By Darren Franich
Updated October 08, 2014 at 08:37 PM EDT

Iron Man

  • Movie

Yesterday, beloved Hollywood icon Robert Downey Jr. went on television and told Ellen Degeneres that there would be an Iron Man 4. Mere hours later, beloved Hollywood icon Robert Downey Jr. went on television and told David Letterman that there would not be an Iron Man 4–an apparent paradox which could easily be explained by the presence of Skrulls, a race of shapechanging aliens who could be the bad guys in Iron Man 4 if there is indeed any such movie as Iron Man 4.

And as of this minute, Robert Downey Jr. has clearly stated that he will not star in another Iron Man movie–although he will be in other Marvel Studios movies, presumably playing Iron Man, unless Marvel Studios merges universes with The Soloist and Downey reprises his fan-favorite role as crusading journalist Steve Lopez, which is currently something that is more possible than Iron Man 4.

Specifically, Downey told Letterman “there’s no plans for an Iron Man 4…There’s no script for Iron Man 4.” And when Letterman asked him, point-blank, if he was making a fourth Iron Man, Downey responded definitively: “Just between us, no. But I’m gonna do other stuff with Marvel. I’m still gonna be involved with Marvel.”

Reading between the lines, it seems clear that Marvel Studios would like to keep Downey involved in the franchise and Downey would like to keep playing Tony Stark. It also seems clear that Marvel Studios is in the happy position of pivoting toward its other lucrative franchises (like the ascendant Captain America and the megahit Guardians of the Galaxy) and doesn’t feel any need to race another Iron Man movie into theaters–probably a good thing, given the declining returns on Sony’s biannual Amazing Spider-Man release strategy. Also, Downey is expensive–the studio could feel more comfortable paying him marginally less kajillions of dollars to stand in the Avengers ensemble.

And this is when we remind everyone that Iron Man 3 made all the money in 2013; that this could just be part of a playful flirt-gotiation between Downey and Marvel; and that Marvel won’t officially say anything about Iron Man 4 until Downey walks onstage for a surprise announcement at Comic-Con 20XX.

Also, Downey says he’s “still gonna be involved with Marvel,” which doesn’t not mean he’s co-starring with Jeremy Renner in the long-anticipated superteam film Force Works, aka Avengers But Like Super Extreme. Isn’t that right, Renner?

Iron Man

  • Movie
  • PG-13
  • 125 minutes
  • Jon Favreau