Yesterday, Deadline ran an interview with Robert Downey Jr. about his new film, The Judge. In it, they talk about Downey’s various addictions and recoveries, citing Mel Gibson’s help when Downey couldn’t get bonded to work on a film set (basically, if you walk off enough sets or cause enough shit, the insurance every actor needs to work becomes too expensive for some studios to want to deal with anymore). In the course of the interview, Deadline’s Mike Flemming hit on the question that everyone has been freaking out about since.
DEADLINE: …Marvel badly wants Iron Man 4 and you’ve said you aren’t doing it. How about the idea you’ll do that movie if Mel directs it?
DEADLINE: Is that our headline?
DOWNEY: Why not? That movie would be bananas.
That wasn’t just Deadline’s headline, but pretty much everyone else who wanted a hit of Friday traffic too. The question is, how flippant is the answer and how seriously might Marvel/Disney consider handing the reigns of their second biggest franchise (technically their biggest overall, but, you know, The Avengers is still the #3 movie domestic, so…) to Gibson to make Downey happy.
To answer the first question, Downey’s not being flippant at all. He repaid Shane Black for the favor of Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang by getting him the Iron Man 3 directing gig. Black wasn’t quite in movie jail when he made Kiss Kiss, but his long hiatus from screenwriting after a series of record-setting paydays on films with so-so box office cooled his streak considerably. Directing a modestly budgeted neo-noir with a botched theatrical release did not exactly put Black up on top, but the film is a classic and Downey’s lead role was another career save for the actor, one he didn’t forget.
And then there’s this video from the 2011 American Cinematheque Awards, where Downey publicly begged everyone to just forgive his friend already.
So we can’t doubt Downey’s sincerity in all this. And we can’t discount Gibson as a “bananas” choice to direct Iron Man 4. The man has an Academy Award for Braveheart, but 2006’s Apocalypto is—like Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang—an under-the-radar classic with off-the-charts levels of audience intelligence. If anyone had actually gone to see it, they would have had a great time. Mel would be a great choice to direct, but…
His destructive tendencies were more public than Downey’s. Or rather, his meltdowns didn’t read as self-destructive in the way that Downey’s did (who mostly only hurt himself), and that’s all down to the horrendous shit he said about any number of minority groups. His personal demons didn’t just run rampant, they torched a synagogue. That’s a bad look for someone who used to be king shit of fuck mountain—the last of an era of real movie stars who had box office clout and the critical respect of his peers—and it’s been manifesting in the kind of roles he’s been taking for the past few years (villains).
We’re back to our initial question: does Disney ignore Gibson’s bad behavior for the sake of a billion dollars worldwide? The same company founded by a man who invited Leni Riefenstahl to tour his studio in 1938?
I think they might.