AP

Robert Downey Jr. will be back as Iron Man in "The Avengers 2" and "The Avengers 3," with Marvel making the news official Thursday through an announcement on its website.

That casting confirmation follows reports of a difficult negotiation process between Marvel and its biggest star, who helped the studio rake in billions of dollars with his portrayal of Tony Stark in "The Avengers" -- currently the third-highest grossing film of all time -- and "Iron Man 3," which just crossed the $400 million mark domestically.

Noticeably absent from Thursday's announcement was any mention of "Iron Man 4," perhaps giving credence to rumors that RDJ wants to pursue other projects in lieu of suiting up for more solo Stark films. Or maybe Marvel is just nervous about how much money it's shelling out for Downey Jr., considering the actor's huge pay day for "The Avengers."

Either way, it's good to know that at least one Avenger's face will be a familiar one when the sequel hits theaters in 2015. Fellow stars Chris Evans (Captain America), Mark Ruffalo (the Hulk), Scarlett Johansson (Black Widow), and Chris Hemsworth (Thor) have yet to secure contracts for the follow-up, though we can't imagine Marvel will want to mess too much with the success of director Joss Whedon's on-screen heroes.

"The Avengers 2" is set to start filming next March, targeting a May 1, 2015, release date.

[via Marvel h/t Screen Rant]

Joss Whedon Says No Avengers 2 Without Downey Jr.