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With "Iron Man Three" already destroying box office records around the world and inspiring fans across America to brave huge lines and packed theaters, the folks at Disney and Marvel are no doubt in full-on party mode. But while things couldn't be better at the moment, one very dark cloud looms on the horizon: the prospect that Robert Downey Jr. has donned the Iron Man armor for the last time.
So will Downey Jr. return for "Iron Man 4"? Or is this the end of Iron Man as we know it?
Sure, that may sound like a crazy idea, but rumors have been swirling for months now that Downey, Jr. will in fact be leaving the Marvel fold. And these rumors have a pretty credible source: Downey Jr. himself.
"Right now I don’t have a contract to do anything, and I did for the last five years," Downey Jr. told GQ recently. "How many genre movies can I do? How many follow-ups to a successful follow-up are actually fun?"
Then Gwyneth Paltrow threw even more fuel on the fire when she told Geek Nation that "I don't think there's going to be [an 'Iron Man 4']. I think we're done with 'Iron Man.'"
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Marvel's response? No problem, we'll just recast everybody if we have to.
"I hope Downey makes a lot of movies for us as Stark," Marvel's movie guru Kevin Feige told MovieWeb. "If and when he doesn't, and I'm still here making these movies, we don't take him to Afghanistan and have him wounded again. I think we James Bond it."
All those dire warnings have led to many to begin speculation over who might take over the role. But now, Downey Jr. is backtracking, telling Empire in a recent interview that "the only thing I ever let go of had claw marks in it."
"There's a little bit of soul reclamation going on," he added. "I feel that the first time I played Tony, I did it best. Sorry! The affinity with Tony now is: How do you sustain something? I'm not stupid, I like to play ball, I love the company, I love the character, and the business side of things, I'm not to picky about that either."
Which may explain why "Iron Man Three" director Shane Black is so sure that Downey Jr. will be back for "Iron Man 4" and even "Iron Man 5." "There has been a lot of discussion about it: 'Is this the last Iron Man for Robert?' Something tells me that it will not be the case, and he will be seen in a fourth, or fifth," said Black, according to Screen Rant. "But I can be a little excited."
Robert Downey Jr. coming back for "Iron Man 4"? Now that's enough to get any fan excited. Here's hoping.