Does Iron Man Die In 'Captain America: Civil War'? Robert Downey, Jr. Says An 'Iron Man 4' Is Unlikely

With only two months two go until the release of the highly-anticipated next chapter in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Captain America: Civil War , speculation has been rampant on which characters will survive the impending clash of titans — or, more pressingly, which characters won't survive. The newest trailer seems to spoil the death of Don Cheadle's James Rhodes, while some assume that's a red herring masking the more dramatic death of someone like Bucky or maybe even Captain America himself. But have we all been worrying about the wrong character? Could be Cap's opponent who makes the greatest sacrifice? Will Iron Man die in Civil War ?

I won't keep you in suspense: the answer to that particular question is no. We won't be losing Robert Downey, Jr. from the M.C.U. this May. In fact, Downey, Jr. was the very first actor officially confirmed for Avenger: Infinity War way back in June of 2013; so we know he'll make it at least until then. (Although some theories still say otherwise.) But just because Iron Man will probably make it out of Civil War alive doesn't mean his days aren't numbered. In fact, recent comments by Robert Downey, Jr. himself may be cause for concern when it comes to Tony Stark's fate.

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While speaking with USA Today, the actor admitted that a fourth Iron Man solo film is highly unlikely at this point. "I don't think that's in the cards," he told the publication, adding that he personally considers Civil War to be "my little Iron Man 4." Marvel Studios currently has their franchise planned out through 2019; May's Civil War will kick off Phase 3, which will then culminate in three years with Infinity War — Part 2 and Inhumans. When Marvel announced the Phase 3 lineup, there was no word on an Iron Man sequel, so its absence isn't exactly breaking news. But fans hoping that the M.C.U. would return to its flagship franchise in Phase 4 are likely to be disappointed by Downey, Jr.'s statement.

If Marvel Studios doesn't intend to make any more solo Iron Man films, then what exactly are their plans for the character? There's a huge question mark hanging in the air over the future of the M.C.U. post-Infinity War. Everything has been leading up to the impending conflict with Thanos, so it's widely assumed that Phase 4 will be something of a reset rather than a continuing of the storylines from the first three Phases. And what better way to distinguish this new era of the M.C.U. by killing off the poster boy of the franchise, the man who kickstarted it all with 2008's Iron Man?

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The usual place to go to for clues when discussing any specific characters' future in the M.C.U. is the respective actor's contract. Each key player in the franchise signed a contract with Marvel Studios that locks them in for a set number of films; Chris Evans (Captain America) signed on for six films (Civil War will be his fifth), while Sebastian Stan (Bucky Barnes) signed on for nine (Civil War will only be his second, as the contract was signed after Captain America: The First Avenger).

But this sleuthing is no help when it comes to Downey, Jr. Being the first and most famous of the M.C.U.'s main characters, his contract is unique: Rather than signing on for a predetermined number of films, Downey, Jr. has a movie-to-movie contract, which means that Marvel has to renegotiate with the actor before every film, and he's under no obligation to stay longer than he wants to. Basically, Downey, Jr. can walk away at any point… and, at 50 years of age, it wouldn't be come as a surprise if the actor chose to wash his hands of the franchise after the climactic events of Infinity War — Part 2.

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Marvel Studios has something of a reputation for being shy about (permanently) killing off its characters, good or evil. What better way to illustrate the world-ending stakes of the Avengers' war against Thanos than with the death of Tony Stark? We better enjoy all the Iron Man we can get between now and 2019, because now matter what shape the M.C.U. takes in Phase 4, no matter whether Stark dies or simply retires from avenging, the clock is officially ticking on Robert Downey, Jr's future with the franchise.

Images: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures; Giphy (2)