There’s been a lot of chatter surrounding the heavily-rumoured possibility of Tom Cruise portraying a Tony Stark / Iron Man variant in Sam Raimi’s wildly ambitious Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness; an iteration of the iconic Marvel character dubbed “Superior Iron Man” in the comics. But prior to the picture-perfect casting of Robert Downey Jr… Tom Cruise was actually in contention to become Tony Stark / Iron Man. So what went wrong?
Before you get ahead of yourselves: no. The answer isn’t anything scandalous or even remotely sensational. During a 2018 interview (via SlashFilm), the Mission: Impossible star revealed it simply never felt like the right career move for him throughout the entirety of negotiations.
“[Marvel Studios] came to me at a certain point and, when I do something, I wanna do it right,” explains Tom Cruise.
“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.”
Once Tom Cruise was soundly out of the picture, Iron Man director Jon Favreau approached the ever-versatile Sam Rockwell, before changing his mind and ear-marking the part of rival industrialist Justin Hammer for the Academy Award-winning thespian in Iron Man 2.
As we all know, the opportunity of a lifetime would eventually go to the irreplaceable Robert Downey Jr, effectively writing one of Hollywood’s greatest comeback stories – from prison and rehab – championed by Favreau himself. Despite the fact Marvel had stated: “Under no circumstances are we prepared to hire him for any price.”
RDJ was initially paid a paltry US$500,000 for his efforts. When it was clear he’d be an integral pillar in
fattening the cash cow establishing the multi-billion-dollar Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), the man an entire industry had sin-binned just a decade prior would cash in $100 million paycheques thanks to an insanely lucrative contract clause.
And just because life has plenty of those curious little full-circle moments, back in the 80s, Robert Downey Jr was considered for the role of Lieutenant Pete “Maverick” Mitchell in Top Gun before Tom Cruise swooped in for the kill.