According to Vulture, “insiders” are saying that Jon Favreau has told Marvel Studios that he will not be directing Iron Man 3. At this point, neither Favreau nor Marvel has confirmed the story, so it still exists technically as a rumor. Nevertheless, Vulture reports that Marvel has already begun the process of finding a new director to replace him, and they’re usually pretty accurate about these things.

As to the reasons why, there are many theories—not least of which is the fact that Favreau is much more in-demand these days, and his standard paycheck is such that both Marvel and Disney preemptively balked at meeting what would surely be a significant raise. Interestingly, there’s even one hypothesis that has the studio deliberately trying to sell Favreau on a “confusing and packed” version of what Iron Man 3 would be so as to spur Favreau to give up first. If that’s true, it definitely seemed to be working: Favreau told MTV News recently that he was very unclear on what form the film would take, saying, “In theory, Iron Man 3 is going to be a sequel or continuation of Thor, Hulk, Captain America and Avengers. This whole world … I have no idea what it is. I don’t think they do either, from conversations I’ve had with those guys.”

So if not quibbles over money, that confusion and frustration with Disney and Marvel trying to turn his particular Iron Man world into just another episodic adventure—one populated by characters he’d had no part in shaping—may have led Favreau to just declare “creative differences” and walk away. And while it seems as though the studios are confident they can move on without him, and are still pushing ahead with the plan to have Iron Man 3 in theaters by May 3, 2013, what’s not clear at this point is whether star Robert Downey Jr.—who has final say on director in his Iron Man contract—will cooperate or join Favreau in exiting out of loyalty, or even fear that Favreau’s style is crucial to Iron Man’s success. Anyway, you can probably expect to hear more about this soon.

UPDATED: Deadline's Nikki Finke just posted a bitchy little confirmation that Favreau has indeed exited the project, saying, "The website Vulture got there first but isn't very reliable so I waited to confirm and elaborate." Diplomatic!