Thursday, May 9, 2013

Downey Jr. Picked Himself Up

You have to give him credit.  He cleans up very well.
Robert Downey Jr. was one of my most memorable guests on my VH1 talk show in the late 1980s.  He was very late arriving to the studio for the taping.  His clothes were quite rumpled.  He was talkative.  One of the first things he said in the interview was, "I've never done drugs."

Seriously.  And I hadn't even asked.  But he wanted us to believe that he didn't have that in common with the character he played in his new movie, Less Than Zero.

Less Than Zero was such a truly 1980s movie, a decade for his "bad boy" behavior.

Remember when he was a cast member on NBC's Saturday Night Live in the mid '80s?  Robert Downey Jr. got his share of "bad boy" press because of his party drug behavior.  But one could never say that he lacked talent.  I admit that I was a bit irritated because he was so late showing up.  But I was impressed with that performance.  I am so glad he got control of himself and gave us even better performances.  I did the DTST (Danny Thomas Spit Take) with my soda watching his comic brilliance in Tropic Thunder, directed by co-star Ben Stiller. It's one of Downey's Oscar-nominated roles.  He deserved that Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination.  His work as the vain but vapid movie actor shooting a war movie on location was, alone, worth the price of the movie ticket.
You just know this hue-altered character sees himself as a male Meryl Streep.  It was one of the funniest and smartest comedy performances I'd seen a guy deliver in a long time.  Downey is two characters -- the pompous method actor movie star who's clueless in the jungle and the character the movie star is playing in this jinxed action production.

My other favorite Robert Downey Jr. movie performances are in Soapdish, Wonder Boys, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Zodiac and the current Iron Man franchise.  One day, I'll get to rent Chaplin.  I hear he's outstanding as silent screen legend, Charlie Chaplin.  I'm an uncle now.  My two young nephews totally loved him in Iron Man 3.  Millions of others seem to be loving him too based on the Iron Man 3 box office reports.

I'm so glad he conquered that pain in his heart, let some light in and got good roles to put his versatility on display.

As for his "I've never done drugs" statement on my show way back when, a future guest came on who'd seen the show.  Off-camera, he said to me "Oh, please.  He was the biggest pusher at Hebrew camp."

I cannot tell you who broke me up laughing when he made that remark with a totally deadpan expression.  Like  Robert Downey Jr., he's still working.  He stars on a very popular TV series.

I'm eager to see Iron Man 3.  And Chaplin.

By the way...if you want a real edgy DVD double feature one weekend, rent Tropic Thunder.  But, first, watch James Whitmore star in the controversial 1964 race drama based on a real life story.  The independent film is called Black Like Me, based on the autobiographical book of the same name.
And, yes, it stars the same James Whitmore from the movies Battleground, The Asphalt Jungle, Kiss Me Kate, Them! and The Shawshank Redemption.  He plays a reporter who goes undercover as a black man to gain first-hand knowledge of the minority experience in America.

1 comment:

  1. Downey, Jr. is a classic example, to me at least, of an actor who can be great...IF HE WANTS TO BE. I have always believed he has talent. He was the only reason to see CHAPLIN. He gave an uncanny performance as the legendary silent screen star in an otherwise flat movie. See CHAPLIN, if only for Downey Jr.'s performance. Yes, he was terrific in TROPIC THUNDER and deserved the Oscar nod. One film of his which probably not too many people saw was a little dark comedy/drama from the late 90's called TWO GIRLS AND A GUY. He was excellent as a two-timing actor who returns to his New York apartment only to confront both of his girlfriends after they had just learned about one another. It was directed by James Toback, who Downey, Jr. worked with earlier in 1987's THE PICKUP ARTIST. I have to admit, though, that I am not a fan of Downey, Jr's popcorn movies, in particular the IRON MAN franchise. I was lukewarm about the first IRON MAN movie, hated the second one, and am not interested in seeing the third one in theaters now. I just have a problem supporting him in these movies in which he collects one fat paycheck after another. I hope he returns to doing smart roles in good films that showcase his talent. And more have to tell us who the guest was on your show that made the comment about Downey Jr. and his drug habit. PLEASE! YOU ARE KILLING ME!


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