"There's no plans for an 'Iron Man 4,'" Robert Downey Jr. told David Letterman during an interview on Oct. 7. "There’s no script for 'Iron Man 4,' but they do have a plan, and I think [Marvel is] going to announce it. You know, they're very secretive about it." As it turns out, not secret enough: According to Variety, Downey will reprise his role of Tony Stark for "Captain America 3" in a storyline that will pit Stark against Captain America and set off a new wave of Marvel films. Downey's representatives had no comment on the story when contacted by HuffPost Entertainment.
Having Downey continue his reign as Tony Stark was far from a forgone conclusion. The 49-year-old had only two films left on his current Marvel deal, "Marvel's The Avengers: Age of Ultron" and "Marvel's The Avengers 3," and frequently discussed a desire to maybe back away from Iron Man.
"To me, it comes down to what’s the half-life of people enjoying a character?" Downey said to Deadline.com in a recent interview. "It’s different on TV, where you expect the longevity over seasons while movies get a two or three year break. Marvel keeps stepping up its game, and I appreciate the way Kevin Feige and all the creatives there think. They are as in the creative wheelhouse as any great studio has been at any point. So it becomes a matter of, at what point do I cease to be an asset to what they’re doing, and at what point do I feel I am spending so much time either shooting or promoting these films that I’m not actually able to get off the beachhead and do the kind of other stuff that is good for all of us. [...] It all has become this thing that has to be figured out. It has come to a head, right now, where the points of departure will be."
As it turns out, the departure for Downey will be in the character himself. According to Variety, Downey's starring role in "Captain America 3" will kick off Marvel's Civil War storyline, which will find Iron Man, as a de facto villain, battling Captain America 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." The ensuing plot from the 2006 comic book connects multiple Marvel characters, including the current Avengers roster, Ant-Man and Luke Cage (as well as members of the "X-Men" and "Fantastic Four" franchises, neither of which are part of Marvel Studios at the moment). Earlier on Monday, Marvel tweeted that Civil War #1 was coming in the summer of 2015, but offered no further information about the comic beyond its artwork -- fittingly, a shot of Iron Man and Captain America in the throes of conflict:
Anthony and Joe Russo will return to direct "Captain America 3," which is due out May 6, 2016. The film was initially set to go against "Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice," but Warner Bros. moved that film to March 25, 2016 in an effort to shy away from the Marvel blockbuster. Now that "Captain America 3" has turned into Captain America vs. Iron Man, the date change looks even smarter.
For more on Downey's "Captain America 3" role and how the negotiations went down, head to Variety.