Ever since Downey Jr.'s Tony Stark and Evans' Steve Rogers exited the MCU with Avengers: Endgame, the two original Avengers have been "[off] the table" at Marvel Studios, at least according to one producer.
But many fans and MCU actors alike continue to share hopes for Iron Man and the original Captain America to re-enter the franchise down the line, with plenty of theories pointing toward them coming back for Avengers: Secret Wars.
At the current time, the armored Avenger remains dead after his sacrifice with the Infinity Gauntlet, while Evans' Steve Rogers is now an old man who one MCU actor insists is still alive after Endgame.
Mark Ruffalo Teases Iron Man's MCU Comeback
The MCU's Hulk actor, Mark Ruffalo, took to the stage at Emerald City Comic-Con for the “Mean and Green: Mark Ruffalo Spotlight” panel.
During the Q&A portion, he was asked how it felt to lose Robert Downey Jr.'s Iron Man and Chris Evans' Captain America from the franchise.
However, Ruffalo appeared to offer a glimmer of hope that the original Avengers may not be gone for good as the MCU contains several ways with which they could be brought back so "anything could happen:"
“Sad, but there is a time machine. And there are alternate universes and realities, so anything could happen.”
Asked to clarify whether he was hinting that Iron Man and the original Captain America could be seen again in the MCU, the Hulk actor referred to his spoiling past before switching to a cryptic response:
"[Laughs, looks at the ceiling] Are one of these boards going to fall on me? Man, are you trying to get me in trouble again? I'm not going to say it's not possible, but I'm not going to say it is."
Ruffalo isn't the first of Avengers 5's expected stars to share their hopes for Downey Jr.'s Iron Man return. Kang actor Jonathan Majors previously revealed his desire to face off with the armored Avenger.
Why Robert Downey Jr.'s Iron Man Return is Still Uncertain
Chances are, with the scripts still in the early days for Avengers: The Kang Dynasty and Avengers: Secret Wars, even Marvel Studios boss Kevin Feige won't yet be certain whether Robert Downey Jr.'s Iron Man will be returning. After all, even if the studio chooses to work them into the story, the contractual negotiations involved may be extensive.
The Iron Man star was paid $75 million for his Avengers: Endgame role and even just a cameo in Spider-Man: Homecoming cost Marvel Studios $15 million. The studio likely won't be looking to shell out cheques quite that large again - especially for what will probably be a fairly small role - which may be an obstacle to his return.
Even if Downey Jr. does sign on to reprise his MCU Avenger for the next ensemble blockbusters, any potential return will almost certainly be a closely guarded secret in order to save that shock value for theaters. Although just like Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield's Spider-Man: No Way Home roles, leaks are always a possibility.
Avengers: The Kang Dynasty hits theaters on May 2, 2025; Avengers: Secret Wars will follow on May 1, 2026 - provided Marvel Studios can avoid any more delays.