Marvel Met With Robert Downey Jr. to Play Doctor Doom Before Iron Man

Marvel met with Robert Downey Jr. for the role of Fantastic Four villain Doctor Doom before Downey won the role of Tony Stark in Iron Man, according to a new book. Downey, who would help launch the Marvel Cinematic Universe in the first independent feature from Marvel Studios in 2008, might have first played Victor Von Doom in 2005's Fantastic Four. 20th Century Fox produced that film with Julian McMahon playing the arrogant CEO of Von Doom Industries, who becomes a metallic-skinned, electricity-shooting supervillain after a cosmic space flight gone wrong with Reed Richards (Ioan Gruffudd), Sue and Johnny Storm (Jessica Alba and Chris Evans), and Ben Grimm (Michael Chiklis).

"Marvel had already met with [Downey Jr.] before, I think, to play Doctor Doom," Iron Man and Iron Man 2 director Jon Favreau reveals in the officially authorized book The Story of Marvel Studios: The Making of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. 

Peyton Reed, who developed a version of Fantastic Four before joining the MCU with 2015's Ant-Man, once envisioned Jude Law as Doctor Doom in the never-made movie he pitched circa 2002. Tim Robbins (The Shawshank Redemption), Mel Gibson (Lethal Weapon), and Nic Cage (Ghost Rider) were reportedly all candidates to play Dr. Doom in 2005's Fantastic Four from director Tim Story; Marvel Enterprises produced with Fox. 

Downey would reinvigorate his career as billionaire playboy and philanthropist Tony Stark in Iron Man, a risky gamble that paid off for Marvel Studios president and producer Kevin Feige. 

"Literally, the first decision I made and was allowed to make and allowed to try to pursue as president of Marvel Studios was casting Robert Downey Jr. and it felt fun to do that because we knew it'd either be great or the biggest dumpster fire ever," Feige recalled during an appearance at the New York Film Academy in 2019. "There's very little wiggle room. It ended up being great and I've always said 'No RDJ, no MCU.'"

In the bonus features for Avengers: Endgame, Downey's final turn as Iron Man after ten movies and 11 years, Marvel Studios casting director Sarah Finn recalled the infamously troubled actor "at that point in his career wasn't necessarily a 'family-friendly' name." 

"There were concerns about, was he an action hero? Was he a name that would promote a family movie?" Finn said in 2019. "Jon was in love with the idea of Downey playing the part and we all felt so sure about him on a creative level...Because he wasn't instantly a slam-dunk approval, as we were reading other people and looking at it, I suggested we had screen tests and let the best person win."

Feige has formally announced a Fantastic Four reboot from Spider-Man: No Way Home director Jon Watts. A release date is TBA.