It seems like ever since Robert Downey Jr. accepted the role of Iron Man back in 2008, we’ve wondered when exactly he’ll hang up the suit. Downey has appeared as Tony Stark in eight different Marvel films, plus other various cameos. But after 2019’s Infinity War follow-up, the Marvel Cinematic Universe will approach a crossroads with Downey and the countless other actors who make up the Avengers. What happens when Downey no longer wants to suit up in Iron Man armor and Chris Evans decides to hang up his Captain America shield?
Luckily, Marvel hasn’t had to address such concerns yet. But the possibility remains present on the mind of Kevin Fiege, who serves as Marvel’s studio head and de facto MCU architect. He addressed such concerns in The Costco Connection of all places and says the studio has a plan in place should an actor walk away before their character’s story has completed its arc.
That’s what we can look to in the comics. And that’s why these characters are so relevant. I talk about 10 years of movies, but it’s 50-plus years of these characters in the comics
And they’re just as relevant and popular. And that’s because they do get updated. They do change with the times. I have no doubt that all of our actors, who are in peak physical shape, have got another 50 years in them to be heroes.
Fiege added that he hasn’t had to contemplate such action because the focus remains finishing what they started with Infinity War. But his message appears clear that while audiences may have grown accustomed to watching Downey as Iron Man or Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow, these characters will persist beyond whatever actor plays them. We’ve already seen this play out with Bruce Banner/the Hulk—Eric Bana, Edward Norton, and Mark Ruffalo have all played the role within the past decade or so.
Though Marvel has successfully expanded its movie universe, adding in more diverse characters and allowing directors more creative freedom, the idea of 50 more years of these movies seems rather daunting. However, if Downey is still playing Tony Stark circa 2060, you best believe I’ll show up for a screening.