Marvel Studios Was Initially Concerned About Robert Downey Jr’s ‘Family-Friendliness’


Prior to his career reviving and defining performance as Tony Stark in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Robert Downey Jr. was something of an unknown quantity in the early 2000s as he tried to rehabilitate the reputation of his career.

A clearly talented actor — he was nominated for an Academy Award for his performance as Charlie Chaplin in 1992’s Chaplin — Downey Jr. struggled with substance abuse issues in the late 90s and early 2000s that ultimately led to him be firing from the hit TV show Ally McBeal.

However, Downey Jr. would go on to rebuild his career on the indie scene — thanks to starring roles in films such as Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and Zodiac — before completing the ultimate career turnaround with his casting as Tony Stark.

But according to Marvel Studios casting director Sarah Finn, Downey Jr. wasn’t always a shoe-in for the role, as she revealed that due to his previous arrests and drug use, the then-brand-new studio was concerned about casting the controversial actor because he wasn’t “family-friendly”:

“Robert Downey, Jr., at that point in his career, wasn’t necessarily a ‘family-friendly’ name,” Finn admitted. “There were concerns about, was he an action her? Was he a name that would promote a family movie? Jon was in love with the idea of Downey playing the part and we all felt so sure about him on a creative level…Because he wasn’t instantly a slam-dunk approval, as we were reading other people and looking at it, I suggested we had screen tests and let the best person win.” [via]

As we now know, not only did Iron Man launch the Marvel Cinematic Universe as we know it today, but it’s also widely regarded as being one of the greatest superhero films ever made, largely due to Downey Jr’s iconic performance.

And luckily for you, Iron Man (and its two sequels), are now streaming on Disney+.


With unrivaled content from classics, new releases, and originals from Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, National Geographic, and much more all for just $6.99/mo, who wouldn’t be interested in signing up?There’s also a Disney Plus free trial for the first seven days – it’s $6.99 a month afterwar. Also: You can sign up for the Disney Plus bundle, offering Hulu, ESPN+, and Disney+ streaming services for just $12.99/month

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Eric is a New York City-based writer who still isn’t quite sure how he’s allowed to have this much fun for a living and will tell anyone who listens that Gotham City is canonically in New Jersey. Contact him on Twitter @eric_ital or via email

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Eric Italiano is a NYC-based writer who spearheads BroBible's Pop Culture and Entertainment content. He covers topics such as Movies, TV, and Video Games, while interviewing actors, directors, and writers.