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While Robert Downey Jr. is now easily one of the most beloved movie stars in the world, prior to taking on the role of Tony Stark in 2008's Iron Man the actor had a very different public image. Despite years and years of putting on fantastic performances in great films, the star was much better known for his drug and alcohol habits and as a result was considered by many in the studio system to be an extreme risk. Despite Downey Jr. cleaning up his act, this behavior continued all the way up until Marvel Studios began carving out plans for their Marvel Cinematic Universe - which is why Jon Favreau really had to go to bat for him in the casting process for Iron Man.
Favreau opened up about casting Robert Downey Jr. during a recent interview with the Texas radio station 100.3 Jack FM, and revealed to the hosts that while Iron Man he brought up the idea of casting Downey Jr. in the lead role and was rejected multiple times. Despite all the negativity and wariness surrounding the suggestion, however, the director didn't take "no" for an answer and instead made it his responsibility to show the people at Marvel Studios that he knew exactly which actor he wanted to play the starring role. Said Favreau, "It was my job as a director to show that it was the best choice creatively…and now the Marvel Universe is the biggest franchise in film history."
So why exactly did Favreau insist on having Downey Jr. as his Iron Man? The answer to that question has two parts. One half of it was what Favreau says is his "really special ability" to see talent in other people. The other half, though, was the fact that the director simply saw far too many similarities between the journey the character takes in the film and what his actor friend had gone through during his time on the big screen.
“Everybody knew he was talented… Certainly by studying the Iron Man role and developing that script I realized that the character seemed to line-up with Robert in all the good and bad ways. And the story of Iron Man was really the story of Robert’s career.”
Of course, Jon Favreau was eventually able to convince the folks at Marvel Studios that Robert Downey Jr. was the perfect Tony Stark, and it turned out to be one of the greatest decisions in blockbuster history. Not including The Avengers, the Iron Man franchise has made over $2.4 billion at the global box office, and there's no denying that a great deal of that success comes from the magnetism and charisma of the franchise's main star. Explained Favreau in summation, "That was a big gamble on whether or not he was really serious about it… and now history has definitely proven that he was dead serious about it and now he is the biggest star in the world."