Downey Jr. hung up his metal suit in 2019 when Tony Stark saved the world with a sacrificial snap during Avengers: Endgame.
He now stars alongside Cillian Murphy, Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, and more in Oppenheimer, releasing this month in theaters.
Since leaving Marvel Studios, this marks only his second film, following 2020's Doolittle. This time around, Downey Jr. plays Lewis Strauss, a controversial businessman, philanthropist, and naval officer in Oppenheimer.
Robert Downey Jr. Concerned Marvel Has Affected His Acting
The 58-year-old actor said that Christopher Nolan advised him to "work those other muscles:"
"Yes. A hundred percent, and I knew there was a point where Chris Nolan was endorsing, let’s work those other muscles, but let’s do it while rendering you devoid of your usual go-to things."
Later Downey Jr. was asked a deeper question about "the soul of cinema", specifically noting that he played the biggest role in the rise of Marvel Studios, which changed Hollywood forever.
The actor first referenced two of the biggest movies ever in the history of cinema, Gone With the Wind and The Ten Commandments.
"If you’re talking about, adjusted for inflation, the biggest movies of all time, 'Gone With the Wind' and 'The Ten Commandments' are there. I’m sure that in the years those movies came out, there were probably films that you and I would agree were a better representation of what cinema can be."
Downey Jr. continued saying he didn't "luxury of wondering what the longer-term repercussions" of being Iron Man would be and while many were debating the MCU's effect on Hollywood, he "had a Super Bowl ring on each finger:"
"I did not have the luxury of wondering what the longer-term repercussions of coming in as a second-tier superhero for something that was going to build out into a cinematic universe would be — and it didn’t matter, because I had a Super Bowl ring on each finger while this debate was being contested with much heat."
Having grown up with Robert Downey Sr. as his father, a filmmaker for most of his life, Downey Jr. said he "was raised in a family that rebelled against the idea of a summer blockbuster having any merit:"
"The other side of it is that I was raised in a family that rebelled against the idea of a summer blockbuster having any merit and thought that the films that were preferred viewing that year weren’t any good, either."
The actor further elaborated that he's happy to have had his Marvel experience but is "happy that [he] regained [his] connection with a more purist approach to making movies:"
"So coming from that other place, entering the box-office-weekend-dominating place, then going into this spot now where I’m happy that I’m in this quality product — I’m happy that I regained my connection with a more purist approach to making movies."
Will Robert Downey Jr. Ever Return to Marvel Studios?
The one and only Tony Stark actor has fondly spoken of his time with Marvel Studios. Specifically citing "being in the trenches" with Kevin Feige and how his character truly had a beginning, middle, and end throughout the Infinity Saga.
Much speculation has been circling about the idea of Downey Jr. or his MCU co-star Chris Evans ever returning to the MCU, most likely through the multiverse.
This idea was recently shut down by Marvel Studios VP of Production & Development Stephen Broussard.
He explained how Marvel's Phase 4 was all about "a new generation stepping to the forefront" as characters like Iron Man "no longer being [on the] table."
Couple that with the fact that Downey Jr.'s latest quotes indicate that he is happy to be moving forward with different projects and fans shouldn't expect to ever see his version of Tony Stark again.
Oppenheimer releases in theaters on July 21, and Downey Jr. is also expected to return in a third Sherlock Holmes film.