverine after the next sequel arrives in 2017, and hopefully the studio can figure out how to march onward after that.

Iron Man returns in Captain America: Civil War on May 6, and we'll see how his role in The Avengers: Infiiity War plays out in a couple years or so.