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Robert Downey Jr. signs a new two-picture deal to return as Iron Man

After a period of contract-negotiating uncertainty, Marvel has announced that Robert Downey Jr. will return as Iron Man, for The Avengers 2 and 3 .

Downey Jr. has signed a two-picture deal for the team-up movies, suggesting that we won't be seeing an Iron Man 4 in the imminent future.

Marvel's press release reminds us that the last two films that RDJ has starred in for the studio ( The Avengers and Iron Man 3 ), both sit within the top five highest-grossing films of all time. Show-offs.

The news will be sweet for fanboys and girls across the globe, as - let's be honest - it's hard to imagine any other actor imbuing Tony Stark with the wit and charisma that Downey Jr. gives him.

As for what this means for Phase 2, 3 and beyond in Marvel's cinematic universe, expect the speculation to begin immediately.

Directed by Joss Whedon, The Avengers 2 is set to open on 1 May 2015.

For more from Whedon, check out our recent In Conversation.. . interview: