In the more than 10 years since Iron Man hit theaters, the world of superhero movies has changed. A lot. The 2008 blockbuster was the first film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and it paved the way for all the rest of them—Avengers movies included. The film franchise's success is largely due to actor Robert Downey Jr., who has truly brought the character of Tony Stark to life and set the tone for the Marvel movies to come.
Though Downey proved to be the perfect fit to play the superhero, he was by no means the studio’s first choice. Or even their second. In fact, it took a lot of work to convince Marvel to officially cast him. Though it's hard to imagine the MCU without Downey, here are five other actors who were considered for the role.
1. Tom Cruise
Tom Cruise responded to rumors that he was almost Iron Man, stating in 2018 that while he was considered, it didn’t go beyond that. "Not close," Cruise said of how close he got to the part. "Not close and I love Robert Downey Jr. I can't imagine anyone else in that role and I think it's perfect for him." Cruise's stunt work alone probably would have made him a decent pick.
2. Hugh Jackman
This one is a little strange, considering Hugh Jackman already plays the X-Men's Wolverine, one of the world's most famous superheroes. But according to CBR, Jackman was considered for the role of Iron Man. For his part, Jackman has stayed relatively quiet on the subject—except to say that he's dying to kick Downey's a**.
"I actually just asked the other day, I said, 'I don’t know what the legal situation is, but why don’t these companies come together? Why isn’t it possible?,'" Jackman said of his desire to see the X-Men meet up with the Avengers. "Because personally, I would love to mix it up with Robert Downey Jr. and Iron Man and kick his a**. It’d be great." (Be careful what you wish for, Hugh.)
3. Nicolas Cage
Nicolas Cage has a well-known affinity for superheroes (just check out his legendary screen test for Superman). According to ScreenCrush, Cage expressed interest in taking on the role of Tony Stark back in the 1990s—more than a decade before the film finally came to fruition. Alas, much like the Man of Steel, Cage's time in the Iron suit never came to be.
4. Sam Rockwell
Today, Sam Rockwell is an Oscar-winning actor. But when Jon Favreau initially approached him about playing Iron Man, he was largely known as a character actor (and had played a lot of villains). Though the titular part didn't work out, Rockwell did appear in Iron Man 2—as villain Justin Hammer.
5. Timothy Olyphant
Justified star Timothy Olyphant has all the makings of a great superhero. And, as he shared with Conan O'Brien in 2015, he ended up earning an audition for the role of Tony Stark. But luck was not on his side as it turns out that he actually tested for the role on the same day as Downey. Which just doesn't seem fair for any actor.