here are ew actors as charismatic intheir sel-destructive ways as RobertDowney Jr. His trademark wound-up,dicey, real and raw personality hasmade him a most beloved Hollywoodlead man today, despite his ongoingdrug-addiction battles. Five yearsago, Downey was the go-to punch line in anylate-night joke about celebrity rehab. There wasa point when the actor couldn’t even get insuredor major lm productions. But to everyone’sgreat relie, these days he’s shaking things up onsolid ground.Currently, the clean and insured 43-year-old isstill proving his incomparable talents on moviesets as the star o this month’s
. Downeyis an unusual casting choice or Tony Stark – thebillionaire weapons magnate who becomes IronMan and stays alive with a chest plate that keepshis heart beating. Marvel launches the eaturelm with plenty o pyrotechnics to please theeye, as well as a fying metal hero that can blastany villain. The production harkens back to thedays o actors honing their crats, and studios, inthis case Marvel Productions, in charge o theirown work.“I remember the original
and Brandowas in it,” Downey says. “I thought,
wow, thesethings must be getting legit!
I was already, I guess,airly opinionated when I was seven.”Acclaimed or his work in prestige lms like
and intense character dramas like
, Downey proves that quirky, high-caliber actors make comic book lms stand out.“All my riends are doing it,” jokes Downey. “Withmy buddies, when you want to do stu, they say,‘You’re doing what, man?
?’ No one’sgiven me any gu about
.” The actor grabbed hold o his character with histypical gusto and sharpened Tony Stark with hisDowney edge. Near the end o an exhaustingday on the set o
, director Jon Favreauneeded Downey to walk through the Stark homeand check his messages. Even in a brie shot tosimply orward the plot, Downey had new lineshe wanted to try; dierent reactions to variouswell-wishers leaving voicemails. This was theway it went throughout the entire production.“I come in every day and say, ‘I’ve seen this in amovie beore. No oense, but i we do [it thisway], I haven’t seen that,’” explains Downey.“Some o my [ideas] are so ar out they go, ‘Willyou just go put on your chest piece?’ I eel theonus and the responsibility to not venture intothis genre without an understanding that justbecause it happens to have this two-dimensionalaspect to it in its origins, doesn’t mean that itdoesn’t go deep and it shouldn’t be an art orm. Ithink audiences are continually underestimated.At the same time, I can go see a pretty crappymovie and love it, i it’s got a couple o thingsthat work. I’m like a soccer coach with kids thatprobably shouldn’t be playing soccer.”Back on the set, Favreau looked tired as heentered to discuss the scene with Downey. TheStark mansion was paved with brown “marble”that squeaked as Downey walked across it. The“marble” was actually just rubber, hence thesqueaking. Later, Favreau said he appreciates the“collaboration,” as he called it.“I think there’s something incredible to bediscovered in the moment, especially whenyou have actors like Robert who understand itand have been around and see themselves asshepherds o their roles,” said Favreau. “He knowsmore about their character than the lmmakerdoes, because that’s the kind o actor I hired.” The two would oten have discussions thatcontinued late into the night, or they’d show upearly on the set and lock themselves in the trailerto talk about their ideas or the lm.“In casting Robert, you have a much dierentversion o this movie than you would i youhave somebody else younger, less unny, lessspontaneous, less charismatic,” says Favreau.“With him as Tony Stark, we knew we couldhit the humor hard. We knew we could testthe boundaries o likeability because he’sso charming that you could really get to thepersonality Tony Stark has in the books.”Some o Downey’s ideas actually requireda complete re-haul o the set. In one scene,Stark gives a press conerence to a room ull o reporters. Downey wanted the reporters to sitdown, when lights were set up or everyone atstanding height.“I’m not coming in going, ‘This is all wrong!Relight!’” explains Downey. “But I will come in andsay, ‘Given the time we have, we can probablyget this many shots.’ Jon’s been very fexible andvery un.”Changing a lm set seems like a relativelywholesome instinct or someone with moreunruly habits, such as violating probations andrequently regressing into drug addiction. Evenduring his younger, more careless days, Downeywas able to channel his wild energies into artisticpursuits.“I remember the days o
Less than Zero
where I would throw mysel into this tizzy o prep or 16 hours,” Downey recalls. “The samemakeup gal doing this did
Less Than Zero
, andshe was blowing menthol in my eyes, puttinglatex on my lips… I was doing push-ups beorethe scenes and my heart was racing orever.”Real lie or Downey has been the stu o pastHollywood movies: An emerging talent in the‘80s, quickly swept up in the ast liestyle o drugs,building credibility only to relapse several times.Back in 2003, he actually thought he’d given hislast interview on rehab. His team o publicistssaid that rom then on, he could just claim he’s“already covered it.” Five years later, now actingthe part o a comic book character who hasturned to the bottle, he taunts me when I try tosugarcoat the question he’s learned to expect.
I’m like a soccer coach withkids that probably shouldn’t beplaying soccer.
2008 Preview Issue