I've been sitting on this for a couple of weeks now, waiting to get an ok from my sources to run it... and I got scooped. Well played, Variety.
Well, here's the story: Robert Downey Jr hasn't been negotiating with Marvel for Iron Man 4 - he's been negotiating for Captain America 3. Yes, Iron Man will be co-starring in Cap 3, which is either going to be called Civil War or Fallen Son - I've heard both names getting tossed around.
And this isn't some small bit. This isn't a cameo. Downey will be shooting 30 or 40 days on the film. He's basically co-starring. When Marvel heard that DC moved Batman v Superman off their Cap 3 date they wondered if they had heard the story and knew that Batman versus Superman wasn't going to match up to Captain America versus Iron Man.
I'm not clear on how the Civil War story will play out, since the Marvel Cinematic Universe doesn't have secret IDs to reveal, but I can tell you this: the fallout of Avengers: Age of Ultron is going to be huge in this movie. There is a lot of destruction in that film. It makes an impact.
More than that, Marvel is looking at Cap 3 as Avengers 2.5. It's going to be another ensemble picture, and it could feature Cap's new team from the end of Age of Ultron. Last I heard (and they haven't shot this scene yet, so it could change) that team is Falcon, War Machine, Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch and Black Widow, as well as probably The Vision (although I have been told Black Widow will not be much of a presence in Cap 3). And once again the events of a Captain America movie will reshape the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Remember when I told you Cap wouldn't be in Avengers 3? This is why. At the end of Cap 3 the Marvel Cinematic Universe will be in a tough, dark place, with the heroes scattered and defeated. That will continue through Avengers 3, and it will leave the world open to the threat of Thanos in either Avengers 4 or the big universe-wide team-up movie, whichever comes first.
How closely will Captain America 3 tie in with Avengers 3? I've been told that the Russo Brothers are in talks to direct Avengers 3 and possibly 4. Sources tell me that they're the favorites of Marvel right now and that they are the guys Kevin Feige want to pick up the mantle from Joss Whedon.
This is huge news, and it shows that the Marvel Cinematic Universe is going to continue to grow and change, and that just when you think you know what they're doing - just when you assume it's Thanos in Avengers 3 - they throw a curveball at you.
How will Civil War play out? I know that at the end of Age of Ultron Tony Stark retires from The Avengers and possibly even from being Iron Man. He feels very responsible for what happened in that film, as the Ultron project was his brainchild. Here's my guess for Cap 3: with that in mind, and aware of the destruction his out of control robot caused, Tony thinks that the Age of Miracles is too unregulated. With the fall of SHIELD there's simply no one keeping tabs on everybody. That scene of Black Widow in front of the Congressional committee in The WInter Soldier was a late addition, and it speaks to this - these super beings are answering to no one. And Tony decides that's wrong. Which brings him into direct conflict with Captain America, who is still leading a team of Avengers. I don't think this will follow the exact outline of the comic book story, but simply take the concept and the beloved Marvel idea of heroes battling.
Does Cap die in this movie? Like I said, I've heard the title Fallen Son getting tossed around a lot. I've been told that the story is Civil War, but Fallen Son has come from multiple sources as the actual title. That definitely leads me to believe he could buy it at the end. Or maybe his super soldier serum gets depleted? Or maybe he just hangs up the shield, taking on a new name, like Nomad or something. Either way, he's sitting out Avengers 3, allowing Chris Evans to stay in the MCU for one more Avengers movie.
But if Marvel is willing to renegotiate with Downey - he's getting a $40 million payday, plus back end participation - that probably means they'll sit down with Chris Evans to get him back for more movies. Sitting out Avengers 3 gives Evans some needed time off from the character, and could make him decide he likes the checks Marvel keeps writing him.