Robert Downey Jr.: Marvel Ambassador?

'I think it's important to go up and let these guys know there is a presence and awareness and gratitude,' he says of visits to the studio.

These days, it seems, everyone has Marvel madness. "Iron Man 2" might be the most anticipated film of the year, those who've visited the "Thor" set are buzzing about the 2011 blockbuster, Chris Evans has been announced as the new Captain America — and it's all building up to the crème de la crème of superhero flicks: "The Avengers."

In addition to Samuel L. Jackson and his now-legendary nine-picture deal, one of the common links between many of these films is Robert Downey Jr. His cameo in 2008's "The Incredible Hulk" helped further the blurring of the heroes' cinematic story lines, "Iron Man 2" has references to "Thor" and "Captain America," and he can't wait to see the "Avengers" script.

"I have yet to, no," Downey said.

As for "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" mastermind Joss Whedon, the veteran actor confessed to not being a "Firefly" fan. "I'm not very familiar with the guy," he reasoned. "But I will let Marvel make the decision they deem appropriate."

To Downey, his participation in "Avengers" may even be in doubt — because he doesn't want to count the box-office bucks for "Iron Man 2" before they arrive. "I wonder [whether I'll be in 'Avengers'] — I don't know," he said of the movie that is expected to unite everyone from Cap to Thor to Tony Stark, Hulk, Hank Pym and more. "I try not to think about that stuff, because everything changes in success. And everything changes in lack of success."

Over the last several months, Chris Hemsworth has been shooting "Thor" for Marvel and director Kenneth Branagh. Downey told us he has been to the set and thinks the film is going to be something special.

"I have, yeah," he said of thinking about his place within the Marvel family. "I take it fairly seriously. I mean, I think also as a bit of an ambassador from Marvel, I think it's important to go up and let these guys know that there is a presence and awareness and gratitude. And also a bit of commiseration, because these are tough movies to pull off.

"I think between the casting and Branagh at the helm," he reasoned, "I particularly feel that 'Thor' is on a really solid page right now."

Years ago, Marvel raised eyebrows by taking a chance on a nearly unemployable actor whose personal substance-abuse struggles had nearly killed him. Now, after his "Iron Man" return to glory, Downey is happy the company has taken a similar risk on relative newcomer Hemsworth.

"It's interesting, isn't it? That guy is just compelling, even in small doses," he said of Hemsworth's small but powerful "Star Trek" role in last year's reboot of that franchise. "I bet getting to see him fully inhabit an iconic character should be good."

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