Jon Favreau should get a medal for casting Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark. The guy just inhabits the role utterly. Downey's Stark has a dramatic awakening that changes the purpose of his life. In a lesser actor's hands, this could have been cheese whiz covered with Velveeta. But Downey nails it, he strikes the perfect tone between the serious and comic elements of the film. It is inspired casting that leads to greatness. Iron Man is a funny, ass-kicking action film with a dark premise plucked straight from today's headlines. It's a winner that sets the bar high for the forthcoming comic book adaptations.
Robert was a riot in the interview. He laid it all on the table and was remarkably honest; especially about his casting and the way 'serious' actors view their careers. He was also quite candid about the marketing driving the behemoth Marvel merchandising campaign. I just love it when a star deals straight. Check out below for Downey uncensored.
Some people thought you were off-beat, ultra-ballsy casting for this role? Do you agree with that?
Robert Downey Jr: Yeah
Alright, so did you wonder why they came to you?
Robert Downey Jr: No, they didn't come to me with it. I went to Jon [Favreau, director]. I was like, "I'm the guy for this." He's like, "I know but it ain't going to happen." I think it is. He's like, "I can tell you it's not." I was thinking about Plainview in There Will Be Blood. It comes to the showdown! Well, then give me the showdown, because that's what I do. I've been doing it for so long. I'm not some kid, or some other guy who's been around, or some three hit wonder. Let's see who throws the ball faster motherfucker. I'm warmed up dude, let's do it.
So what was the point when it happened for you?
Robert Downey Jr: The screen test. I think I got the part pretty much five seconds after the screen test started. But that's life, you know? I show up, isn't it beneath you, humiliating? I was like, "No." I guess I could go that way, but I'm the guy on my side here. I'm not going to say, "Give me a shot." Then say I'm not going to screen test. I see that happen. I see so many people screw up their lives and their careers by not doing things that they feel, or they believe, are beneath them to do. You start taking yourself quite seriously and think that you have to be really picky; because you are really, really special (sarcasm).
Have you seen the finished movie?
Robert Downey Jr: Yes
Have your kids seen it?
Robert Downey Jr: Wednesday in LA at the Mann's Chinese will be their first time. My folks have seen it, the done and polished version, which is much different than the last one we saw.
Is that the reason you chose this film, for the kids?
Robert Downey Jr: Probably, when the merchandise started coming out. I asked for all of it. They're like, "Robert that would be like a truck." (pauses) MAY I HAVE..." No problem. There's all this cool stuff, the Nerf thing, sippy cups, slurpies, the whole deal. There's this little book, probably costs .5 cents to make. It's a little flip book and the end of the flip book, it says "Iron Man defeated the evil Obadiah Stane. He would never hurt anybody again." Then I looked at the front and its ages 4 plus. It's pretty wild and cool to think that I would be directly involved with something that can affect this wide an audience.
When we interviewed you for "Fur", you were talking about the physical preparation. Watching the film, your character has a very serious dramatic awakening. What was more difficult, the physical or the dramatic playing of Tony Stark?
Robert Downey Jr: I tend to approach things like it's a race. I have to be in good enough shape to make it to the end of the movie, and feel as good as I did before I started. I think we all know how work and the times nowadays tend to grab your kidneys and squeeze all the Chi out of them. Its very result oriented. But all we have is the process of our days while we're fulfilling the needs largely of others. I'm always trying to prioritize where I'm at right now. I am my own pit crew. And then I have people who are also in there trying to help me. Then the job and the car drives itself.
Robert Downey Jr: The car that's driving itself is this hungry question-asking machine. Why do we have to do it like this? Do I have to question that we have to do it like this right now? To me it's a long game, just stay in the right headspace to prioritize things. A lot of it just has to do with maintenance. I don't worry whether I can throw the ball fast anymore. I pretty much throw heat consistently. It's not my life, it's my job.
Did it help that you like to improv as much as Jon likes to improv?
Robert Downey Jr: That was the thing too. I learned these three scenes. I learned them so well, that if you woke me up in the middle of the night, I could recite them to you. Then I wrote this crazy treasure map of all the improvs or ideas that I could say beside what was written. This is why I wound up being hell for the writers later on. I'd come in and throw the script down, "I got an idea!" I dare anybody to try to prepare as hard as I do when I'm in that mode. When I was doing "Chaplain", I was absolutely out of my mind in this relentless pursuit of erection. I just couldn't delve enough deep into it, but this was easier. This was three scenes.
Some of best scenes in the film are between you and Gwyneth Paltrow. Why does Pepper stick with Tony Stark? What is it about her character that makes him so loyal to her?
