Robert Downey Jr completed a career comeback with Iron Man, which released to blockbuster response and critical acclaim in summer of 2008. It was only a few years before that Downey had decided to clean up, after a majority of the 90s spent in various kinds of trouble.
But did you know that things were so bad at the time — Mel Gibson had to put up Downey’s insurance for an earlier film — that Marvel refused to cast him point-blank?
Director Jon Favreau recalled in an interview to Rolling Stone in 2008 that Marvel told him, “under no circumstances are we prepared to hire him for any price.” A dejected Favreau called up Downey and gave him the bad news: “Look, I fought, I tried, I did what I could, it’s a pity and a shame, but unfortunately it’s going to stop here.” Downey replied, “With your permission, I’m going to hold out hope.” This spirit inspired Favreau to intensify his efforts, and the rest is history.
In a 2014 radio interview, Favreau sort of gloated. He said, “It was my job as a director to show that it was the best choice creatively…and now the Marvel Universe is the biggest franchise in film history.”
The filmmaker continued, “Everybody knew he was talented… Certainly by studying the Iron Man role and developing that script I realized that the character seemed to line-up with Robert in all the good and bad ways. And the story of Iron Man was really the story of Robert’s career. That was a big gamble on whether or not he was really serious about it… and now history has definitely proven that he was dead serious about it and now he is the biggest star in the world.”
Downey concluded his run with the MCU in 2019, having reportedly made nearly $100 million for his final two Avengers films. He is among the highest-paid actors in the world.
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