It’s heard to imagine anyone other than Robert Downey Jr saying those four immortal words: ‘I am Iron Man.’
The actor’s name is synonymous with Tony Stark – the billionaire playboy philanthropist at the heart of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
But, as per popular rumours, Downey Jr wasn’t the immediate choice – Tom Cruise was allegedly being eyed up for the role since the beginning of the project’s (elongated) production.
The Mission Impossible action star has charisma and star appeal to spare, but the question remains: would he have made a good Iron Man?
Well, you can satisfy your curiosity – Collider has produced an eerie, fascinating video; superimposing Cruise’s face and voice onto Downey Jr’s character in a franchise-spanning deep fake.
Check out the video below:
It’s an amazing feat – throughout the video, the transfer of Cruise to Downey Jr is often creepily seamless (there’s a few parts where the hairstyles don’t gel), particularly in the clip of the Stark Expo: ‘I’m not saying that from the ashes, of captivity, never has a greater phoenix metaphor been personified in human history.’
The raw, insatiable arrogance would have been a match made in heaven with Cruise: look back at this previous work and you can see how, spiritually, he’d work.
In Top Gun, he’s a reckless Air Force pilot with an ego writing checks his body can’t cash. In A Few Good Men, his more restrained hubris is irresistible through Aaron Sorkin’s whippersnapper screenplay.
Alas, for reasons unconfirmed, it was not meant to be. Though, it’s a blessing in disguise – considering how perfectly Downey Jr embodied every essence of Tony Stark.
When Jon Favreau was hired to direct Iron Man in 2008, the official starting point of the MCU, he initially told IGN that they weren’t looking for a big name.
Favreau said back in 2006:
What’s nice is that those movies don’t require an expensive star; Iron Man’s the star, the superhero is the star.
But then the bulb lit for Favreau – Downey Jr was his choice. The studio wasn’t as keen though – the actor had struggled with a lot of negative publicity for alcohol and drug habits, so he was seen as a risky hire.
But, Favreau went to bat for him, and now Downey Jr is one of the biggest actors in the world.
Favreau told USA Today in 2007:
The best and worst moments of Robert’s life have been in the public eye. He had to find an inner balance to overcome obstacles that went far beyond his career.
That’s Tony Stark. Robert brings a depth that goes beyond a comic-book character who is having trouble in high school, or can’t get the girl. Plus, he’s simply one of the best actors around.
Iron Man kicked off of the MCU’s Infinity Saga – an overarching narrative that came to a devastating, phenomenal end this year in Avengers: Endgame.
While it’s unlikely we’ll see Downey Jr back in the suit, he’s left an untouchable legacy of breathless charisma for fans to revisit. We love you 3,000.
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After graduating from Glasgow Caledonian University with an NCTJ and BCTJ-accredited Multimedia Journalism degree, Cameron ventured into the world of print journalism at The National, while also working as a freelance film journalist on the side, becoming an accredited Rotten Tomatoes critic in the process. He’s now left his Scottish homelands and took up residence at UNILAD as a journalist.