Robert Downey Jr: You get in these positions and you have people, an assistant. The truth is I could probably do everything, but I'd just go mad. But then you actually ask somebody to try to be a satellite moon to your energy-sucking planet. Then you realize that the moon is controlling the tides. Then you pretty much realize without the moon, you'll be pretty soon into extinction; which also isn't totally true because everyone can take care of themselves. But I think speaking in the mythology of this story, we couldn't have it just be, "Yes Mr. Stark." It ain't those Bond girls. It's not that garbage.
Robert Downey Jr: That's me, sorry. She's kind of like his conscience in a way.
(phone continues beeping)
Is that Jarvis?
Robert Downey Jr: No, Jarvis is like a lower companion.
No, is your phone Jarvis right now?
Robert Downey Jr: (laughs) Turn this garbage off. It's probably someone telling me I could have a better erection. That's the crazy thing, you'll be digging through your bag and it's Cialis on sale. What the fuck happened to my life? I'm going to see exactly who it is, see if I'm wrong.
Robert Downey Jr: Let's see if I'm wrong. Here it is..."uncut flix shot from a sex scene." Man, they're poisoning my mind!
Robert Downey Jr: Say a command - sex, dick! What's wrong with this country?
Iron Man kills in this movie, which superheroes don't normally do. Is that something you discussed? Were you concerned it would be too hard edged?
Robert Downey Jr: I thought we needed to go further. You've built something that kills. This is the whole point of this machine. We could go further and say the whole point of the movie is this really, gung-ho, right wing, crazy thing: I don't believe in the way America's doing it. They're corrupt. I'll go kill a bunch of motherfuckers! So you really have to parlay that back into what is the mythology of the story. I'll speak for myself, Gen-X types, how can our kids relate to that? How can our parents understand that? And how can you make it fun for the whole family.
But a lot cool stuff gets blown up. Do you think anyone will notice the morality?
Robert Downey Jr: It's not the eighties anymore. Audiences are too savvy.
Do you think audiences will be savvy enough to accept you playing a black guy in "Tropic Thunder"?
Robert Downey Jr: Are you sure you don't want me to cross promote the Hulk right now? That's what I've been controlled and told to do. I can't believe none of you have brought it up. (screams) Hulk! 7-11! Audi! Burger King!
But you had to know there would be a lot of cross promotion and marketing when you signed up?
Robert Downey Jr: I don't know. It's 2008. It seems like they slip this stuff right under you. What's this? It's a Bulgari! Getting back to my point, I approach things like an athlete. I'm a race car driver and they're slapping stuff on my hood. All I can do is accept the facts and boundaries of what I'm doing. All I can do is to drive fast and try to win. That's the part I do well.
If there's another story, what do you do with this character? This is an origin story that sets the stage for sequels.
Robert Downey Jr: If you ask me, the next one is about what do you do with the rest of your life now that you're completely changed. You have created this thing that has the power to take life. Essentially you have been made into a god. A human being, metaphorically, who's been made into a God, is not going to turn out so well. I think he should do something, release the demon out of the bottle. I think the drinking will be a way to confront his age, his doubts, to confront the fact that Pepper maybe gets a boyfriend.
Robert Downey Jr: He's like, "I'm so happy for you." (pretends to drink) Then he shows up in the Iron Man suit going, "What's he got that I don't." I tend to think like Shane Black in these situations, the stuff that really speaks to the truth of what happens between people. We would go to Shane Black, Jon and I every once in a while. It would be like going to Yoda. We'd bring him some salmon and he'd want blueberries. He'd never take a penny. Then he'd say something like the idea that your brain has created something so destructive, like the Manhattan project myth, we have become the destroyer of worlds. But he [Tony Stark] is not the destroyer of world. People ask me, "What makes you think you could get it up for another one?" Are you kidding me? We're just getting started here.
Any chance we'll see Iron Man in an Avengers movie?
Robert Downey Jr: Hulk! 7-11! Avengers! Audi! Bulgari! I guess so. I'm sorry when I do that. The poor fucker's like, "It's a question on a thing, don't attack me!"
Now I can tell my wife Robert Downey Jr. called me a poor fucker.
Robert Downey Jr: That's between you and your wife. Cialis!
Iron Man was released May 2nd, 2008 and stars Robert Downey Jr., Terrence Howard, Jeff Bridges, Gwyneth Paltrow, Leslie Bibb, Shaun Toub, Faran Tahir, Clark Gregg. The film is directed by Jon Favreau.