“Iron Man” was the movie that changed Hollywood forever, and there’s no doubt so much of its success, not to mention the success of the MCU overall, is down to Robert Downey Jr.’s casting as Tony Stark/Iron Man. In a discussion on the Marvel Entertainment YouTube channel, “Iron Man” director Jon Favreau recalled to Kevin Feige how RDJ had originally auditioned to play a general in the film, but that Favreau couldn’t help but think, “Geez he just got it, he’s got that spark in him and his eye and he’s ready.”
During that discussion, Feige referred to the actor’s casting as “one of the greatest decisions in the history of Hollywood.” He’s not far off, considering the film’s subsequent success with launching the MCU. But at the time, some Marvel board members evidently weren’t as enthusiastic.
/Film’s Ben Pearson spoke with Joanna Robinson, Dave Gonzales, and Gavin Edwards, co-authors of the soon-to-be-published book “MCU: The Reign of Marvel Studios.” In the impressive tome, Jon Favreau reveals how he had to resort to some underhanded tactics to secure Downey Jr.’s casting. According to the director, then-Marvel head Ike Perlmutter, along with several Marvel board members, were entirely against RDJ playing Tony Stark, with Favreau quoting them as saying “Under no circumstances are we prepared to hire him for any price.”
The fact that RDJ’s career had taken a downturn some years prior to “Iron Man” being made, with the actor struggling with substance addictions and arrests in the 1990s, seemed to spook the Marvel execs, who wanted to ensure their new venture went off without a hitch. But Favreau and Feige knew RDJ was the key.