Robert Downey, Jr. is one of those interview subjects whose essence is somewhat lost in transcription. His diction is as nuanced as a performance, and he conveys meaning though gesture, expression and intonation…you know, the way a really good actor might.
It’s easy to see that he really got inside Tony Stark to make Iron Man, but it’s just as obvious that he’s now sitting back and waiting for everyone else to do their work before getting too excited. Right now it’s just a job, albeit a job that promises the sort of stardom and consistent employment that hasn’t always been within his grasp.
What follows is a roundtable interview, as evidenced by the opening question.
Is Tony Stark the Man of Steel?
betcha he’s not! Trick question – I’m ready.
How were you approached for the
I went to
Arad’s offices in Beverly Hills, a little intimidating. You see all the posters
and you go “Oh wow! I wonder if I could get a job with these guys.” I was
literally walking in for a general meeting. I walk in and there’s Jon and they
basically interviewed me for a while and I thought I did okay and I left.
get a call and Jon’s like, “I think you’d be great. I mean the board members
and stuff back in New York won’t do it…”
Anyway, I said, “Nah I really think it is meant to be,” and Avi walked me out
and said, “I really liked you.” Then a couple months later I screen tested and
did well and here we are. Kind of like Chaplin, same deal, different
Now that you are here at Comic Con
has it dawned on you just how big the expectation for this film is?
I have a
pretty good aesthetic distance from that. I guess I am seasoned enough to have
my work life and my own inner life and I try not to get them too mixed up. I am
very exacting and I work really hard and I guess I got through by trial and
error, or by default, smart enough or intuitive enough about what works to do
fairly well regardless. Being here and seeing the reaction of those thousands
of people to that glimpse we showed… We shot and meant every second of it and
on the day we said, “Alright we got that piece,” but you never know how it is
going to translate into a whole film.
the trailer is the film. If you don’t have a good trailer you have a shit film.
If you have a great trailer you might
have a good film. I’ll take any payoff I can get and nowadays it is so few and
far between and it seems like the machine moves so fast.
about including dialogue] “Well why are we here Bob? I don’t even know if all
this talking makes a difference, but the studio thinks so.” It’s like saying I
don’t know if all this research makes a difference, but that’s the science of
life and medicine and that’s the whole deal when you go out and do this. It’s
just really nice, I have been at too many [roundtable interviews] where you go
off topic even of the movie, just because you know they’re all going to kill
it. “Yeah you and your buddy I’m gonna say you were good, he sucked this, this,
this and the director is lame!”
You’ve had such a renaissance with
your career, did you imagine when you went through those difficult periods that
you would come back so big with films like Good Night, and Good Luck, Kiss Kiss,
Bang Bang and now this…
say the bigger the set back the bigger the comeback, right? I wouldn’t necessarily
recommend that people take that to heart. It’s kind of one of those gnostic
journeys. I don’t want to be a Joseph Campbell chapter, but most everyone’s
life is one mythology or another and I guess that’s why it’s there, to let you
know those stories mean something.
[Stark], I took some hits mostly in my own making, but everyone transforms,
some of it is just a function of age. I’m not in my twenties. I’m not in my
thirties. I’m 42 and we wrapped this and I am on to the next thing. I’m in
great shape and I have tons of energy and I just have more gratitude than I can
even bear to express. You could say that’s because I have something to weigh it
against or you could say it’s because I am a grateful guy nowadays, but when
people ask me, “What made you want to do this?” I say to them, “What would make
you are going to be in your mid-forties by the time you maybe do the second
installment and then in getting up to that age where 30 years ago – I always
think, “Was that Cary Grant when he was like 50, 60 or 70?” Then it starts to
get a little creepy and nowadays it is so easy to be creepy.
What about this film made it easy
for you to invest yourself and feel comfortable and really be connected to the
Well they were smart; I mean Avi and all the Marvel guys, to get Jon [Favreau]
because Jon is a talent magnet of a certain kind. Then once I was in with him
and Terrence [Howard] was cast, and he was in well before I was being
considered, and then he was on my side and then we said we needed the greatest
Pepper Potts we could think of. Suddenly I am on the phone and Chris Martin is
answering saying, “Yeah?” I’m like, “Hey, it’s Robert Downey, is Gwyneth there?”
really, it’s Robert Downey Jr. really…”
“Robert Downey fucking Jr. is on the phone.”
we really, really, really went after Jeff Bridges hard because he was
definitely reticent, and he is, he’s a very, very picky guy. He’s the Dude.
turning this thing to where if you get all these folks together you can’t just
call everyone in and show them a bunk time and some crap script and say, “Stand
over there and scream and throw your arms around, we’ll fix it later.” They’d be
like, “Character… I’d like to have a character too.”
we’re on it!”
Will you keep Iron Man’s alcoholism?
don’t even know if I’ll be on the Marvel jet for part two. Truth be told, I had
a lot of creative input and often days we’d come in and we thought the scene
would be one way and I would say, “Boy I’ve seen that in [this other movie]…” –
I went in basically every day, even when we had a good script I would go in and
take the pages and I threw them on the ground [laughs] and Jon would be like,
be like [he starts pounding the table], he would say, “Calm down, have a piece
of Nicorette.” I stopped smoking; he was on a diet…
told, that tension between us really raised the bar a lot. But as far as that Demon In A Bottle story and all of that…
I don’t know if it’s gonna be a bottle or if it’s his downfall… I really loved
when he just got shot by one of the girls, to me that would be a great opener
for a movie. Wouldn’t it?
Howard walks over and sits right next to Robert.
you be making Weird Science 2?
(TH) Oh, Weird Science 2!
Believe me, before this came along it was on my mind. Now, I would never debase myself with something like that!
sitting at a panel with 7000 people cheering you and this movie, do you wonder “where
the hell were all of you when Kiss Kiss Bang Bang was out?”
am I deeply in the past and regretting it and feeling more resentment than I
can imagine? Probably! [cackling as he gets up…]