Warner Bros. Reportedly Tried (& Failed) to Get Robert Downey Jr. to Play a Primary DC Hero: What Went Wrong?

Today, Robert Downey Jr. is arguably best known for his long-running take on Tony Stark / Iron Man in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. He first brought the billionaire, playboy, philanthropist to life in 2008 — kickstarting what would come to be a multi-narrative saga and an uncontested franchise in the money-making department.

Robert Downey Jr.
Robert Downey Jr. | Alberto E. Rodriguez / Staff

Though it would be difficult to imagine RDJ playing any other hero, reports indicate that Warner Bros. tried to snag the actor toward the end of his Marvel contract. Yet, though the studio wanted to sign the man behind Iron Man, it wasn’t meant to be. So, what character was RDJ supposed to play, and why did the casting choice fall through the cracks? 

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Warner Bros. reportedly wanted RDJ for Green Lantern  

Considering the 2011 Green Lantern film left much to be desired — premiering to critical condemnation and grossly underperforming at the box office — Warner Bros needs a sure-bet for the superhero’s next installment (whether on the big screen or the small one). Thus, it should come as no surprise that they were eying RDJ for the part. 

Marvel and DC Insider Mikey Sutton, who took to GeekosityMag with recent intel from Giant Freakin’ Robot, explained that WB had a plan that didn’t come to fruition. He cited the outlet, summarizing:

WB attempted to sign Robert Downey Jr. to the role after Endgame and the conclusion of his Marvel Studios contract. However, it simply wasn’t meant to be.

Mikey Sutton | GeekosityMag

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As his time playing Iron Man came to an end, the studio reportedly began their attempt. Yet, while they wanted the actor for Hal Jordan — the same character iteration Reynolds played years prior — they weren’t able to get him to sign on the dotted line. The report suggests that WB wasn’t able to fit casting RDJ into their budget, especially if the production were to be a show on their new streaming platform. Yet, though RDJ is out, another Marvel alum may be in. 

Is Michael B. Jordan (who played Killmonger in the MCU) going to portray Green Lantern? 

Michael B. Jordan portrayed primary antagonist Killmonger in the MCU’s Black Panther, taking on one of the most fleshed-out and three-dimensional villains in the franchise. Though he didn’t have a long heroic run in the Marvel world, he may receive just that under the DC umbrella. 

According to recent reports, WB is eyeing Michael B. Jordan for John Stewart — an architect from Detroit, Michigan, and another comic book version of the title character. The Guardians of the Universe recruit him after Hal Jordan’s back-up man, Guy Garnder faces serious injuries. Though he struggles with authority figures and tends toward conflict, Stewart’s heart is usually in the right place. And, while Stewart may become a primary Green Lantern, Hal Jordan may still make an appearance, yet that iteration of the character may be shelved for the time being.