Iron Man 3 concept art shows Tony Stark in action (Ryan Meinerding, Marvel)

The filming of Iron Man 3 has been halted after Robert Downey Jr injured his ankle on set.

The actor, returning for his third film as billionaire Tony Stark's alter ego, was hurt during a stunt, causing Marvel Studios to halt production to give him time to recover.

"There will be a short delay in the production schedule while he recuperates," said a film spokesman.

The studio said that the filming schedule would not be seriously effected, with Iron Man 3 on course for a May 2013 release date.

The third Iron Man film will be the most eagerly anticipated of a number of spin-off sequels following the huge success of Joss Whedon's Avengers Assemble.

Whedon has confirmed that he will return as director and writer for a sequel.

The third Iron Man film will see Gwyneth Paltrow return as Stark's love interest and assistant, Pepper Potts, while Ben Kingsley will take on the role of the iconic Iron Man villain The Mandarin, who channels his super-powers through magic rings.

The film will be directed and written by cult scribe Shane Black, who brought out some of Downey Jr's best in underrated noir action comedy Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.

Taking on the role of Tony Stark is one of, if not the, best decision of his career. He is perfectly cast as the arrogant, witty Stark, so much so that his public appearances can blur the line between character and actor.

See footage below of his most recent appearance at Comic-Con for proof: