×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Robert Downey Jr. to Join ‘Captain America 3’ (EXCLUSIVE)

Film to kick off the Civil War storyline from the comicbook miniseries

Robert Downey Jr. is on the verge of signing on to “Captain America 3,” with Tony Stark’s Iron Man set to play a key role in bringing the Civil War storyline from Marvel’s comicbooks to the bigscreen and trigger the start of a new phase of movies from Marvel Studios.

The actor is in final negotiations to play the billionaire in the yet-to-be-titled third installment, that is slated to begin production in the Spring for a May 6, 2016, release, according to sources close to the discussions. Downey suits up as the superhero in next summer’s “The Avengers: Age of Ultron” as part of a previous deal that also calls for him to reprise the role in “The Avengers 3.”

The new pact is significant for the Marvel cinematic universe considering the plot will pit Stark against Captain America’s alter-ego Steve Rogers, played by Chris Evans, as they feud over the Superhero Registration Act, which forces anyone with superhuman abilities to reveal their identities to the U.S. government and agree to act as a police force for the authorities.

Stark supports the program, but Rogers does not, saying it threatens civil liberties, causing sides to be taken and Rogers, among others, to go on the run to avoid arrest. The moral question and battle with his Avengers teammate essentially makes Stark a villain of sorts in “Captain America 3,” providing Downey with a meaty role he could play out into future Marvel films, including a fourth “Avengers.”

Marvel on Monday announced plans to reboot the Civil War comicbook miniseries in 2015, which will help introduce the story to new readers leading up to “Captain America 3.” The first crossover of Marvel’s biggest characters, including Spider-Man, was published in 2006.

But the deal for Downey to return as Iron Man almost didn’t happen.

Originally, Marvel wanted to hire Downey for a small role, which would have required just three weeks of work. But Downey wanted Stark to have a more substantial role in the film’s plot, which would give him more screen time and naturally a bigger payday. This angered Marvel Entertainment chief Ike Perlmutter, who ordered the screenwriters to write Iron Man out of the script entirely, sources said.

Even though the deal appeared dead, Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige and Downey’s reps at CAA continued talks in hopes of working out their issues. Feige was bent on executing his grand vision for extending the life of the Marvel characters over many years.

The executive needed his boss to see the big picture, considering the introduction of the Civil War story is seen as a way to drive the plots of sequels and new franchises for the next seven years, given the dramatic possibilities it offers for future films. The fallout from the government and Stark’s actions would factor into a new “Avengers 4” film and beyond that will assemble new characters being introduced like Ant-Man and Doctor Strange, among others, in their own movies.

Downey, who earned $50 million for “The Avengers” and a reported $75 million for “Iron Man 3,” will collect around $40 million plus backend participation for “Captain America 3,” said sources, and will receive an additional payout if “Captain America 3” outperforms “Captain America: The Winter Soldier’s” $714 million worldwide haul. Since the actor did not appear in the first two “Captain America” films, the thinking is that if the third installment surpasses the last movie, its success could be attributed to Downey.It’s also worth noting that Evans is clearly a bigger star now, evidenced by the fact that “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” grossed nearly twice as much as “The First Avenger’s”” $371 million in 2011.

Marvel still could have worked around Downey if need be. With the studio having already reworked plots from the comicbooks to fit its bigscreen agenda, it’s certainly feasible that Stark could have been turned into a different character to butt heads with Captain America — the Incredible Hulk’s Bruce Banner, for example. Another option could have been dropping the Civil War plot entirely, which would have required major rewrites.

Downey already has been open about wanting to remain in Marvel’s cinematic universe beyond his current contract that expires after the third “Avengers.” In early September,  Downey told Variety in Toronto that currently “there is no plan for a fourth ‘Iron Man.'”

Yet Downey also has been wanting to play a larger role in future films as a way to remain creatively involved and close to his fanbase that would undoubtedly come out to see his non-Marvel movies.  However, those fans didn’t show up in droves this past weekend to the actor’s latest picture “The Judge,” which debuted with just $13.3 million.

As for the future of Marvel movies, the Disney-owned studio already has 11 releases  dated through 2019, including next summer’s “Avengers: Age of Ultron” and “Ant-Man.”

