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In a different timeline, Robert Downey Jr. might have been cast as Scarecrow in Batman Begins

The casting could have changed movie history forever (if only by undoing Marvel's secret weapon)

Robert Downey Jr. in Iron Man 3
Image credit: Marvel Studios

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Hollywood history is full of near-misses and chance encounters. There are countless stories of actors who were nearly cast in unexpected roles, but a truly surprising one that recently came to light dates back to 2005 when Robert Downey Jr. first tried his hand at a comic book role... as Scarecrow in Batman Begins.

While we now know him as Marvel's unassailable Iron Man, the early 2000s were a very different time in Downey’s career. He was still considered a risky property in Hollywood following his well-documented substance abuse issues and legal troubles that saw him fired from the cast of Ally McBeal. However, in a career retrospective interview reported by Variety, Robert Downey Jr. revealed that he met with Christopher Nolan to discuss the role of Scarecrow in his upcoming Batman origin film, Batman Begins.

“I’m pretty sure I heard about [this role] and I was like ‘I’m Scarecrow,’” Downey Jr. explained to the crowd at the Los Angeles Cinematheque Theater. However, his enthusiasm wasn’t shared by the Oppenheimer director. “And I remember meeting [Nolan] for tea and I was like ‘He doesn’t seem like he’s really in on this interview.’ And he was polite and all that. But you can tell when someone is kind of like, ‘It’s not going to go anywhere.’”

While he missed out on getting cast as Scarecrow in Batman Begins, it’s hard to feel too sorry for Downey Jr. The same year that movie came out, he was on the big screen with one of our favorite Christmas action films, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. And, of course, he would make an even bigger impact on the world of comic book films in 2008 when he told the world that he was Iron Man.

Still, we can’t help but wonder what Robert Downey Jr. as Scarecrow in Batman Begins would have looked like and how it would have been different from Cillian Murphy’s take on the character. It almost certainly would have given his career an even earlier jumpstart, but it probably would have meant that the role of Tony Stark went to someone else, meaning that somewhere there is a reality where the MCU looks remarkably different.


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