Let’s face it—one of the primary reasons for Marvel Studios recent box office dominion (Iron Man 1 and 2, Thor, Captain America, and however many millions upon millions that The Avengers will make) is Robert Downey Jr.  The charismatic actor’s winning performance in the first Iron Man is what made the film such a success, and what laid the foundation for tent-pole franchise that is now flowering with The Avengers.  As such, it’s something of a surprise to hear that Marvel’s Kevin Feige is ready to replace Downey if need be once filming wraps on Iron Man 3 later this year.

As of now, it is assumed that Downey’s contract with Marvel locks the actor into the three Iron Man films, as well as The Avengers (though it’s rumored that he has agreed on appearing in Avengers 2).  However, mum’s the word as to whether or not Downey would appear in Iron Man 4 or The Avengers 3, films which are already under discussion at Marvel.

Further, in a recent interview with Badass Digest, Marvel Studios’ president Kevin Feige, the studio head revealed that he’s already given thought on how to replace Downey should the actor decide to hang up his armor after Iron Man 3:

“I think Bond is a good example. Let’s put it this way: I hope Downey makes a lot of movies for us as Stark. If and when he doesn’t, and I’m still here making these movies, we don’t take him to Afghanistan and have him wounded again. I think we James Bond it.”

While his plan is understandable, it seems highly unlikely that audiences would welcome a new actor in the role of Tony Stark in Iron Man 4 or Avengers 3, especially when Downey Jr is so indelibly wedded to the character.  That said, audiences probably thought they’d never embrace a Bond as strongly as Sean Connery, and now Daniel Craig is widely accepted (though we had to go through George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, and Pierce Brosnan to get here).

What do you think—should Downey stick with the role as long as there are Iron Man films to be made?