Anthony and Joe Russo, who directed “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” will return to helm “Captain America 3.” The brothers are working on the script with Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely.

While Frank Grillo is expected to return as the villain Crossbones, Anthony Russo told Movies.com last month, “I can’t divulge who is going to be in the film, but I think fans are going to freak out when they hear about it,” clearly hinting at Downey being in the next sequel.

While Downey was instrumental in getting Marvel’s film franchises off the ground with the first “Iron Man” in 2008, the studio has since become a brand strong enough to launch titles that have little built-in audience awareness or major stars doing the heavy lifting — as evidenced by this summer’s mega-hit “Guardians of the Galaxy.” That film earned $687 million worldwide, surpassing “Iron Man 2.”

Marvel has long been known as a tough negotiator — and by some accounts cheap — but the studio hasn’t shied away from giving Downey what he’s asked for in the past. He’s reaped between $250 million and $300 million for the “Iron Man” trilogy, his role in “The Avengers” films, and a brief appearance in “The Incredible Hulk,” according to knowledgeable sources.

Now with “Captain America 3,” it doesn’t look like Downey is ready to hang up Iron Man’s suit anytime soon.

Marvel and CAA declined to comment.

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • Kung Fu Panda 3

    Universal's Beijing Resort to Partner With Alibaba on Digitization

    Amid fierce controversy about the leverage China has over U.S. entertainment firms with significant mainland operations, Universal Beijing Resort and Alibaba announced a strategic partnership Thursday to digitize the forthcoming theme park in China’s capital. Facial recognition and the use of big data will be the norm at the new resort, which will use an [...]

  • They Shall Not Grow Old restoration

    Peter Jackson Documentary 'They Shall Not Grow Old' Nabs Limited China Release

    The Peter Jackson produced and directed World War I documentary “They Shall Not Grow Old” will hit Chinese theaters on November 11. Though it will roll out nationwide, it will do so via the China’s National Arthouse Alliance, which has limited screens. The 2018 documentary puts together interviews with WWI veterans and more than 100-year-old [...]

  • Zombieland Double Tap

    'Zombieland: Double Tap' Hopes to Recapture Raunchy Zombie Magic, 10 Years Later

    Audiences may have a few questions about the sequel to 2009’s hit “Zombieland,” which opens Friday. Why did it take 10 years to make a second one, after the first grossed $102.4 million worldwide on a $23 million budget, making it the third-biggest zombie movie of all time (second-biggest if you don’t count “Hotel Transylvania,” [...]

  • AMC TheatresShop signs, Los Angeles, America

    AMC Theatres Accused of Firing VP Who Complained of Gender Pay Gap

    A former vice president at AMC Theatres filed a federal lawsuit on Wednesday, accusing the company of firing her after she complained that she was paid far less than her male peers. Tonya Mangels, who was vice president of product marketing, said that in March 2018 her supervisor inadvertently sent her a spreadsheet that included [...]

  • Sir Elton John poses for photographers

    Elton John Calls 'Lion King' Remake a 'Huge Disappointment'

    Elton John isn’t feeling the love for Disney’s latest live-action remake. In an interview with GQ U.K., the legendary musician criticized Disney’s remake of “The Lion King,” citing the film’s music as a “huge disappointment.” “The new version of The Lion King was a huge disappointment to me, because I believe they messed the music [...]

  • Fiddlin'

    Film Review: 'Fiddlin''

    Not many forms of music have “old-” actually built into their name as a prefix. So it’s a given that the practitioners of the 200-year-old genre known as “old-time music” will wear their antiquity proudly in “Fiddlin’,” a documentary set in and around the 80th annual Old Fiddler’s Convention in Galax, Va. What may not [...]

  • Jonah Hill attends the press conference

    Jonah Hill Passes on Role in 'The Batman'

    After being offered a role in “The Batman,” Jonah Hill has moved on from the project. Why exactly Hill is passing is currently unknown, and insiders tell Variety that when the news was initially reported, it was very early in the negotiations and that a deal was far from closing. The news comes after Zoe [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content