The Reason Tom Cruise Turned Down Iron Man

Robert Downey Jr. is Iron Man. It's impossible to imagine otherwise. The actor employed a certain charisma and confidence in his role as Tony Stark in the "Iron Man" trilogy of films that helped kickstart Marvel's multi-billion dollar franchise.

"Iron Man" was the role of a lifetime for Robert Downey Jr. — a two-time Academy Award nominee — after his struggle with substance abuse and legal troubles between 1996 and 2001. Compared to Downey Jr., Cruise could prove to be an immensely profitable star at the time, thanks to his experience with commercially successful blockbusters. But Kevin Feige was confident in Downey Jr.'s abilities, even as the rest of Marvel Studios was reluctant to hire him.

Although Robert Downey Jr. ended up being the man who helped establish the Marvel Cinematic Universe's foundation, the actor wasn't the only one up for the role of Iron Man. Several actors, including Hollywood's action king, Tom Cruise, were encouraged to audition for the role of the superhero. While many actors screen-tested for the "Iron Man" trilogy, Tom Cruise actually turned the role before giving it a real chance. But why?

Tom Cruise didn't want to commit to the MCU

Today, the MCU isn't just a successful franchise — it's a highly-influential one. Almost every A-list star from Keanu Reeves to Henry Cavill is interested in joining MCU's collection of superheroes and villains. So Marvel has no shortage of big names available for their movies and TV shows. But before the MCU became a major success, Tom Cruise couldn't see the spark that would turn it in to the most successful film franchise of all time.

The "Mission Impossible" actor revealed in 2018 that he had been involved in discussions to play Iron Man, but from the beginning, it didn't feel like the right choice for him. Cruise said (via The Indian Express):

"[Marvel Studios] 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. I need to be able to make decisions and make the film as great as it can be, and it just didn't go down that road that way." 

Tom Cruise also praised Robert Downey Jr., sharing that he was great for the role and couldn't picture anyone else playing the character.

For us MCU nerds, it's a relief that Robert Downey Jr. scored the part. As Tony Stark, the actor was charismatic and confident and had a certain spark in his dialogue delivery, which made the fan-favorite character truly one of a kind.