We're a little more than two weeks away from the world premiere of Marvel's "The Avengers" on April 11th, which can only mean one thing for the comic company and fledgling movie studio: the start of phase two of their plans. Everything so far, from 2008's "Iron Man" to last year's "Captain America: The First Avenger" has been moving towards their ambitious, Joss Whedon-helmed team-up movie, but with that film almost in theaters, their further plans remain mostly under wraps.
There are rumors of course -- Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish's long-gestating "Ant-Man," for instance, and a possible "Doctor Strange" that's had writers hired, although no director hired as yet. And we're certain to see sequels to some of the "Avengers" movies too, with "Iron Man 3" and "Thor 2" already slated for 2013 releases. But will some of Tony Stark and the God of Thunder's support staff get their own movies? There have been whispers of a Nick Fury movie starring Samuel L Jackson, of a Hawkeye picture starring Jeremy Renner, and of one focusing on Black Widow, the iron-thighed secret agent played by Scarlett Johansson in that film. But it seems that the latter, at least, is a while off yet, as it appears that Johansson's going to playing the Marvel character in another of their gestating pictures first.
A casting call for "Iron Man 3," which will get underway this summer, written by fast-rising screenwriter Drew Pearce and directed by "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" helmer Shane Black, has been obtained via Feature Film Casting (via Latino Review), and it reveals that Johansson will be back on duty as the flexible Natasha Romanoff in the new film. The character debuted in the last picture, "Iron Man 2," as Tony Stark's personal assistant, who turned out to be an undercover SHIELD agent, but many had assumed that, having helped set up "The Avengers," she'd next appear in her own film. But with Marvel's constrictive, multi-film contracts essentially allowing them to put their actors in any of their own movies, clearly they've written a part in for her, although we suspect it'll be relatively small in nature (though could be wrong).
Also returning for the third entry, less surprisingly, are Gwyneth Paltrow, as Stark's love interest/right hand woman Pepper Potts, and Don Cheadle, in his second turn as best friend, and fellow-suit-wearer Lt. Col Jim Rhodes, thereby preventing the character from becoming the superpowered equivalent of Bobby Draper in "Mad Men" (Terrence Howard played the part in the first "Iron Man," but fell out with Marvel and wasn't asked to return). And of course, Robert Downey Jr, in his fifth appearance as Tony Stark (if you include his brief cameo in "The Incredible Hulk"). Less certain to return this time, or at least not yet confirmed: Jon Favreau, who played bodyguard Happy Hogan as well as directing the first two movies (Favreau also has beef with Marvel, according to many reports from the second film), or Sam Rockwell, who played villain Justin Hammer.
We still don't know any new casting on the project, or indeed who Iron Man will be facing off against this time (although recent rumors suggested that nanobots would be a key part of the plot), but even so, "Iron Man 3" is moving full steam ahead to shoot in North Carolina starting May 21st, and will hit theaters on May 3rd, 2013.