A Marvel Studios executive has referred to Robert Downey Jr.'s Iron Man as "no longer being [on the] table," amid rumors of his upcoming MCU return.
It's safe to say that MCU fans have been missing Downey Jr. and his legendary Iron Man since both departed the franchise with 2019's Avengers: Endgame. Many have even been sharing theories about the various ways and places Tony Stark could return ever since the Infinity Saga-concluding event.
The Multiverse Saga has only furthered those theories, as the introduction of Variants has opened the doors to an alternate universe RDJ showing up. But that's not the only way he could resurface, as fans have plenty of ideas for how Stark could return in War Machine's upcoming Iron Man spin-off Armor Wars.
Robert Downey Jr.'s Iron Man Off the Table
Speaking to io9, Marvel Studios VP of Production & Development Stephen Broussard discussed how Phase 4 was all about "a new generation stepping to the forefront" as characters like Robert Downey Jr.'s Iron Man "no longer being [on the] table:"
"Well, I think one of the meta-narratives of Phase Four was about new characters. It was about new people stepping into mantles. If you look at, like, Cassie [Lang in 'Quantumania'] getting a suit and Kate Bishop [in 'Hawkeye'], new characters being introduced like Jack in Werewolf by Night. After these first 10 years of Marvel storytelling, torches are being passed, like with Robert Downey Jr. no longer being [on the] table and stuff like that. So it was kind of like a new generation stepping to the forefront which, again, has always happened in the comics."
Broussard's comments come amid talk of how Downey Jr. could reprise his role as Iron Man in a future Multiverse Saga project. Many have speculated that Iron Man spin-offs Ironheart and Armor Wars, along with the obvious Avengers: Secret Wars, could be the top contenders to see the armored Avenger return.
At the time of Downey Jr.'s last comments on a potential MCU return almost two years ago in February 2021, speaking to GQ Magazine, the actor said he has “alighted, for now,” but cryptically hinted “never say never.”
When recently talking with Lifehacker's Lauren Rouse, the MCU's Kang actor Jonathan Majors revealed his desire to face off with Iron Man to "see how our philosophies, acting-wise and character-wise... match up:"
“I would love to be across from him on screen to see how our philosophies, acting-wise and character-wise, just personally, match up. You know, I find him to be such a fascinating artist, which is why Iron Man is so fascinating. His portrayal of Iron Man is so fascinating and he represents a very clear world view and energy of the Avengers. And I think Kang represents a different era."
Majors particularly added his hope to see Kang and Iron Man "come together and have a bit of a conversation:
"It’d be really interesting to see those two kind of come together and have a bit of conversation"
Why Robert Downey Jr.'s Iron Man WILL Return
In saying that Robert Downey Jr. and his armored Avenger are no longer on the table, Stephen Broussard is referring to the ensemble of characters and actors that Marvel Studios regularly have at their disposal. This likely refers particularly to actors who are no longer under contract or in regular dialogue with the studio.
Chris Evans' Captain America and Scarlett Johansson's Black Widow likely fall under the same "off the table" umbrella, having already made their formal MCU departures much like Downey Jr. But that's not to say these iconic Avengers returning for special appearances isn't a very real possibility down the road.
Previous rumors regarding 2026's Avengers: Secret Wars revealed Marvel Studios' intention to include "as many heavy hitters as they can" for the blockbuster event. With this set to include legacy favorites such as Hugh Jackman's Wolverine and Tobey Maguire's Spider-Man, the MCU OGs are a no-brainer.
As Marvel Studios will be looking to generate as much hype as possible for The Kang Dynasty and Secret Wars, including at least some of these familiar faces would work wonders. One only has to look at how talk of Maguire and Andrew Garfield's returns led to the box office hit of Spider-Man: No Way Home to see that.
But given the kind of financial investment bringing these actors back will take, fans should unfortunately not expect to see it become a regular occurrence, and it will almost certainly come on the big screen, not Disney+. In fact, an appearance in anything below an Avengers-level event movie is beyond unlikely.
All three Iron Man movies are streaming now on Disney+. Avengers: The Kang Dynasty hits theaters on May 2, 2025, to be followed by Avengers: Secret Wars on May 1, 2026.