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However you may feel about the Marvel Cinematic Universe, there's one thing about the franchise that can't be denied: it plays the long game, and not just with what we see on camera. Taking into account the future also factors into casting. For instance, Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige revealed that one of the reasons Chris Pratt was cast as Peter Quill, a.k.a. Star-Lord, in Guardians of the Galaxy was because they thought he would perform well opposite Robert Downey Jr. someday. In Feige's words:
We always cast for the movie we're making, but we also have an eye on the future. So when we were casting Chris Pratt, we needed the best Star-Lord, but at the same time, we said, 'We need somebody who one day might go toe to toe with Robert Downey Jr.' On the very first day of Avengers: Infinity War there was Robert, Chris Pratt, Tom Holland, and it was pretty amazing! There have been a handful of times in our ten years here at Marvel Studios where we have had to just stop for a second and pinch ourselves. That was one of those moments.
In its 10 years of existence (thus far), the MCU has recruited a lot of notable actors, some of whom have been propelled to stardom thanks to their performance(s) in the franchise (I'm looking at you, Chris Hemsworth). But Robert Downey Jr. definitely functions as the MCU's anchor, having performed Iron Man nine times, soon to be ten. So it's no wonder that Kevin Feige and the other Marvel brass took into account how other starring actors would do alongside him.
Enter Chris Pratt, who before joining Guardians of the Galaxy was best known for playing Andy Dwyer on NBC's Parks and Recreation and had appeared in movies like Moneyball and Zero Dark Thirty, but was nowhere near a blockbuster star. Before Pratt, actors like Joel Edgerton and Eddie Redmayne had tested for Peter Quill, but Pratt scored the role in February 2013, and like the other starring MCU actors, signed a multi-picture deal. No doubt there were numerous reasons why Pratt was deemed the right man to portray Star-Lord, but as Kevin Feige mentioned in the Marvel Studios: The First Ten Years book (via Comicbook.com), a big one was that they knew one day he'd be a good foil for Robert Downey Jr. in the coming years.
Marvel didn't announce its Phase 3 film slate until October 2014, so while some Marvel Comics fans were predicting that the MCU's Thanos would seek out the six Infinity Stones like his comic book counterpart, the public didn't know that Avengers: Infinity War Parts I and II (later changed to Avengers: Infinity War and the still-untitled Avengers 4) were on the way. But the creative minds at Marvel certainly did, and even though the Guardians of the Galaxy movies are among the more self-contained entries within the MCU, Kevin Feige and his ilk knew that the Guardians would eventually cross paths with some of the MCU's Earthbound heroes, like Iron Man.
That moment finally arrived this past May, as Avengers: Infinity War saw Iron Man, Doctor Strange and Spider-Man, who flew away from Earth on Ebony Maw's ship, meeting Star-Lord, Drax the Destroyer, Mantis and later Nebula on Titan, Thanos' dead homeworld. While the Avengers and Guardians both work to protect the innocent, the teams definitely have clashing methods and personalities, and Iron Man was especially exasperated by his interactions with the Guardians.
I can't say I blame Tony for getting so easily annoyed. While he was focused and doing his best to plan how to defeat Thanos, Star-Lord and the other Guardians took a more relaxed and practically bored approach to the coming battle. Star-Lord in particular kept getting on Iron Man nerves, from responding that he's from Missouri when asked if he hailed from Earth (even though Missouri's on Earth) to telling Iron Man that his plan actually sucked, as seen in the below clip.
Fortunately, eventually all the heroes on Titan coalesced like Iron Man wanted, and they nearly succeeded in removing the Infinity Gauntlet from Thanos' hand. Unfortunately, after Star-Lord became enraged upon learning Thanos killed Gamora and started attacking the Mad Titan while he was subdued, everything went to hell. Once Doctor Strange gave up the Time Stone in exchange for Iron Man being kept alive, that was officially marked their defeat. By the end of Avengers: Infinity War, Star-Lord, Drax, Mantis, Spider-Man and Doctor Strange were turned to dust, leaving Iron Man and Nebula as the only survivors on Titan.
That said, the story isn't over yet. Next year, Avengers 4 will show the surviving MCU heroes banding together to undo Thanos' genocide. How that will be accomplished is still shrouded in mystery, but by the end of the story, it's expected that most, if not all of the heroes who disappeared after Thanos' snap will be brought back to life. Keeping that in mind, perhaps we'll be lucky enough to have another hilarious back-and-forth between Star-Lord and Iron Man during the movie.
While nothing is 100% confirmed yet, it's looking like Avengers 4 will make Robert Downey Jr's departure from the MCU, so there's one more opportunity for Iron Man to leave a memorable impact on this franchise. As for Chris Pratt's MCU future beyond Avengers 4, he's expected to return for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, but with that on indefinite hold following James Gunn's firing, who knows when we'll get to see Star-Lord and the gang in the threequel.
The MCU continues on March 8, 2019 with the release of Captain Marvel, and two months later, Avengers 4 will wrap up Phase 3 with a bang. Stay tuned to CinemaBlend for continuing coverage, and don't forget to look through our Marvel movies guide to learn what else is in development for the franchise. You can also browse through our 2018 and 2019 release schedules to figure out what non-Marvel movies are coming out over the next year.