Robert Downey Jr to reprise Iron Man in Avengers sequels

Gwyneth Paltrow and Robert Downey Jr in Iron Man 3 Robert Downey Jr has proved to be box office gold in his role as Iron Man/Tony Stark

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Robert Downey Jr will reprise his role as Iron Man in two forthcoming Avengers sequels, it has been announced.

Downey Jr, who first played the comic book role in 2008, is currently the toast of the box office having starred in two of the top five earning films of all time in the past 12 months.

Iron Man 3 and Avengers Assemble have collectively earned over $2.7 billion (£1.7bn) worldwide to date.

The Avengers 2 will open in May 2015, with Joss Whedon returning as director.

Downey, 48, was one of the main stars of 2012's Avengers Assemble, which united superhero characters Iron Man, The Hulk, Captain America, Thor and the Black Widow, as played by Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth and Scarlett Johansson respectively.

All four of the stars are expected to join Downey Jr in the forthcoming films.

A statement on the Marvel website said Avengers 2 will feature "favourites from the first Avengers film and new Marvel characters never before seen on the big screen."

Iron Man 3 - the third instalment in the franchise centred on billionaire crime-fighter Tony Stark - was released in the UK last month. It has become the highest-grossing film of the year, with $1.2 billion (£775m) in global ticket sales.

Downey Jr has had a long and colourful career, beginning with early Oscar-nominated success in Chaplin in 1992 and critical acclaim in TV hit Ally McBeal.

A stint in prison during years of drug abuse curtailed his career before a remarkable comeback in box office hits such as Iron Man, Sherlock Holmes and cult hit Tropic Thunder, which won him his second Oscar nomination in 2009.

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