Robert Downey Jr.’s comeback story is one for the ages. Unquestionably talented but caught in a sticky web of drugs and bizarre behavior for much of his twenties and thirties, Downey seemed to spend as much time in rehab or jail as he did on film sets.
Things turned around dramatically for the twice Oscar-nominated actor following his marriage to wife Susan in 2005. Clean and sober, he was cast as Tony Stark in Iron Man — despite initial studio resistance — and the rest is film history.
In a cover story for GQ‘s May issue, Downey Jr. opens up about the turnaround, his future as a superhero, and his prospects for someday winning an Oscar (he thinks they are very good). Read on to see the six best quotes from the interview, including the Iron Man 3 actor’s thoughts on how overacting is similar to bestiality and how much money he made for The Avengers (it’s a lot!).
On how alike all people in the film industry are: “It’s such a floating freak show. You get a bit older and you start to see what’s going on backstage in the collective psyche of this ridiculous industry. … Nothing pleases me more than when somebody who was awe-inspired to be working with me realizes I’m just another schmuck that they’re bored of hanging out with on a set. I love that moment. I like it when that persistent illusion is smashed.”
On how overacting compares to bestiality: “I’m sorry, but they’re both these kind of grotesque things. I don’t want to say they’re grotesque, but I have a reaction to it. I know you go there and you do it and it works and people eat it up [overemotional acting], but … Now, I’m not saying there isn’t a genuine connection between these people and their animals. And that they’re not sad when they go, the next morning.”
On his former money troubles: “I didn’t do any of it willfully. You have a little bit of dough and you can manage everything. You have a little bit more dough, and you reach out toward the boundaries of where you think you can now go, and the wind blows the wrong way and you’re f–ked for five years.”
On his massive Avengers payday, which he admits was around $50 million: “Isn’t that crazy? They’re so pissed. I can’t believe it. I’m what’s known as ‘a strategic cost.’”
On walking away from Iron Man at 50 (he turned 48 on April 4): “I don’t know. I don’t know. Right now I don’t have a contract to do anything, and I did for the last five years. … Here’s the thing. At whatever point I’m done with this, I’m going to have a bit of a crisis, because I probably haven’t even fully ingested how much I’ve enjoyed it, how much it’s meant. It so came out of kind of relative obscurity as this second-tier character from the Marvel universe, and I feel I was part of making it something more. But it also to me was just good filmmaking.”
On someday winning an Oscar: “I, personally, would be shocked if we went to the end of the tape now and I didn’t have at least one. … Look, even if I don’t get one directly, eventually they’re just going to have to give me one when I get old. So no matter how you slice it, I’m getting one.”
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