"Will Robert Downey, Jr. star in 'Iron Man 4?'" has been a very hot question over the past few weeks. Robert Downey, Jr. and his co-stars have been asked ad nauseum about the potential for another sequel and they've all had varying reactions. But here's a more realistic question: What if it doesn't matter if Robert Downey, Jr. will return for 'Iron Man 4? Marvel, it seems, is already planning for life without their biggest star.

As we're sure you've heard all about by now, the 'Avengers 2' cast is embroiled in a heated contract dispute with Marvel about their upcoming salaries, the most expensive of which is Robert Downey, Jr. who earned $50 million for 'The Avengers' and reportedly $75 million for 'Iron Man 3.' Marvel will surely try to get Downey to return for 'Avengers 2' and 'Avengers 3' but that could cost them upwards of $100 million.

As for 'Iron Man 4,' Downey isn't sure he is ready to return (even if Marvel agreed to pay him) but Marvel head Kevin Feige says it doesn't much matter. There's gonna be an 'Iron Man 4' whether Robert Downey, Jr. comes back or not. Feige told Entertainment Weekly:

There will be a fourth ‘Iron Man’ and a fifth, sixth and a 10th and a 20th. I see no reason why Tony Stark can’t be as evergreen as James Bond, Batman, or for that matter, Spider-Man.

And while it's hard to imagine anyone other than Robert Downey, Jr. as Tony Stark, Feige brings up a good point. The James Bond, Batman and Spider-Man franchises are some of the biggest in the world and all have had multiple actors playing their lead roles. Once 'Avengers 3' is over, we can certainly see where Phase 4 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe could be heading and that's a wholesale reboot of the entire universe, starting with a brand new 'Iron Man.'

So there you have it folks. Your first news on 'Iron Man 20,' which by our calculations, should be in theaters 2048.

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