Multiple sources have told ComicBook.com that shooting for Iron Man 3 will begin prior to The Avengers hitting theaters May 4th, weeks ahead of previously published dates. The film is scheduled to be shot in Wilmington, NC at the EUE/Screen Gems Studios and is believed to be the largest production ever to be filmed in North Carolina. Previous reports have listed late May as the official production start date, but one source close to the North Carolina operations said that Marvel "will have staff in Wilmington as early as mid-March, with shooting scheduled to begin the last week of April or the first week of May." Asked to verify the report, Marvel Studios said they do not officially comment on current or future development but indicated the reports were likely accurate. An e-mail update from that same Marvel Studios source told ComicBook.com, "It is not April for sure." It's unclear as yet whether this means the last week of April is a no-go or that it is the intended, but unconfirmed, date. It seems clear from these sources that things are moving faster and filming will commence earlier than expected, but the first week of May seems more likely than the last week of April. As far as Downey doing publicity for The Avengers, it's still not clear which stars will be on-hand for initial shooting, but it would make sense that Marvel would want to have him on the set of one of their films (as opposed to filming somewhere else) to ensure that he is available for any Avengers publicity that they might want to do. The Iron Man series, starring Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark, billionaire playboy turned superhero, has been a phenomenal success at the box office and with critics. The first two films have driven a combined $1.2 Billion at the box office. Those films paved the way for Marvel to develop other properties such as Captain America and Thor, both of which also fared well in theaters. Marvel's ultimate superhero film this year is The Avengers, which features all of the previously mentioned characters, as well as The Hulk, Hawkeye and Black Widow. The Avengers hits theaters May 4th, which could well be one reason for Iron Man 3 to begin shooting earlier. "Everyone knows that The Avengers film is the closest thing to a sure thing this summer," said another source. "People can't stop talking about it, so it's in Marvel's best interest to pump up Downey and Iron Man while The Avengers is going full steam." Getting some footage while The Avengers is in theaters would also allow Marvel to give exclusive footage to Entertainment Tonight or other entertainment media and double down on the free press it receives. Iron Man 3 stars Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Gwyneth Paltrow and Don Cheadle and is directed by Shane Black. The film is scheduled to hit theaters May 3, 2013.