Once relegated to tabloid cautionary tale, Robert Downey, Jr. has emerged as Hollywood’s resident comeback kid. A string of arrests, struggles with drug abuse and a self-destructive need to conduct it all in the biggest limelight possible. It threatened to snuff out pone of the most prodigious talents of his generation. Then in 2004, he began to turn it around: cleaning up, growing up and reminding us all why we focused so much on him in the first place. It took another troubled genius – Marvel comics’ Tony Stark – to cement his comeback; now Downey stands as one of the hottest actors in the world, and as he reprises his role as Iron Man in the summer blockbuster The Avengers, it’s clear that he has no intention of slowing down. He talked to the press about his latest superheroic turn at a recent junket for the film. A partial transcript of his comments follows.
Question: What was your most memorable moment during the filming?
Robert Downey, Jr.: The first time that we’re all assembled on the bridge. I think it was the first time that we all saw each other in costume and realized that we were probably likely to continue shooting the movie. We knew that we had to make good on this vision of Kevin Feige’s, this vision he held from as far back as I can remember.
Q: The others actors are saying you were the leader, the force uniting them on the set. Did you instigate that? How did it work?
RDJ: I offered rides back and forth from Albuquerque on my private jet. [Laughter.] Again, you go back to 2007 when I was cast in Iron Man and Kevin Feige said, “this is all going to lead to a place where we bring all of these franchises together. We’re gonna do something unprecedented: we’re gonna make The Avengers.” I remember I would get nervous about it and excited about it and doubtful of it. And then by the time Chris [Evans] and Chris [Hemsworth] launched their individual franchises with such success and charisma, I was like, “wow, this is really gonna happen.” So just being a worker amongst workers is kind of where I started out. And it was nice to not really have to carry a movie. Everyone was equal in this venture. It’s great. And that will be my last sincere answer of the afternoon. [Laughter.]
[A cell phone in the audience rings.]
RDJ: Take it. It could be work.
Q: What do you like best about Iron Man? What makes him special to you?
RDJ: He didn’t really set out to do anything noble. He’s kind of in transition, so there’s something a little more Han than Luke in him. And also the fact that he can pull off wearing a Black Sabbath t-shirt for the better part of the film. [Laughter.]
Q: What was the biggest challenge you faced?
RDJ: Just making this universe work. Again, I think everybody captured the right tone of the film with their characters. And at a certain point, you buy into the reality of it. This is a comic book movie, but you kind of accept what it offers. I think everyone has their moments, and I think Joss [Whedon] did a good job of finding everyone’s frequency. Jokes would be there, but they’re still within the realm of what each character would say and do. The battles were amazing. You know, I wasn’t there for a lot of those effects shots. Once Mark [Ruffalo] turns green or my helmet closes, he’s in upstate New York and I’m back in LA. I’m doing an extreme close-up with a camera and he’s doing the mo cap, and there was this whole huge sequence being filmed somewhere else. There’s all this stuff shot in Cleveland and I don’t think we ever had to go to Cleveland for one day. So I kept squeezing the missus’s hand at the screening last night during these incredible sequences that you guys did and just going “wow, they shot a lot in Cleveland!”
There’s this moment where the cop goes to Cap, “why should we take orders from you?” And then the aliens come in, and Cap handles them. And the audience really appreciated that. That, to me, was the moment where the sentiment of The Avengers could’ve fallen flat on its face, and had people not been able to suspend their disbelief or get behind it anymore, we were sunk. That was, to me, the Act Three moment that where the movie succeeded. Joss’s wit is amazing, but it also holds this myriad of ideas and notions that you have to get right for Avengers to work. All of that is what he accomplished here.
And not to keep you guessing, but we’re actually not done shooting. We are shooting one more scene tonight. Not kidding. No more questions.[Smiles mischievously.]