Following months of speculation, Marvel.com is reporting that Robert Downey Jr. has struck a deal with Marvel Studios to reprise his role as Tony Stark. The actor is now locked in to return for two more big screen appearances, in the Joss Whedon directed "Avengers 2" and its follow-up, "Avengers 3."
The news follows several unsourced reports in the Hollywood trades about Downey's future with Marvel. After "Iron Man 3," the actor had stated publicly that he was uncertain he would return for future installments in the gold and red armor as his contract was up, however many noted that this was likely a negotiation tactic not only on behalf of the actor but also on behalf of the rest of the "Avengers" cast. Marvel Studios is notoriously tight-fisted when it comes to the salaries of its actors in comparison with other Hollywood production companies, and it appeared as though many young actors associated with the superhero franchise were looking to the screen legend for leadership in contract talks.
With this move, Marvel solidifies the tent polls of its "Phase 3" movie plans as "Avengers 2" is set to start filming March 2014 and then open in theaters May 1, 2015. With two more team outings on the way, speculation will doubtlessly move to superhero solo pictures. As it appears no more "Iron Man" films are in the immediate offing and repeated notes from studio executives that no future "Hulk" pictures are in the works, Captain America and Thor stars Chris Evans and Chris Hemsworth may remain the studios biggest draws for the next few years. Meanwhile, solo films focusing on lesser known characters like Ant-Man, the Guardians of the Galaxy and possibly Doctor Strange will have a lot of expectations to meet.
Can Marvel's deep bench of heroes deliver box office numbers like Iron Man and Downey? The future remains to be written, but fans of the films are doubtlessly excited that Tony Stark will fly for a little while longer – solo or otherwise.