- Simon Garner
Actor of the Week: Robert Downey Jr.
This week, our Actor of the Week winner is a seasoned name in Hollywood, with a career spanning four decades; the supreme Robert Downey Jr. From Sherlock Holmes to an Australian actor playing an African-American soldier(!), Downey Jr. has one hell of a catalogue of roles under his belt.
Having writer and director Robert Downey Sr. as a father, Downey Jr.’s career began at the very early age of five, when he starred in 1970’s Pound, which was written and directed by his father. From here, he kicked on with roles in a variety of films, such as Tuff Turf and Weird Science, as well as the TV series Mussolini: The Untold Story.
You can already see, just by the three projects mentioned, that Downey Jr.’s diversity was plain to see early on in his career. He has, however, not had it easy. Whilst his father helped introduce him to the world of acting, he also helped introduce him to the world of drugs, himself suffering with addiction, and Downey Jr. would go on to have his fair share of problems with abuse and addiction. He did, however, fight and emerge from this, seeing a shift in focus and a career revitalisation in the early 2000’s.
The first thing I really paid attention to Downey Jr. in, as I imagine is the case with very many people, was in Iron Man, where he played Tony Stark/Iron Man. A role he has gone on to completely typify, it is difficult to imagine anyone else ever portraying Stark, much in a similar vein to last week’s Actor of the Week Hugh Jackman. By now, we all know the story of Iron Man - billionaire Tony Stark is held captive in a cave in Afghanistan, and, along with his new found friend Yinsen, creates a weaponized suit of armour to break free. He then perfects the concept and becomes the superhero we all know and love. What Downey Jr. brings to this role in abundance is the sheer arrogance, sarcasm and humour that is synonymous with the character. In many ways, you could say Downey Jr. is just playing himself, such is the sincerity in the performance. Downey Jr. went on to portray Stark in multiple Marvel films after Iron Man, in both his two standalone sequels, Avengers films, and appearances in other heroes’ films. As he went on to play Stark more, he brought more to the role, such as a bigger emotional presence, and this is very evident in the Captain America: Civil War film (SPOILER), where Stark finds out the truth about his parents’ death.
Another film that I was fond of Downey Jr. in was Zodiac. Zodiac tells the story of the Zodiac killer, who was at large in the late 60’s to early 70’s, and would risk a lot by teasing the police with clues, such as bloody clothing and encryptions sent to the press. In this film, we see Downey Jr. work really well alongside Jake Gyllenhaal, as their characters, Paul Avery and Robert Graysmith respectively, collaborate to solve the ciphers and hunt the Zodiac killer. Zodiac also saw Downey Jr. star alongside his future Avenger team-mate Mark Ruffalo. As a lover of crime and mystery drama, this is a real recommendation of mine.
At this point, it feels right to bring in my favourite role of Robert Downey Jr.’s; as Kirk Lazarus in Tropic Thunder. Tropic Thunder is, in my mind, one of the most well crafted comedic movies of all time. Absolutely laden with absurdity, Tropic Thunder is also tremendously clever, and Downey Jr. is largely to thank for that. His portrayal of Kirk Lazarus is genius, as it sees him play a white Australian actor, and five-time Oscar winner, playing an African-American soldier in a multi-million budget action movie. If you haven’t seen this film, you can already imagine the ridiculousness just based on this description of Downey Jr.’s role. Throughout, we have several big names bouncing off one another with incredible ease and hilarity. Some of these names include Jack Black, Ben Stiller, Steve Coogan, and former Actor of the Week winner Matthew McConaughey. As Kirk Lazarus, Downey Jr. brings a lot of his aforementioned career diversity to this role, with it requiring more skill than would seem obvious, and this is reflected in his Oscar nomination.
Other notable roles from Downey Jr. are as Sherlock Holmes in Sherlock Holmes, and the sequel A Game of Shadows, as Larry Paul in the TV show Ally McBeal, and as Charlie Chaplin in Chaplin, where he earned his other Oscar nomination.
A seasoned name and an undoubted favourite, Downey Jr. is one of the biggest draws in Hollywood, which is largely, but not solely, down to his Iron Man escapades. I take a keen interest any time he decides to suit up for a role! Cheers Robert!