The MCU started with Robert Downey Jr.’s career-defining turn as Iron Man all the way back in 2008. Over the next 11 years, Downey would reprise the role for numerous sequels and team-ups, and now that he’s had some distance from the whole shebang, he thinks his Marvel tenure was intentionally overlooked.
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Recently, Downey appeared on Rob Lowe’s “Literally!” podcast and mentioned how he feels like his Iron Man work—which he considers “some of the best work I will ever do”—has been snubbed “because of the genre.” He’s not really wrong on that front: the way some folks talk about him in Oppenheimer, you’d think Marvel had been holding him hostage until fairly recently. (A similar occurrence is happening right now with Mark Ruffalo and Poor Things.) And while not all of the choices the writers made with Stark work, he’s always been good in the role and worked to turn in a performance each time. he’s featured.
Downey’s immediate post-Marvel movie was Dolittle, which he’d also executive produced with his wife Susan. The film’s negative reception and tepid commercial response left him feeling “so exposed” after Marvel protected him like…well, armor. “All the things that I was leaning on as opposed to what my understanding of confidence and security was, boy, did they evaporate,” he said. Looking back on Dolittle now, he admits that it was a mess, albeit one that “rendered me teachable.”
Oppenheimer recently landed him a Golden Globe for best supporting actor, and he’s expected to be an Oscar nominee in the same category. That film, plus his next two projects—HBO’s The Sympathizer and Shane Black’s Play Dirty—indicate he doesn’t have any desire to go back to Marvel anytime soon. Last November, it was reported Marvel was considering reuniting the original Avengers as a way to get audiences back on board with the MCU during its recent rough patches, with Kevin Feige and Scarlett Johansson individually dancing around questions about it later on. But if Avengers: Secret Wars ever actually comes to fruition, that would probably be the best place for a cameo from any of the OG Avengers, including Downey. Should that be the case, maybe his previous Marvel appearances will be more seriously talked about in relation to the rest of his work.
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