As hard as it is to imagine Tony Stark being played by someone who wasn’t Robert Downey Jr, Hollywood actor Tom Cruise was considered to play Iron Man in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. However, while Robert Downey Jr is now synonymous with the superhero, Tom Cruise didn’t grab the role because he didn’t think ‘it would work’.
In the 2000s, Cruise was the more bankable star as Robert Downey Jr was neck-deep in troubling personal issues, and Marvel didn’t want him as Tony Stark. Marvel Studios was instead keen on casting Cruise for the part. Cruise had confirmed that there were talks about playing iron Man, “It’s not happening. Not with me, no … They came to me at a certain point and, when I do something, I wanna do it right. If I commit to something, it has to be done in a way that I know it’s gonna be something special. And as it was lining up, it just didn’t feel to me like it was gonna work. I need to be able to make decisions and make the film as great as it can be, and it just didn’t go down that road that way.” He also added that Robert Downey Jr was great for the role and he couldn’t imagine anyone else bringing the character to life.
Robert Downey Jr’s path to getting the role was far from easy, however. His past was bogged down with drugs and alcohol issues and Marvel was adamant to not hire him. Yet, director Jon Favreau fought tooth and nail for him to don the suit.
In a Rolling Stone interview, Favreau said that Marvel point-blank refused to hire Robert Downey Jr. Marvel’s response was that “under no circumstances are we prepared to hire him for any price.”
The director had called the actor and told him, “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, however, was insistent. “With your permission, I’m going to hold out hope.” Favreau persisted and Iron Man became the pillar of the billion-dollar franchise. Favreau had often said that Robert Downey Jr could connect so effortlessly with Iron Man because their redemption arcs were eerily similar.
Interestingly, Cruise and RDJ competed for a number of iconic roles. In fact, Robert Downey Jr was also considered to play the role of Lt. Pete “Maverick” Mitchell in Top Gun, before the role became an identifier for Cruise. He is expected to return with the film’s sequel later this year.
Recently, Downey also revealed that Cruise was the first choice to play Charlie Chaplin in director Richard Attenborough’s Chaplin. The film went to Downey and he also received his first Academy Award nomination for it.