With ‘Iron Man 3’ opening in American theaters this weekend, there’s much speculation about whether or not the actor who brought Tony Stark to life will be around past his fourth film as the character. There have been rumors circulating that both Robert Downey Jr. and Gwyneth Paltrow would be wrapping up their obligations to Marvel with this third ‘Iron Man’ film, but according to the grand master of Marvel movies, that may not be the case, at the very least for one more movie.

In an interview with Desde Hollywood where he was asked about a potential replacement when the time comes, ‘The Avengers 2’ director Joss Whedon says that RDJ is still his Iron Man in the follow-up to his 2012 blockbuster film coming in 2015:

“I am not the guy who has to worry about him being replaced. He is Iron Man at this point. When I heard that he was cast I knew that something had just changed, and I usually don’t know stuff like that.”

He goes on to say that if Downey decided that he was tagging out, then ‘Iron Man 3’ would be a good place to leave it and I couldn’t agree more. I could definitely expand on that, but I’ll save my opinions on that for my review, which should be coming around soon.

After addressing the Armored Avenger, he goes on to talk about a certain big, bad, purple guy who is rumored to be plaguing Earth’s Mightiest Heroes later on in Phase Two. While Thanos creator Jim Starlin cleared the air by saying that he didn’t know for sure that his Mad Titan would be appearing in the latest phase of Marvel Studios’ movies, Whedon explains that he has some humungous plans for the character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe:

“Well, Thanos is more powerful. He is so powerful; he is not someone you can just trot out and punch him. Like he did in the comics, you want him threading through the universe and to save the big finale for the big finale. He is definitely a part of what I have got going on. The thing about The Avengers is that they are very powerful but not very stable. So, there will definitely be some people that will shake them up in the next installment.”

Could this mean that Thanos might be sticking around for Phase Three? If he’s so powerful that his story would be threaded throughout a few films, is it possible that he pops up in ‘The Avengers 3’ as well? That’s quite a way away, so for now, it’s safe to assume that the character could possibly make an appearance in ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ and ‘The Avengers 2’. Beyond that, we’ll just have to wait and see.

What do you think Joss Whedon has in store for Thanos as he faces the Avengers? Are you excited that Robert Downey Jr. is currently in line to return for ‘The Avengers 2’? Let us know what you think in the comments below.