ROBERT DOWNEY JR's Big Marvel Announcement - Thinking Outside the Box

Kevin Feige & Robert Downey Jr. on the set of 'Iron Man 2'
Credit: Marvel Studios
Credit: Marvel Studios

So what’s RDJ’s “big announcement”..?

Earlier this week Iron Man actor Robert Downey Jr. tweeted a solo Iron Man teaser poster for May’s Avengers: Age of Ultron. But he didn’t stop there - along with the poster, he promised a "big announcement" to come on (by our calculations) March 5.

Naturally, the online speculation mill immediately went into overdrive, attempting to predict just what Downey's big news will be. Suggestions ranged from the obvious to the patently unlikely, with many simply coming to the conclusion that Downey will finally announce Iron Man 4.

Now one can’t ignore that possibility, but there are also some quite obvious cases against such a move. Downey’s already set to co-star in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War, will obviously be a major player in The Avengers: Infinity War two-fer, and unless Marvel bumps Black Panther, Captain Marvel and The Inhumans again after bumping them all once already for Marvel Studios-produced Spider-Man reboot, Downey will be looking at the next Iron Man installment in 2020.

Possible? Certainly.

Likely? We’re not betting our kids’ college funds (and they’ll need them by 2020).

Credit: Marvel Studios

Other popular possibilities are the announcement of things not directly related to Downey himself, like the identity of what Spider-Man Marvel will incorporate into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and/or the actor that will play him (or her..? nah).

Overlooked somewhat has been the fact seven upcoming Marvel films need directors – Thor: Ragnarok, and the aforementioned Spider-Man, Infinity War 1 and 2 (although they’re likely to be directed by the same person or persons and the Russo brothers are the assumed frontrunners), as well as Black Panther, Captain Marvel and The Inhumans.

But how likely is it RDJ was acting as company cheerleader and teasing an announcement that has nothing to do with him?

Unless…

(this is the part where we tie two seemingly disparate things together)…

… is Robert Downey Jr. and Marvel going to announce he’s directing an upcoming Marvel movie..?

Follow us on this one for a minute…

Despite years of being cagey about his future as Iron Man and Tony Stark, RDJ’s stance changed very suddenly and somewhat contradictingly in early October 2014 just a short time before his involvement in Captain America: Civil War was announced.

Captain America: Civil War logo
Captain America: Civil War logo
Credit: Marvel Studios

The two-day flurry of seeming mixed messages climaxed on an appearance on the David Letterman show with these exchanges…

“So what about the Iron Man 4? When will that be out?” Letterman asked. “There’s no plans for an Iron Man 4, but there’s…” RDJ replied. Letterman interrupted, “Why not?” and Downey said, “That’s a valid question.” He went on to say, “There’s no script for Iron Man 4, but they do have a plan, and I think they’re going to announce it, they are very secretive about it.”

Later in the show, Letterman came back to it and said, “I’m so sorry to hear about Iron Man, they just couldn’t get it together?” And Downey said, “There will be other stuff.” When pressed a little further, he said, “No, but I’m going to do other stuff with Marvel. I’m still going to be involved with Marvel and there’s plenty of fun stuff to happen.”

Downey could have simply been referring to the then-not-yet-announced Captain America: Civil War as the “other, fun stuff” he’s going to do with Marvel and how he’ll still be “involved” with Marvel. That’s the easiest explanation.

But there’s something about the broad terms he uses and the fact he does not specifically reference Iron Man or Stark that gets us thinking maybe there really is some “other stuff” he’ll be involved in besides reprising his acting role.

Now of course Downey, while executive producing some features including his last starring vehicle, The Judge, has never directed a feature film before. But he does have a production company, Team Downey, that he founded with his wife just a few years ago. Beyond that, however, his ties to directing go back almost farther than his career in front of the camera.

Like Tony Stark following in his father Howard’s footsteps as a genius weapon designer, perhaps RDJ is graduating into the phase of his career where he’ll follow in his own father Robert Downey, Sr.’s footsteps. ‘RDS’ is a long-time and well-known (if not commercially famous) director, who gave his son his first role at the ripe old age of 5 in the film Pound. RDJ has literally grown up on movie sets, both in front of and behind the camera.

And Marvel has taken their fair share of chances with inexperienced feature film directors before. Captain America: The Winter Soldier’s the Russo brothers were primarily known for sitcoms never having worked on a production the scale of The Winter Soldier before taking the helm of what became one of Marvel's biggest success stories. Marvel Studios head honcho Kevin Feige has expressed pride over Marvel’s “unconventional" choices for directors, and directors have expressed appreciation for the support and collaboration involved in a Marvel production (which to be fair, has driven some directors away, as well).

The Marvel-RDJ relationship is a unique one, born of an upstart studio taking a risk in producing their own films and taking a further risk in selecting an actor at the crossroads of his career (and in some respects, life) to anchor their endeavor. As Marvel and Downey have evolved together and separately they’ve seemingly survived issues regarding the actor’s compensation that would and could have ended a lot of similar relationships, and perhaps… just perhaps, this meeting of the minds – whatever deal they made to bring RDJ into Captain America: Civil War – is not just a really, really big check but part of a larger deal/understanding that will see his Marvel Cinematic Universe role evolve as a producer and even director?

But which film would RDJ direct? It’s not central to the premise but let’s assume for sake of discussion Marvel looks to a black director for Black Panther, and a female director for Captain Marvel. The Inhumans is way down the line and Joss Whedon and the Russos (again, heavily rumored) would seem like more likely choices for the The Avenger: Infinity War series.

Thor: Ragnarok could be an interesting choice. The Thor series has somewhat taken third place on the depth chart of the original three solo franchises and adding RDJ as director would give it a little kick to the equation.

Then there’s a Spider-Man – another franchise in need of a kick. And who better to direct a reboot featuring the wisecracking web-head than Tony "Snark" himself?

And if RDJ was directing Spider-Man, it’d certainly increase the likelihood of him getting in front of the camera again as Stark to establish the mentor/protégé relationship between the two scientific geniuses – which was, perhaps not coincidentally, a storyline during the Civil War comic series.

And then of course we can go full circle and suggest Iron Man 4, but we think we’ve given you enough to chew over for one afternoon...

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