Robert Downey Jr. to star in "Iron Man"

Robert Downey Jr. will star as the latest Marvel Comics superhero to hit the big screen.

Downey will play the title character in "Iron Man," a film directed by Jon Favreau. Filming is scheduled to begin in February, with the movie due in U.S. theaters May 2008.

It will be the first feature film produced independently by Marvel Entertainment.

"(Downey's) versatility sets him apart and makes him an ideal fit to play such a complex character as Iron Man," said Kevin Feige, president of production for Marvel Studios, reports AP.

"Iron Man" is the story of billionaire industrialist and inventor Tony Stark, who is kidnapped and forced to build a devastating weapon. Instead, he builds a high-tech suit of armor and escapes, vowing to protect the world as a superhero.

Downey most recently starred in Richard Linklater's adaptation of Philip K. Dick's "A Scanner Darkly," and can be seen in "A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints," currently showing in the United States.

"Iron Man" will be distributed by Paramount Pictures.

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