Tony Stark, Meet the Real-Life 'Iron Man'

<b class="credit">Paramount, Getty Images</b>
Paramount, Getty Images

"Iron Man 3" is in theaters now, and all eyes are on Robert Downey Jr. in the lead role of billionaire industrialist Tony Stark, aka Iron Man.

This is his fourth go at the character, and I expect him to be every bit as good this time as he was in 2008's "Iron Man," 2010's "Iron Man 2," and last year's record-breaker, "Marvel's The Avengers." At the very least, history and tracking data say "Iron Man 3" has a shot to be the year's first billion-dollar film.

Meet Your Stalker, Mr. Stark

I say that not just as a Walt Disney (DIS) shareholder who has enjoyed watching Downey's performances rack up as much as $1.5 billion in global box office receipts. I've also been a fan of the the various comic book adventures of the "Invincible Iron Man" since the late 1970s.

Call it hubris, if you like, but I think those three decades of playing witness to the fictional man behind the fantastic armor qualifies me as much as anyone to judge whether there's a modern-day Tony Stark toiling among us in industry somewhere.

My pick goes to entrepreneur Elon Musk. Here are a few of the uncanny resemblances.

1. A ridiculous aptitude for innovation. Stark invents not the only signature chest plate that keeps him alive, but also the repulsor rays that fire from Iron Man's gloves and the boot jets that take his armor to supersonic speed and suborbital heights. Musk's track record, too, is enviable. He helped usher in the electric sportscar at Tesla Motors (TSLA) and affordable solar power via newly public Solar City. Oh, and don't forget his plan to turn humanity into a multi-planetary species.

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2. Wealth. According to Forbes, Musk's $2.7 billion fortune places him 190th on its list of the 400 richest people in America. He's also owner of a swank Bel Air compound that rivals Stark's on-screen villa from "Iron Man 3." The really good news for Musk? Ben Kingsley, who plays Iron Man nemesis The Mandarin, doesn't seem interested in destroying his home with rocket fire.

3. Woman troubles. Pepper Potts, Bethany Cabe, Whitney Frost, even Avenger Natasha Romanov -- also known as "Black Widow" and played by Scarlett Johansson in "Iron Man 2" and "The Avengers -- all tangle with Stark at various points, often to his detriment. (Frost, in particular, is a menace as the villainous Madame Masque.) Musk's love life isn't so dramatic as to include dalliances with a super villain, but his high-profile separation from British actress Talulah Riley made headlines. He also has five sons from his first marriage to author Justine Musk, who calls herself the entrepreneur's "starter wife."

4. He's already a part of Stark's world. Musk offers a surprising bit of comic relief in "Iron Man 2" when he and Stark exchange pleasantries while attending Monaco's Grand Prix, and just a few on-screen moments before one of the film's seminal action sequences. His line? "Got an idea for an electric jet." Stark's reply: "You do? Then we'll make it work." If only it were so.

Motley Fool contributor Tim Beyers owned shares of Walt Disney at the time of publication. The Motley Fool recommends Tesla Motors and Walt Disney. The Motley Fool owns shares of Tesla Motors and Walt Disney.