During a chat with Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige on the 15th anniversary of Iron Man.

Director Jon Favreau revealed that Robert Downey Jr. , whose role as Tony Stark helped save his career, reputation and build the The Marvel Cinematic Universe as we know it was originally being considered for a different part in a previous Marvel film: Tim Story ‘s Fantastic Four . Favreau explained:

I remember you had already met him for the [role of] Doctor Doom, or something like that, for another project. I think he came to audition for Fantastic Four , so everyone already knew who he was.

Fantastic 4 came out in 2005, just three years before Iron Man , even if the distance between the two projects makes it seem like an eternity. Curious that Downey had been considered for the role that went to Julian McMahon : if Tim Story had cast him, perhaps the trajectory of the MCU would have been very different. Or maybe not: on the other hand, Chris Evans had played the Human Torch in The Fantastic Four , and was then chosen to play Captain America.

Favreau continues:

Once [we got Robert], my life became so much easier, because he understood the character’s voice. And then, one after another, other actors started coming on board because now it had become an interesting thing.

Kevin Feige added:

I remember that, in the following films – we’ll talk about it when the fifteenth anniversary of those arrives -, there were dark times. And I always told Robert, “We wouldn’t be in this mess if it weren’t for you,” meaning we wouldn’t have had a studio if it wasn’t for him. Or [Jon Favreau]”.