Former Marvel Studios boss says the board wanted Timothy Olyphant over Robert Downey Jr. for Iron Man

It’s a popular rumor that Tom Cruise was up for Iron Man once upon a time, but it would come down to Robert Downey Jr. or Timothy Olyphant.

Last Updated on August 11, 2023

timothy olyphant, marvel studios

It’s no secret that Iron Man was Robert Downey Jr.’s Hall-of-Fame comeback story. The actor was labeled a risky casting choice for movie studios prior to the Marvel film for his dodgy past with drugs and incarceration. Director Jon Favreau has been said to have convinced the newly forming Marvel Studios that Downey Jr. would be best for the role. And while most know Kevin Feige as the man behind the superheroes, Variety reports of another former Marvel Studio boss who was integral to putting Robert Downey Jr. in his iconic role.

The former president of Marvel Studios, David Maisel, recently told The New Yorker that Kevin Feige is getting the credit for making the MCU what it is, but none of this would have existed without his contribution. Feige would eventually take over for him as president, and it would cast a shadow over the work that Maisel had done. Or, as he puts it, “It’s like a Thanos snap.” One big factor that the Marvel-ous Mr. Maisel is responsible for is the casting of Robert Downey Jr. for Tony Stark when the board wanted Timothy Olyphant.

Maisel would state, “My board thought I was crazy to put the future of the company in the hands of an addict. I helped them understand how great he was for the role. We all had confidence that he was clean and would stay clean.” According to Maisel, it was when he brought on Jon Favreau to direct, who had recently had a smash hit with Will Ferrell’s Elf, that the board seriously considered signing off on putting Robert Downey Jr. in the role of the genius/ billionaire/ playboy/ philanthropist.

Robert Downey Jr. had recently starred in a small, quirky action comedy called Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang for Shane Black, who would eventually helm Iron Man 3, and his charismatic, quick-witted performance in that film helped the studio to see that he was a great fit for the role. Downey Jr. would even star in a comedy the same year as Iron Man where he played an exaggerated method actor in Ben Stiller’s Tropic Thunder (which actually got him an Academy Award nomination). Maisel would eventually set up the sale of Marvel to Disney for $4 billion dollars. When the deal had gone through, Maisel stepped down and Feige took over as president and the rest became history.

Source: Variety, The New Yorker

About the Author

1733 Articles Published

E.J. is a News Editor at JoBlo, as well as a Video Editor, Writer, and Narrator for some of the movie retrospectives on our JoBlo Originals YouTube channel, including Reel Action, Revisited and some of the Top 10 lists. He is a graduate of the film program at Missouri Western State University with concentrations in performance, writing, editing and directing.