Iron Men: Five Actors Who Can Fill the “Iron” Shoes of Robert Downey Jr.

Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures
April 28th, 2014

Robert Downey Jr.'s rise to superstardom is one of the most inspiring comeback stories in Hollywood history. After years of substance abuse, arrests and well-publicized stints in rehab, Downey was able to conquer his addictions and put all of his troubles behind him to star as the title character in the blockbuster film "Iron Man" in 2008. Downey's iconic performance in the hit movie helped reinvigorate the Marvel movie franchise that had grown stagnant. "Iron Man" spawned two sequels, both starring Downey, along with a host of other Marvel-themed movies, including the hugely successful "Avengers" films which also feature Downey as Iron Man. Citing his age and the risk of injury in the complicated "Iron Man" productions, Downey has hinted in a few interviews that he may soon retire from the role. Who will take his place should Marvel continue to churn out movies that require the presence of Tony Stark? These five stars are the best bets.



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5. Mark Wahlberg

Downey has gained such strong accolades with his work in the "Iron Man" movies thanks to his ability to blend comedy with the tense, dramatic action sequences in the films. Wahlberg is a strong choice to potentially take over the Iron Man role because he has shown that same unique ability. Wahlberg has demonstrated in movies as diverse as "Ted," "2 Guns" and "The Fighter" that he can easily draw from his comedic abilities to convey a sense of cool even in the most intense dramatic scenes. Plus, Wahlberg is nearly a decade younger than Downey and has the noted muscular physique that makes him just as believable as an action hero. Wahlberg's upcoming turn in the fourth "Transformers" film should prepare him well should he star in an effects-laden Marvel film. 



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4. Lee Pace

Pace is a star on the rise, recently appearing in the final "Twilight" film and in "The Hobbit" trilogy. He also has a key role in the upcoming Marvel film "Guardians of the Galaxy." Pace plays Ronan the Accuser, one of the main antagonists in the film. In a large ensemble cast that includes Chris Pratt, Vin Diesel and Bradley Cooper, Pace has the potential to break out with a strong performance in a high-profile summer movie. Additionally, because "Guardians" is also a Marvel production, it may give him the inside track should the Iron Man role become available.

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 3. Colin Farrell

Much like Downey, Farrell found success in film at a young age. Like Downey, Farrell soon earned the label of Hollywood bad boy thanks to his hard-partying ways. Both men have put their troubled pasts behind them and have made the smart decision to concentrate on their careers. Unlike Downey, Farrell has yet to find that comeback role to propel him to superstar status. Farrell has the charisma and acting chops to make Iron Man all his own, and he is no stranger to action or comedy roles. He also has demonstrated a knack for emotional, sentimental performances in such films as "A Home at the End of the World" and "Winter's Tale" that could add new dimensions to the character of Tony Stark.



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2. Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Though once known for his comedic work, Gordon-Levitt has slowly built an impressive resume in action films, starring in such films as "Inception," "Premium Rush," "Looper" and "The Dark Knight Rises." Gordon-Levitt is the youngest actor on this list, and he seems best suited to take over for Downey Jr. for the long haul. He is already a major star, so it seems likely that he would not be intimidated by taking over the role. The only drawback with Gordon-Levitt is that he has recently displayed a knack for directing with "Don Jon" and seems intent on developing this skill, which may put his availability to star in a big-budget superhero movie in doubt.



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1. Timothy Olyphant

There are two main reasons why Olyphant is the top choice to take over the role of Iron Man: "Deadwood" and "Justified." In both of these TV series, Olyphant has received rave reviews for his lead performances. In these roles, Olyphant has accomplished the near-impossible in conveying a high level of machismo without coming across as cocky or obnoxious, much like Downey. Olyphant finds the dark core of his characters, allowing him to shade his performances in a way that makes them decidedly human. Even though moviegoers may not be extremely familiar with much of Olyphant's work, his skill as an actor should allow Iron Man fans to fully embrace him in the role.

While the idea of Robert Downey Jr. stepping away from the role of Iron Man may seem impossible for some fans to fathom, it may become a necessity should the Marvel film franchise choose to continue for decades to come. These actors have all demonstrated the same traits that make Downey such a successful fit for the part, and all would be exemplary choices to succeed Downey in the role.