Robert Downey, Jr. Quotes on 10 (Mostly Terrible) Movies He Made Before Iron Man Made Him the Most Successful Actor on the Planet
Iron Man 3 opened with the second highest opening weekend of all time this weekend with a whopping $175.3 (behind only The Avengers $207 million). That’s also nearly $50 million more than the $128 million that Iron Man 2 opened with. Even more impressively, the movie added another $175 million in its second weekend overseas, bringing its international total to $500 million after 10 days. It is poised, perhaps, to make even more than The Avengers $888 million overseas.
At this point, Robert Downey, Jr. is probably the most popular actor in the world. It’s a great story, all the more so considering how he got here: A long career where his work was never recognized for how great it often was, a series of visits to rehab and relapses, and of course, a stay in prison.
So, instead of fawning over the box office numbers of Iron Man 3 (which was a seriously good comic-book movie), I spent the last couple of hours poring over old interviews with Robert Downey, Jr., mostly from the late 1990s. Most of those interviews seemed to take place in between relapses, where his sobriety (and his old girlfriend, Sarah Jessica Parker) was a big topic of conversation, although in a few instances, you could sense he was high while he was talking about sobriety.
Anyway, I wanted to pull quotes from these interviews about his thoughts and experiences on other movies, the movies that came before Iron Man, the movies he had to make before he was the most successful movie star on the planet, and the movies in between relapses. As demonstrated in a recent piece we put together — The Charming Arrogance of Robert Downey, Jr. Reduced To His 10 Best Quotes — Downey, Jr. is ridiculously quotable, and an insanely good interview.
It really wasn’t all that different. I’ve always just shown up and tried to figure out what’s for lunch and am I going to get to play some racquetball that night. It’s become so [much] my job and part of just what I do daily, but it’s a different genre, I guess. Maybe one where I can actually be in a movie that doesn’t make 40 cents over the weekend.
On U.S. Marshalls:
I thought maybe there was something I was missing, and what I really needed to do was to be in one of those films that I love taking my kid to. It would end up being really depressing. I’d rather wake up in jail for a TB test than have to wake up another morning knowing I’m going to the set of US Marshals. Possibly the worst action movie of all time, and that’s just not good for the maintenance of a good spiritual condition. You’ve had a traumatic year, you’ve been practically suicidal - what do you think would be really healing for you? How about like twelve weeks of running around as Johnny Handgun? I think that if you talk to a spirit guide, they would say, ‘That’ll kill you.’
On looking ahead at his career after The Singing Detective:
“Shit, I don’t know you know? I’ve always been a fella who put most of my eggs in one basket and then take a dump in the basket but I really don’t know … I think I’ve been lucky, being my frequent appearances on Court TV have brought to me another level than just the actor guy. There’s no pedestal thing happening. I’m very tangible to people because my fallibility is my forte.”
On Tuff Turf:
“I was on the Universal lot. I went to Los Angeles and it was like all my dreams came true. And there were no repercussions. It was the Eighties. And I fit in real well. I’m like the last guy at the party. It’s passe to be involved in the shit I was involved in last year. But I never stopped working. I was making tons of money. I was set up in a relationship with Sarah Jessica Parker, and it just seemed like I could do no wrong. It was never easy, partying the way that I did, which was as often as I could. But it was doable. And as long as it was doable, I wasn’t going to stop.”
On landing the role of a man with AIDS in Mike Figgis’ One Night Stand:
“Mike was so loving to me, because I was out of my mind when I met him … We were at Kate Mantilini’s restaurant in Los Angeles. I was shoeless. Is there a statute of limitations for a concealed weapon? … Okay. I had a concealed weapon. At the bar. He was looking at me and I’ll never forget the look on his face. I was thinking, What? Is he aware of what’s going on? He asked me, “Why do you have a gun?” It was, like, sticking out of this little purse. I mean I was completely in a fantasy. I wasn’t a badass. I thought I was meeting with Figgis for the handsome male lead, because I was so debonair. In fact, he was interested in me for the role of the guy dying of AIDS. He gave me the job.”
On whether he should’ve won the Oscar for Chaplin:
“Hell, yes … Finest performance given by an actor in the 20th century … I thought for a second I was going to win. Marisa Tomei had won, and I thought, It’s the young people here. I’m sitting there, convinced this could be it. The voice-over in my head was just ridiculous. It’s all going my way. Not much longer now. Why is it the last category? Because it’s the category. Richard Tyler designed this suit for me. I’m going to go up and show it off. I kind of look like Daniel Day-Lewis. He won. Last time. It’s all coming together. It’s all— it’s— well, some people think it’s not your turn. Well, he did get dicked twice before, and Pacino is major. But he can’t. It’s me. But that— no, he can’t— it’s me. It’s not— it’s— oh … Then it’s, “Hey, Robert, you want to go to the after-party?” Oh, yeah. Good. That was just fucked.
On landing his role in Weird Science:
I walked into John Hughes’ office and Anthony Michael Hall was there playing with John’s stereo system … It was like running into Spencer Tracy or something. It was like seeing a movie star. [Anthony] Michael [Hall] came in and watched us read, and he kind of looked at me, like, I’m going to tell John to get you this job. I remember that Sarah [Jessica Parker] was in the car outside waiting for me, and I said, “I think I got this job.”
… Oh yeah. During that time, [Anthony] Michael was probably the most amazing pussy wizard in history. And if you were anywhere near him, you were having fun. He’s 17 years old, and there are gorgeous girls everywhere.
On Air America:
I did Air America for two reasons: to be in a movie with Mel Gibson, and to make a bunch of money. And then underneath was the hope that in doing this formulaic thing I would be launched into a whole new realm of opportunity to do A-list movies. By the time we were done, the only positive thing was meeting Mel Gibson. It was complicated. A lot went down. Good intentions, sad result.
On interviewing Mike Tyson for the improvised movie Black and White:
Well yeah, the director James Toback was like “Just go tell him…” And I was like, “What? Just go tell him that I had a super-gay dream about him, and I was wondering if he’d hold me?” [Laughs.] And Mike was like off in the corner deciding what Versace shirt to wear for the scene. He’s like [adopts Tyson voice] “Yeah, we’re going to improvise. Yeah, just don’t have him saying any weirdo gay stuff.” And when I said it, he was like “You can’t talk to me like that, man, I’m on parole man, I’m on parole.” And I said, “Will you hold me?” He said, “If I hit you, I’ll pull my punch.” But Mike Tyson pulling his punch is like a donkey trying, I don’t know, to bite an apple out of your mouth or something.
On Kiss Kiss Bang Bang:
Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang is one of my favorites, if not my favorite movie that I have ever done … Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang is a fucking Maserati engine of a plot. It’s Shane Black, it’s Joel Silver, it’s Mrs. Downey [Downey’s wife, Susan Levin] producing, and me and Val Kilmer just going toe-to-toe in great shape. Shane Black, who I’ve adored ever since he wrote the definitive buddy picture of all time, Lethal Weapon. So yeah, I mean, that one to me was alive and innovative and the other was something else.