Jon Favreau will not return for Iron Man 3

When it comes to a multibillion dollar franchise, it is never too early to begin alienating people. Although Iron Man 3 is still at least three years away, and although there are still three major Marvel movies to premier before Iron Man 3 can even begin scripting, Marvel and director Jon Favreau have apparently split ways, according to the website Vulture. The report further claims that Marvel has already begun to seek a replacement.

There are two popular reasons why Favreau left Iron Man 3: financial and creative differences– and perhaps a combination of the two. On the financial side, Favreau was set to make a lot of money on Iron Man 3. A whole lot of money. The director reportedly pulled in a cool $10 for Iron Man 2, but thanks to his increasingly hot stock in Hollywood, he was expected to receive between $12-$15 million and–more importantly—up to 15 percent of the movie’s profits. Actor Robert Downey Jr. currently has a similar deal, which means that Marvel and its parent company Disney, neither of which have ever been mistaken as being “generous”, might actually earn less money on the sequel with Favreau on board.

The second reason Favreau may have left would be due to the bewildering set of creative circumstances surrounding Iron Man 3 and all of the connected Marvel properties. But unlike the other upcoming Marvel films, Iron Man 3 is not only an established franchise, it would be the first Marvel movie to hit theaters following The Avengers. That means that the film would likely need to incorporate several of the existing characters, the plot would be designed to help continue the overall universe that is being created, and the story for the movie could not even begin to be written in earnest until after The Avengers script is completed and Marvel has a clear idea of where they want their properties to go. With The Avengers not due in theaters until May 4, 2012, and Iron Man 3 already locked for May 13, 2013, the production time would be relatively limited for a sequel of its size.

Favreau recently voiced his frustration with Iron Man 3 in an interview with MTV, where he said that Iron Man 3 would likely be little more than a sequel to Thor, Captain America and The Avengers. He also claimed that it was impossible to know exactly what to expect from the other films, and said that he wasn’t sure if Marvel even knew exactly what it was planning.

According to some reports, the relationship between Favreau and Marvel has been growingly steadily worse since the release of Iron Man 2. Marvel is said to have interfered with the post-production of the film heavily in order to add a stronger connection to The Avengers, and they did so in a way that Favreau was not pleased with.  The final nail in the coffin may have come from The Avengers, which Favreau reportedly wanted to direct, but Marvel was unwilling, or unable to meet his asking price.

The truth is probably somewhere in between, but it will be interesting to see if Favreau, who was an executive producer on Iron Man 2 and will be listed as the same on The Avengers, will remain involved in any way. After all, he does have a minor, but recurring role in the films as Tony Stark’s driver, Happy Hogan. It also remains to be seen what Robert Downey Jr. will do, as the actor has director approval written into his contract. If Downey Jr. is not happy with how things play out, he could make things extremely difficult for Marvel and Disney.

So while it is unfortunate to see Favreau depart after being instrumental in not only making the Iron Man franchise a hit and arguably paving the way for all Marvel films, it isn’t all that surprising either. Favreau is now a bona fide A-list director, with lucrative offers rolling in that offer him the freedom and flexibility that only success can offer, and Marvel can simply not afford.

Next up for Favreau is the sci-fi western, Cowboys & Aliens, starring Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford, which is due out on July 29, 2011, which was supposed to then lead into pre-production on Iron Man 3.

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