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Robert Downey Jr. (Kirk Lazarus) - Tropic Thunder

Interview image

Robert Downey Jr. was born in New York City on 4 April 1965. The son of underground filmmaker Robert Downey Sr., his first role was in his in his father's movie Pound (1970), in which 5-year-old Downey played a puppy. When he was 20 years old, he joined Saturday Night Live for one season. He landed the leading role in The Pick-up Artist (1987), co-starring with Molly Ringwald. The same year, he played drug addict Julian Wells in Less Than Zero. In 1992, he played Charles Chaplin in Sir Richard Attenborough's film Chaplin, for which he received an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor. He's recently gained a new generation of fans after portraying industrialist Tony Stark in the Iron Man movie. caught up with Downey Jr. as his movie Tropic Thunder was released on Blu-ray and DVD...

Reviewgraveyard: How tough was it maintaining the reality while keeping an eye on the comedy?

Interview imageRobert Downey Jr: You’ve got to be good. You’ve got to be tough, Charlie. I don’t know how to call it except that I’ve just been in the groove for a little while. It only took 25 years to get in the groove, how’s that?

So by the time we started this, and were in rehearsals, I got the voice for Lincoln Osiris and started thinking about Kirk Lazarus, the Australian method actor and all that stuff, I just felt like after a while I could do no wrong.

I wasn’t always right, but there was an excellent team of editors, and here we are. I thank God for Ben Stiller and Jack Black and all this great cast and this ridiculous idea for a movie.

I love the fact how silly the whole thing is, I love the fact that I’m sitting here trying to sell you some soap. Usually I’m trying to sell you soap that doesn’t actually work, it doesn’t even bubble up in your hands, and here we go and the difference is Tropic Thunder is genuine entertainment, it makes my job a little easier.

RG: You’ve clearly avoided the controversy we might have expected.

Interview imageRDJ: I don’t want to say that we had much moral integrity, but Ben and I had some earnest discussions about what’s funny isn’t what’s offensive, and what’s self deprecating - people are used to that and that doesn’t necessarily translate to: "Oh now we actually like you, the person, the actor, because you’re sending yourself up".

It’s kind of  a little passé. A lot of the humour in this is really just an Americanised 21st century version of the highbrow side of Monty Python. It’s nothing new, that’s why I think that England, the UK and Europe is a very apt market for it, it’s nothing shocking.

RG: What’s the furthest you’ve gone for a role?

RDJ: When I was doing Chaplin I remember I created this wall and by the time I was done I was calling David Robinson, who wrote the definitive biography of Chaplin, telling him there was a typo on page 79, and he was like: "My dear, have some tea". I’ve gone pretty nuts, but it’s because I care.

RG: Did you draw on anyone else for inspiration in playing Kirk?

Interview imageRDJ: At times I thought this was like Colin Farrell, this moment reminds me of Daniel Day-Lewis, this feels very Russell Crowe. And then some of it, literally, what are the most obnoxious, self important things that have ever come to mind to me to say about myself. I just kind of exorcised all those. I wouldn’t wish typing this character in anybody, it would be a ghastly insult.

RG: You seem to have a healthy sense of the absurdities of the business, is this something you’ve always had?

RDJ: I was raised around it, you know. I came up watching my dad make movies and be buddies with people like Hal Ashby and all kinds of people that I thought really had a handle on the kind of double entendre of what it is to be an artist in Hollywood.

I’m just really grateful, to tell you the truth, it’s kind of a big deal to me to be here and Ben’s flying in from Berlin on his way to go back home, and then promote Madagascar 2 and he’s just finished Night At The Museum 2.

Interview imageAnd Jack’s had this huge year with Kung Fu Panda, and I get to also be able to say that Iron Man came out and I remember being back here in the UK for that, it was probably one of my favourite moments of my life, being back here for the first time since Chaplin, I felt I was really back here with a product that I was proud of.  It’s kind of mind blowing, to tell you the truth.

I’m 43 and I kind of know... let me put it this way: This is my silver anniversary, my 25th year in the business, and I almost feel like I can hit my ass with both hands now, which is a triumph.

RG: Playing a soldier in the film, did that take you back to childhood games from your past?

Interview imageRDJ: I still, to Mrs Downey’s chagrin, I’m pretty wound tight about watching the military history channel, weaponology, future weapons. It’s a little bit jarring when you’re trying to drift into the arms of morpheus but I love this stuff. So for me it was a sincere pleasure.

RG: Were you very competitive with the others at soldier boot camp?

RDJ: There’s no reason to be competitive when you know you’re the best.

RG: The production notes say Jack was the best.

RDJ: The best soldier?  No. He just had to carry the biggest weapon.  I can take him out at 300 yards. I may well, the night is young.

RG: Thank you for your time.

Interview image
With thanks to Ben Lee at Greenroom.

Tropic Thunder is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Paramount Home Entertainment from 26 January 2009.

Click here to buy Tropic Thunder on Blu-ray for £16.98 (RRP: £26.99)
Click here to buy Tropic Thunder on DVD (single disc) for £9.98 (RRP: £19.99)
Click here to buy Tropic Thunder on DVD (treble disc) for £16.98 (RRP: £26.99)

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