It Cool News* is reporting that Robert Downey Jr has been hired to play Tony Stark, aka the guy inside the Iron Man costume, in Jon Favreau’s movie version of the Marvel comic book. If true (see the previous asterisk), this is a major indicator of where Favreau is going with the film (well, duh) and it’s also very, very good news. UPDATE: This is confirmed!

The main reason why this is good news is the Robert Downey Jr is one of our best actors today. Period. Not of his age, his gender, his nationality, of all the people with suffixes – just one of the best actors working in the motion picture industry. He’s fantastic.

The other reason why this is good news is that it seems to show that Favreau’s not making another generic superhero movie. With Tom Cruise in the armor as Iron Jock the movie would be generic. But with RDJ we’re guaranteed to be getting a non-traditional hero, a guy who wears his shortcomings on his sleeve. RDJ’s Tony Stark is almost guaranteed to be a charmer and also a scoundrel – these are the characters he plays best, after all. But what might be most important is the fact that if I was going to make a movie where Tony Stark is a weapons dealer, as Favreau is, and I wanted to make my character morally ambiguous while still leaning towards doing good, I couldn’t think of an actor better suited to play the role.

Some people are going to get excited about the serendipity between RDJ’s own drug abuse and Tony Stark’s impending alcoholism (Favreau has gone on the record saying this won’t be a major part of the story of the first Iron Man film) – to me that’s the only down side. I don’t mind when elements of an actor’s well known persona makes it into a movie – look at Nicholson in The Departed as a perfect example of this working well – but I don’t like it when events from an actor’s life suddenly end up in a movie. While the alcoholism was there before RDJ’s drug problem, it feels so on the nose that I may lose the character.

* This news apparently comes right from Harry. I often avoid running AICN “scoops” like this simply because they have no fact-checking process. This means that people delight in sending them bullshit and getting it published. That said, Harry worked with Favreau on the currently-shelved John Carter of Mars film, and I can only hope that Harry’s source was Favreau or someone he knows to be connected to Favreau. Or that he at least dialed Favreau’s cell to check up on the story. We’ll know tomorrow – the AICN piece says it hits the trades then.

UPDATE: Harry was right on the money. What’s funny is that Variety has run the story early on their website to combat the AICN scoop.