Q&A: Robert Downey Jr. on Chris Evans and ‘The Avengers’

Robert Downey Jr Marwencol
Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images

Robert Downey Jr. helped Marvel’s “Avengers” franchise skyrocket to success the instant he suited up as Iron Man in 2008. It’s a role he’s reprised in three films, with all four earning $3.9 billion in worldwide box office. He spoke to Variety’s Ramin Setoodeh about the franchise, his friendship with Chris Evans and, at age 48, how many more times he wants to suit up.

Had you met Chris Evans before he was cast in “Captain America?”
I have a vague memory of seeing him and whatever hot girl he was dating across from a dinner with me and Susan Downey. I think he and his girlfriend invited Susan and I back to their house to get in the Jacuzzi, to tell you the truth.

Seriously — did you go?
No, we did not, and by the way, like I said, that’s a vague memory, but that’s what I’d like for you to print.

Why did you urge Chris to take the Captain America role?
There was so much riding on what essentially could be considered the squarest superhero in history. It was probably the most risky of the franchises we launched. I say “we,” like I’m a company man, which I like to think I am. By the way, I’m a fan of his.

You are.
I’m not kidding. I’m having 50 kids over and I’m screening “Captain America 2” on my birthday, which happens to be the day it opens. I haven’t seen it. That’s one of the perks of being on the inside track at Marvel. I hope it’s not watermarked too heavily.

Were you nervous when they offered “Iron Man” to you?
Nervous? I was begging. I was absolutely certain it that would change my life.

There used to be a sense when you played a comicbook hero it could hurt your career.
Christopher Reeve went on and did a bunch of other great movies, and his notoriety from the “Superman” franchise helped that, and nobody held it against him. But the other thing is, everybody knows Chris Reeve was a really good guy. A lot of it has to do with personality. Are you the type of person who incurs ill will?

How many more of these Marvel movies do you think there can be?
The smart money is you have to look at everybody’s age. I’ll put myself at the top of the list. Sooner or later, they’ve got to start over and get somebody young. I’m not there with them yet. It really is the closest thing to being a beloved contract player with a big old-timey studio that there is right now. When you really think about it at the end of the day, these films are entertainment largely driven by young folks. There is something very honorable about that. I run into kids wearing “Captain America” masks. My kid believes that Captain America is real.

What’s a downside of playing a superhero?
It’s kind of like having a really cool TV job. They are always hoping they don’t get picked up for another season; or they are wondering if they’re going to get picked up for another season; or they have done so many seasons, and they are already sick of doing the show, but the show is so big, it’s working well for them. Any of those three things is better than calling your agent and saying, ‘Hey, anything going on? It’s pilot season.’ ”

You’re starting on “Avengers 2.”
This one is a very ambitious sequel. If you read it, it’s dense, it’s smart. Joss [Whedon] is a really smart guy. My 2-year-old is crazy about Hawkeye, and I think Jeremy [Renner] has a lot to do with the plot. There’s always so many plates to spin to get these things half-right, and I’m really excited about this one.

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  1. sonu says:

    I like movies iron man, iron man II , avengers, iron man 3 his movies my life is best movies I like iron man reactor v. but iron man 4 movies realise date I dont no. plz tell me

  2. Paula Ledson says:

    Do you know what Robert Downey Jr I love the iron man films but Sherlock Holmes is your best ever the storyline is spot on. And your portrayal of the role is spot on x

  3. paige says:

    Awesome guy. He went through hell and dealt with his addiction. He is the definition of a comeback and he has done it with grace and class. Way to go RDJ

  4. More importantly, he is Tony Stark. Without a doubt. You can put a badass suit of armor on any schmuck (( Looking at you Clooney, Affleck)) but in the in sooner or later he has to come out of it. And Robert is effing perfect for both.

  5. I cannot imagine any actor other than Robert Downey, Jr. as Iron Man. HE IS IRON MAN.

  6. Carolyn A says:

    Robert Downey Junior, there isn’t anything Junior about this man….he is a real life super hero in or out of character! So happy he made it back a few years ago. Sto talented and so real. Love love love him.

  7. javier cejas says:

    It is very nice to see as the biggest Iron Man, Captain America and all accompanying superheroes are all good Mr. Stan Lee is an admirable also be, to make the unsurpassed kids dream! luck in everything Mr. Robert D. Jr. in everything he does, is respectable if you want to make way for a young man’s greatness is appreciated, but Iron Man is You!!

  8. Heather Howard says:

    Robert Downey Jr. always remember that its the parents that take the kids to the films and we love seeing you as Iron Man. It will be a sad day when Marvel recasts the part. As far as your fans are concerned, you ARE Iron Man!!

  9. Photometric says:

    Oh well….say goodbye to Hawkeye. He’s going to be “Coulsoned”

  10. lmalouie says:

    I think he’ll end up doing another one. He created the cinematic Tony Stark and he isn’t the type to step back and watch as someone else takes over (butchers) the role.

  11. Madeleine says:

    I hope that he does another stand alone Iron man film. He’s amazing as Tony Stark

  12. Well, just gotta say, I’m hoping Downey is still acting when I eventually get to the point where I could hire a guy like him. He’s impressive, yes, most impressive.

  13. NYCS says:

    Great guy in person. Just a wonderful dude.

  14. Bill says:

    Every interview I read with Downey makes me more of a fan of his. I love his attitude and sense of humor and he seems genuinely aware of how blessed he his to have had Iron Man come along when it did.

  15. Wheezer says:

    He (RDJ) and I share a birthday, though apart by one year.

    That’s as close as I get to being cool. LOL

  16. Elaine Newsome says:

    I have nine grandchildren I was a fan of Robert Downey Jr through his other films but since Iron man have been able to enjoy it through young eyes the seven boys love all the Super Heroes have the figures tshirt DVDs and pjs I love how excited they get every time they watch. I remember when one ask if you were real said yes but only in movies then would get well let’s pretend if he was truly real then they would go somewhere else with there imagination which is something they don’t usually use that much but it makes me feel good that a movie star can be so believe able that can send a child into a different world. I can’t do much with the kid as I have MS but movies I can do. Thank you

  17. bsbarnes says:

    Robert Downey Jr. has been in the business long enough to know he’s got a good thing going with Iron Man and to ride that wave until the tide says otherwise. Goodness knows he’s made enough movies that nobody else has ever seen, so to be the highest paid actor in Hollywood was far from a sure thing for him. He’s trying to tell Chris Evans, in a nice way, to not get cocky when you’re in the catbird seat in the cockpit. I hope Chris gets the hint, because Downey Jr. learned his lessons the hard way, baby! Much love and continued success to Robert Downey Jr.!

  18. He’s such an inspiration, I also hope he’ll be doing a few more Iron Man movies. :)

  19. Erin C. DeBack says:

    Love Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man, no one could play Tony Stark better!! My family is looking forward to Avengers 2 and Iron Man 4!!!!

  20. Val says:

    Actually he is 49 next week, not 52

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