Robert Downey Jr. says "never say never" about suiting up for a return to the Marvel Cinematic Universe as Tony Stark-slash-Iron Man. Downey concluded an 11-year tenure as the armored Avenger in 2019's box office-breaking Avengers: Endgame, where Stark sacrifices himself to defeat Thanos (Josh Brolin) and save the ever-expanding Marvel universe. After confirming in a December interview that he was moving on from Marvel, saying he's "done all [he] could" with the franchise's flagship character after a "creatively satisfying" reign launched with 2008's Iron Man, Downey is leaving the door open to step back into the MCU.
Asked by GQ about reprising the Iron Man role, Downey said, "Well... I have alighted, for now. Real world to save. But never say never."
In the real world, Downey founded the Footprint Coalition. Described as a coalition of investors, donors, and storytellers committed to scaling technologies to restore the planet, the Footprint Coalition invests in high-growth, sustainability-focused companies, and makes charitable grants to non-profits that advance the adoption of environmental technology, according to its website.
"Playing Tony/Iron Man was hard and I dug deep. I had an incredible 10-year run that was creatively satisfying," Downey said in his December interview with The Hindustan Times. "I've done all I could with that character and can do other things now. Now, being middle-aged, you start looking at the back nine and realize this is all part of the journey, and things end. I am fortunate and eternally grateful to have wound up where I have."
As Marvel moves on from Tony Stark, the character still has a role to play in the two Iron Man spin-offs Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige has announced for Disney+.
In Armor Wars, an adaptation of the classic Marvel Comics storyline, James 'War Machine' Rhodes (Don Cheadle) navigates the fallout when the late Stark's technology falls into the wrong hands. In Ironheart, genius inventor Riri Williams (Dominique Thorne) creates the most advanced suit of armor since Iron Man.
"The death of Tony Stark, I'm pretty sure, will play a role in the series," Cheadle recently told BroBible about Armor Wars. Stark's death also impacted his protégé Peter Parker (Tom Holland) in Spider-Man: Far From Home, set in the aftermath of Endgame, and the web-slinging superhero will step out of Stark's shadow in the upcoming Spider-Man: No Way Home.