iron man 3 retrospective

Timothy Olyphant Talks Failed Iron Man Audition

Justified star Timothy Olyphant revealed how he lost out to Robert Downey, Jr. as Tony Stark in 2008’s Iron Man.

What was Timothy Olyphant’s experience like auditioning for Iron Man?

Appearing on The Playlist’s Bingeworthy podcast, Olyphant recalls being on the shortlist to headline the movie that kicked off the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Olyphant was not only competing against Downey but also Sam Rockwell, who later played Justin Hammer in 2010’s Iron Man 2. Though Olyphant lost out to Downey, the actor looks back at the audition process with humility and grace when it came to meeting Iron Man’s director Jon Favreau.

“I can only tell you that I remember thinking that was the first time where, because I’m a bit of a slow learner and I think I was scared to death of the things that come with success in this business, but that was the time where I remember thinking, ‘Well, I can’t get any more grounded and so [auditioning for ‘Iron Man’] would be fun,'” Olyphant said. “I think prior to that I was like, ‘Oh, I don’t want those kinds of problems.’ And I think part of that appeal was those conversations that I had with [Jon] Favreau – I just have a tremendous amount of respect for him and I just like the guy. He’s just a good dude. And so, if you’re going to go down that road, you’re not going to find anyone better to go down it with, so I have fond memories of that experience, you know?”

The casting of Downey as Iron Man was a major risk for Marvel Studios due to his troubled history with the law and substance abuse. It was a risk that Favreau and Marvel Studios boss Kevin Feige were willing to make, resulting in a smash hit with critics and audiences. As a result, Downey’s career experienced an extraordinary resurgence with several more MCU appearances throughout The Infinity Saga, becoming one of the highest-paid actors in the world.

Olyphant’s career remained on an upward trajectory despite losing out on Iron Man. The actor became best known for his role as Deputy U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens for six seasons on the FX series Justified and reprised the role in the limited sequel series Justified: City Primeval. Additionally, his positive experience meeting Favreau during the Iron Man audition paid off differently when he was cast to play Cobb Vanth on The Mandalorian: Season 2. “I try to see things simply for what they are and not what they could be and any conversations I had with Jon about that job and about that process, I remember it very fondly,” Olyphant continued. “It was an enjoyable process…And, well, he’s the one who hired me for [‘The Mandalorian’], so he doesn’t owe me anything.”