More than 10 years in the making, Avengers: Endgame finally drops later this month, bringing the first phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) to an end after 22 blockbuster films. The Infinity Saga, as it's called, kicked off back in 2008 with Iron Man, and one of the key questions surrounding Endgame is whether Robert Downey Jr's hi-tech hero will survive this final clash. As far we know, the 54-year-old's contract to play Iron Man is over and he has no further obligations to Marvel. Cue numerous fan theories that Marvel will use this as an excuse to kill off Downey Jnr in Endgame to provide some emotional oomph.
What could it mean for Marvel's Avengers in Endgame?
Although much of the popularity of Iron Man is undeniably down to Downey Jnr's personal charm, it seems unlikely that Marvel will kill off the character if the actor decides he's had enough of superhero flicks. Instead, as with the continual recasting of James Bond, it's likely the studio will simply find someone else to fill his hi-tech suit. Here are our picks for the best possible replacement: 1. Ty Simpkins (Harley Keener)
Iron Man3Iron Man 3 Endgame 2. Don Cheadle (James Rhodes)
From the perspective of the story, this makes sense. Colonel James Rhodes, aka War Machine, has already mastered the use of one of Stark's armoured suits, and has proved himself to be a valuable " if occasionally unreliable " ally (remember Iron Patriot?). Rhodes has even taken on the mantle of Iron Man in some episodes of the comic. The internal logic is sound, as Cheadle is the same age as Downey Jnr. But Marvel might prefer to hire a younger actor, as the Iron Man brand has more years in it yet.
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3. Letitia Wright (Shuri)
Although this might seem a fairly left-field choice, it's not beyond the realms of possibility. Letitia Wright's character Shuri has already demonstrated she's the smartest inventor in the entire MCU " remember the weapons she provided for Black Panther, and the way she removed the mental programming from Bucky Barnes, the Winter Soldier? If the idea of an Iron Woman still seems far-fetched, just look up Marvel's Ironheart, a female genius who builds up her own Iron Man-esque armour while at MIT. 4. Tom Holland (Spider-Man)
Spider-Man, another of Tony Stark's young apprentices, was a hit (yet again) after Marvel reached an agreement with Sony to bring the web-slinger into the MCU. Stark mentored him throughout Captain America: Civil War and Spider-Man Homecoming, so Peter Parker has an emotional attachment to the Iron Man character, and it would make sense for him to maintain Stark's legacy. Spider-Man is also familiar with Iron Man's suits, having used the Iron Spider exoskeleton developed by Stark. But combining two big box-office characters into one might not be the kind of financial decision Marvel is willing to countenance, even though it would doubtlessly prove popular.
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5. Bradley Cooper
If Marvel wants someone new to take over the role of Tony Stark, they could do worse than pick Bradley Cooper. The award-winning actor/director is already familiar to Marvel fans as the voice of Groot, the sentient tree creature in Guardians of the Galaxy. Such a doubling up would be unusual, but as he's currently just a voice actor in the MCU, Cooper could probably get away with it. Cooper has the looks, charm and sense of humour to make the transition a painless one.
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