Marvel’s head casting director talks Robert Downey Jr.'s screen test: "You’re witnessing a moment in history"

(Image credit: Marvel/Disney)

Back in 2008, few non-comic book readers knew who Iron Man was. Today, the whole world does, and that's down to the success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and, of course, Robert Downey Jr.'s excellent performance as the character. 

Before RDJ was on-board, though, many people questioned who could portray the billionaire philanthropist Tony Stark with enough gusto to launch a multi-million dollar franchise. The responsibility of casting Stark fell to Sarah Finn, Marvel's head of casting.

Speaking to our sister publication Total Film about being in charge of casting Marvel's roster of heroes and villains, Finn recalled Downey's screen test. Read an extract of the interview below.

“It was a somewhat challenging process casting Iron Man, because Robert Downey Jr. was not known as an action hero, and also had been, frankly, in the news in certain ways. However, he’s an incredible actor," she says. "I hope he gets the recognition he deserves for this part because, even though it’s this worldwide phenomenon, when you look at where he started as Tony Stark and where he ends with his daughter and ‘I love you 3,000’ and the arc his character has had, you can’t help but be struck by his talent. He’s one of the most talented actors we have. 

“He was willing to screen test for the part to dispel any doubt that there was no-one else that could play the role. He was enthusiastic and willing to fight for it and, really, he walked in to do a screen test and walked out with the part. I don’t think we said it in the room, but I think everyone felt it. His audition is on the internet; he read a scene as Iron Man. And you’ll see it, when he says the words, it’s obvious you’re witnessing a moment in history.”

You can read the full article, which includes Finn talking about casting Star Lord and many other Marvel superheroes, in the latest issue of Total Film magazine, which is on shelves around the UK now. 

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Josh Winning

Josh Winning has worn a lot of hats over the years. Contributing Editor at Total Film, writer for SFX, and senior film writer at the Radio Times. Josh has also penned a novel about mysteries and monsters, is the co-host of a movie podcast, and has a library of pretty phenomenal stories from visiting some of the biggest TV and film sets in the world. He would also like you to know that he "lives for cat videos..." Don't we all, Josh. Don't we all.