Robert Downey Jr. Could Have Played a Different Character Instead of Iron Man

The what-ifs in movie casting are numerous throughout history, and there’s still interesting things to reveal about modern classics. In the MCU, numerous possibilities could have existed in specific actors playing key superheroes. Robert Downey, Jr. is one who found himself in the perfect place at the right time, even if Tony Stark wouldn’t be his first choice in retrospect.

A possibility existed of Downey playing another Avenger had he had a second option. There was a particular scenario where this could have really happened based on another actor being considered for Stark/Iron Man.

According to Downey in a recent interview, though, his ultimate choice as a kid would have been a different superhero. Visions of a younger Downey playing this character resonate in the mind.

Robert Downey Jr. on the red carpet
Robert Downey Jr. | Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic

In the alternative universe, maybe Downey would have made a perfect Hawkeye

When interviewed by BBC1 radio recently and asked what other Marvel character he would have liked to have played, Downey mentioned Hawkeye. Of course, Jeremy Renner won that role, with a proposed Disney+ series possibly happening in the next year.

One reason Downey would have loved portraying Hawkeye was because of the transformation into the mysterious superhero identity of Ronin. Most Marvel fans find the Ronin character just as intriguing as Iron Man, hence Downey’s seeming interest.

Then again, Downey playing Tony Stark seemed like the stars were perfectly aligned. Downey seemed so simpatico with the role as part of himself, some of his lines were improvised. Considering RDJ has even gone into promoting artificial intelligence technology to help clean our oceans, plus being ultra-wealthy, many look at him as a Tony Stark in real life.

Regardless, there might be something playing out in our own multiverse where Tom Cruise played Tony Stark instead. Yes, Cruise was reportedly considered.

What would the MCU look like with Cruise as Stark?

Most seem to look at the possibility of Tom Cruise playing Tony Stark as fate playing out perfectly. Imagining Cruise playing Iron Man just doesn’t seem to be as compelling when thought out in detail.

On the other hand, he might have made it work, if maybe not making the MCU quite as successful as Downey made it. Not that Cruise needed such a role anyway since his Mission Impossible films have been almost as good, at least in action sequences.

From Cruise’s perspective, he’s said his chances of winning the role were not as close as rumors contend. So maybe things would have ended up the same since Cruise was apparently not a front-runner.

Trying to envision Cruise as Stark maybe isn’t hard, but seeing Downey as Hawkeye could have created a far more interesting character. As it is now, Hawkeye isn’t considered one of the all-time favorites, something Renner could amend in a Disney+ show.

Would Downey have made a good Spider-Man in his younger days?

Something else Downey revealed in the above radio interview was that he was a big fan of Spider-Man when younger. He noted just about every boy of his generation was a fan, giving any male actor the dream of playing the superhero on TV or in the movies.

Such a scenario could have happened to Downey had he been 20 years younger when Sony started to make their Spider-Man franchise. By the time the MCU started, Downey was aged just right to play Stark instead.

Envisioning Downey playing a late teen/early 20-something Peter Parker in the 1980s is still worth thinking about. The angst he would have offered in the role would have been amazing and arguably beyond the level of Tom Holland.

In those mentoring scenes between Stark and Parker, perhaps Downey was imagining himself playing the role of Spidey being mentored by a superior. Just about every actor in the MCU may have their own version of What If…? going on in their heads.