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Gwyneth Paltrow will join Robert Downey Jr. and Terrence Howard in “Iron Man,” the Jon Favreau-directed film that is being financed by Marvel Studios and released by Paramount Pictures in May 2008.

Paltrow will play Virginia “Pepper” Potts, personal assistant to an industrialist who develops an armored suit to battle bad guys. Production begins in March in Los Angeles.

“These are popcorn films designed for broad audiences, but there are multidimensional characters that have brought us the best luck with actors,” Marvel Studios president of production Kevin Feige said.

“Iron Man” is the first film in which Marvel provides the financing through its arrangement with Merrill Lynch.