Marvel to "recast" iconic Iron Man role for new project, reports say

It sounds like a classic MCU character could be switched out for a more comic-accurate one in a future Marvel project, paving the way for the arrival of a new actor.
Robert Downey Jr. in Iron Man (2008) © 2008 Paramount Pictures
Robert Downey Jr. in Iron Man (2008) © 2008 Paramount Pictures /

Marvel Studios has built a franchise that has been entertaining us all in the present since its inception in 2008's Iron Man. But ever since Phase Four began, it feels like it's been attempting to focus on the future, laying the groundwork for the introductions of new characters, concepts, and cosmic adventures. It's been hit and miss but, for the most part, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has successfully navigated through the often-harsh post-Avengers: Endgame waters.

As the Multiverse Saga is all about the future of the franchise, one project that has been heavily rumored for some time now is the Young Avengers project. Though not officially confirmed by Marvel Studios as of yet, it is one that has persistantly come up in conversations and various scoops from insiders. Initially expected to be a Disney Plus series, it now appears that it could be a movie instead, with a number of heroes we've already met in Phases Four and Five reportedly set to return.

Rumor has it that it could be bringing in an iconic Marvel Comics character, with fans noting that it would essentially "recast" the role as the MCU already had its own version of that character.

Young Avengers will reportedly introduce Iron Lad

According to a new report from Marvel scooper HolyField News, Marvel Studios' rumored Young Avengers movie will be going ahead in spite of recent rumors that it wouldn't be. The scooper also claims that it will release directly after 2026's Vision Quest series, and will focus on the titular team of heroes going on a search for the Scarlet Witch (after her apparent demise in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness). Perhaps most interestingly, however, the report also states that Marvel has begun the process of looking for a young actor to portray Iron Lad.

Introduced to the Marvel Comics in 2005, Iron Lad's real name is Nathaniel "Nate" Richards, and that would make him very important to the MCU's Multiverse Saga because, yes, he is an adolescent version of Kang the Conqueror - the MCU's current big bad. The character sports Iron Man-like armor, which can respond to mental commands, and he goes on to play quite the role in the source material, particularly as part of the Young Avengers.

Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark and Ty Simpkins as Harley Keener in Iron Man 3
Robert Downey Jr. and Ty Simpkins in Iron Man 3 © 2013 - Marvel /

Taking that into account, his involvement in a Young Avengers movie makes perfect sense, especially given his ties to the Multiverse Saga as a whole. However, the thing that raises the eyebrows of some fans is that it once seemed like the MCU was going in its own direction with Iron Lad by having its own original character fulfil that role.

Harley Keener was once expected to be the MCU's Iron Lad

While the MCU has mostly stuck to the source material when it comes to introducing characters, it has made some deviations from time-to-time. The introduction of Harley Keener in Iron Man 3 appeared to be one of those, as fans were expecting the character to become the franchise's version of Iron Lad, carrying on Tony Stark's legacy in the process.

Portrayed by Ty Simpkins, Harley helped Tony take down Aldrich Killian in the third Iron Man movie, repairing his suit and giving him a base of operations when he accidentally crash-landed in Tennessee. Tony repaid that debt by upgrading his garage with a ton of Stark technology, allowing the young mechanic to work in an environment more suited to his needs. The pair remained in touch, and Harley made a brief appearance in Avengers: Endgame (with Simpkins reprising the role) at Tony's funeral.

Ty Simpkins as Harley Keener in Iron Man 3
Ty Simpkins in Iron Man 3 © 2013 - Marvel /

Fans thought that the return of Harley could have been setting the stage for a more involved return down the line, as there has been speculation that Harley would appear in Young Avengers. That could still very well happen, but it sounds like he won't be playing the Iron Lad character that fans were hoping he would (and that he had been rumored to be). Perhaps the Young Avengers need a mechanic?

Of course, if the Young Avengers movie takes place during the Multiverse Saga, it makes perfect sense to opt for the more comic-accurate approach of involving Nathaniel Richards. And it's a different character anyway, so even if it's a "recasting" of sorts of the Iron Lad role, the Harley Keener character could still return in a different capacity. That said, it would be a shame if Marvel switched course on an arc that had been in the making for over a decade. Harley feels like a worthy choice for the Iron Lad mantle, but we'll have to wait and see if he ever gets the chance to don the armor.

Simpkins has enjoyed an incredibly successful career in Hollywood, with his most famous roles outside of Iron Man 3 being in the Insidious movies and Jurassic World. Needless to say, any Young Avengers project would benefit a great deal from his presence.

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