By Natasha Burton
Robert Downey Jr., steals the show in Ben Stiller’s new comedy Tropic Thunder with his portrayal of Oscar-winning Australian Kirk Lazarus, a method actor who undergoes an experimental skin treatment to appear African-American for a role. Downey Jr. talks about the inspiration for his multi-cultural character, and, in true bad-ass form, disses The Dark Knight and reveals that he’s now a member of the Hollywood “mafia.”
So should the black community or the Australians be angry with you?
Does somebody have to be mad?!
How much methodical research did you for the character?
My goal was for there to be nothing stereotypical [about Kirk] except for when the story demands that he’s momentarily, specifically stereotypical. The whole thing that’s funny about this, in retrospect, is I remember we had discussions and stuff [about the character]. And then the talk is over and you’re out there shooting a fuckin’ movie, so my idea was to try to be natural and entertaining… When I was thinking about Kirk Lazarus, I was thinking about Colin Farrell; I was thinking about Daniel Day-Lewis; and I was thinking about Russell Crowe. Whoever was the most effective tool for whatever my thing was.
There was a lot of Russell in there…
Yeah? Now do you think he would see it as the highest form of flattery? Or do you think that he would be less-than-pleased…
In the behind-the-scenes clip of Kirk Lazarus, when he’s naked on the balcony, that’s Russell Crowe, right?
No, that’s Colin Farrell! That’s Daniel Day-Lewis. [Actually] it’s none of them because I just [started] picking things…like Missoni fabrics and weird scars. And then I was like, ‘Well shouldn’t he have a beard on? And shouldn’t he have his dick out? Couldn’t he be holding his love child? And a bottle of champagne?’ At one stage of my career—or demise or whatever—it’s been all those things. [That] was all back before it was YouTube-y. I’ll just say this on the celebrity defense: imagine coming downstairs when you’re hair is stupid and you’ve peed in your pajamas—or whatever it is—and just having someone go “Click! That’s forever bitch!”
At Comic-Con there is a hilarious introduction to Tropic Thunder in which you made fun of your current success in Iron Man. Are you surprised you made a movie like that?
I don’t often say that I know how things are going to go, but I did know that Iron Man was going to have the kind of success that it had. It was gratifying because it would have been very disappointing if my intuition about it hadn’t been met by reality—as is often the case.
Are there more doors opening for you because of that film?
Sure. [Jon] Favreau and I were invited to a dinner at a Chinese restaurant in Beverly Hills. There was a lot of power players and studio people there. We left and I felt like we were like…(whispering) in the mafia. Like they just made us. I don’t know if [you’ve] have this experience—but sometimes you go from one position to being in another [and] there’s this energy that happens…then the next day you wake up and its just another day.
Have you been working on the story for Iron Man II?
Justin Theroux, who wrote Tropic Thunder, is writing it and Jon [Favreau] and I are working on the story with him. I think it’s going to be appropriately well thought out so we don’t forget what got us the response that we appreciated so much [with the first one]. It was a very simple movie, if you ask me. My whole thing is: I saw The Dark Knight [and] it was like a Ferrari engine of story-telling and script writing. That’s not my idea of what I want to see in a movie. Like The Prestige, I thought was fantastic. Loved The Prestige. Didn’t get The Dark Knight.
I still can’t tell you want happened in the movie. At the end they need him to be a bad guy…? It is all so high-brow…so fuckin smart…I clearly need a college education to understand [it].
If you read the DC Comics, or were a true comic book geek, I think you would get it.
Well you know what? Fuck DC Comics. (laughs) That’s where I’m really coming from!
And I’m sure you’ll be in the next Batman movie!
(Laughs) You know, you’re never too old to burn your bridges! That’s my favorite phrase I’ve ever coined: ‘I’ll burn that bridge when I come to it.’
Are you doing anything before Iron Man II?
Sherlock Homes. If you go back to the real truth of Sherlock Holmes, he’s a lot less stoic than I remember him. He’s a bare-knuckle boxer and a martial artist. He’s a complete weirdo. Which is why I said, ‘I would love to do this!’
Is there an actor you are dying to work with?
I’ve been thinking about Colin Farrell and I doing a movie together. I love that guy and In Bruges is so good…I don’t know him at all. I just have a feeling, like the way Val Kilmer and I had this chemistry when we did Kiss Kiss! Bang Bang!. I feel like Farrell and I would be a good duo.
You guys could be brothers, maybe.
I could be his shorter, older [brother].
You mentioned your demise and your recent ascendance…if someone did a biopic of your life, who would play you?
That’s a weird thing. Someone [asked me] today, ‘If someone was at your house and you were to show one of your movies, what Robert Downey Jr. movie would they have to see?’ I was like, to answer that question is to confirm that I’m obsessed with myself! I don’t know. Why make a fuckin biopic of me? And now I can’t stop thinking about it.
In Tropic Thunder, Jack Black plays a character with a drug problem, and you’ve struggled with that…
I don’t even answer those questions anymore…I’m too big! My fame has superceded my [past]…(Laughs)
So that means that you’re obviously—
Tropic Thunder hits theaters Wednesday August 13.