Marvel boss man Kevin Feige aside, Robert Downey Jr. is perhaps the man who has done the most to vitalise the studio's super-franchises. With his contract newly elapsed, his future as Iron Man is a question on a lot of minds at the moment. Basically, this month's Empire cover star is holding a whole mess of aces at the negotiating table as he ponders committing to a few more outings as an Avenger.
"Let's just say the only thing I ever let go of had claw marks in it," Downey Jr. told Empire, hinting at a battle between his instincts not to relinquish a great role easily and the pressures of constantly reinvigorating it, film-on-film. "There's a little bit of soul reclamation going on. I feel that the first time I played Tony, I did it best. Sorry! The affinity with Tony now is: how do you sustain something? I'm not stupid, I like to play ball, I love the company, I love the character, and the business side of things, I'm not too picky about that, either."
He could always end up squished by The Mandarin in Iron Man 3, although that remains unlikely.
"It would probably be the best thing in the world for me," he says of the idea of anactor stepping into Tony Stark's Italian loafers. "You know, ego... but sometimes ego just has to be smashed. Let's see what happens. I take audiences very seriously - I feel bad when I see folks doing movies and the audience is like, 'Don't do that anymore.' I don't have to overstay my welcome."
For even more from RDJ, and on Iron Man 3, pick up the new issue of Empire, onsale tomorrow. For even even more on Iron Man 3, you can watch it from April 26.