From Iron Man to The Hulk and Sherlock Holmes, Robert Downey Jr has played his fair share of larger-than-life film characters in the past few years. Yet his latest comedy, which debuts in UAE cinemas this week, is a little more down to earth. Due Date, in which he stars alongside Zach Galifianakis (The Hangover) and Michelle Monaghan (Gone Baby Gone) is a comedy following a father-to-be’s cross-country road trip as he races to the birth of his child.
Downey Jr plays highly-strung expectant dad Peter Highman, who finds himself en-route to the hospital in the company of an aspiring actor, played by Galifianakis. Cue plenty of encounters along the way, from the dramatic to the ludicrous. The film is directed by Todd Phillips, the man who brought us Road Trip and last year’s box-office hit The Hangover (which he once referred to as ‘my Star Wars’), and who will soon be helming its sequel, The Hangover 2.
Phillips’ work has already proved a hit in Dubai, with The Hangover clocking up 106,387 cinema admissions (surprisingly racking up more than Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, which came in at 101,000). Can Due Date challenge this crown? We caught up with the director and his leading man for a peek behind the scenes of this predicted blockbuster.
Was it refreshing to play a character that has so many real, yet repellant moments?
Robert Downey Jr: Absolutely. I don’t know why, but [the role] was an invitation to get in touch with everything that annoys me about everyone, and all the fear I have about everything. I’m not [normally] a method guy. I can’t be bothered. I just want to be part of a good movie, and I can’t stand being surrounded by morons. But we had such a great group of people for this. I feel this is the second-greatest story ever told.
The first being?
RDJ: Oh, come on! [Laughs] The Bible.
This story is a lot about fatherhood. How did that resonate with you guys?
Todd Phillips: I think it’s an interesting take on fatherhood – for me, personally, it was an interesting movie to make. I began by making movies about college kids. I sort of grow with my movies: they’re always about my age range, it feels. And that’s the next step in life, having a kid and fatherhood. So it just seemed like an interesting thing to mine, both for emotion and for comedy.
Robert, were you channelling a bit of Todd in your character?
RDJ: I’m glad you asked that, because every time I feel I really hit critical mass is when I feel like the director and I become a third thing, and that’s the character. Even though the central subject of the movie is Ethan [Galifianakis], the person who you’re kind of seeing it through is Peter [Downey Jr]. There’s a lot of fear [in these characters, at their situation]. Peter’s attitude and anger cover his fear. I always feel like I’m playing an aspect of the director, particularly when he’s an auteur. To me, it’s a way of almost making him a proud parent. I’m an appendage of some aspect of the director.
How did you develop scenes together?
TP: The same way I’ve done it on all my movies, although this film had a particularly interesting process because Robert has a very ‘producer-like’ brain. He is basically another writer in the room. So Robert and I had lots of spirited discussions every morning. We got out the pages and he’d go, ‘Okay, what are we really doing?’ Not to discredit the writing process!
RDJ: It’s a script, which made me hate it all the more. Well done, by the way, fellas.
TP: Yes, I’ve learned that Robert has an aversion to things that are typed. So, even if we just rewrote the scene on a napkin, even though it was exactly the same scene, he felt better about it. [Laughs] But no, we took it apart, and the great thing about Robert is that he made me a better director. He was constantly challenging what we were doing every day, just taking in the bigger picture of it all.
Between you and Zach, which of you would be more likely to break up laughing in the middle of a take?
RDJ: Let me put it this way. I’m 85 times more professional than Zach.
Is Due Date likely to become a franchise?
RDJ: Yeah, that’s what I need – three franchises. [Laughs] So I can utterly have a personality meltdown. But I would do it with these guys. There was something so cathartic about it – it was the most healing project I’ve ever worked on. I’ve never come up against anyone like Zach, who is so confident and so thoughtful and so spontaneous that nothing is daunting. He’s just in a class by himself. And I think Todd is the best director I’ve ever worked with, bar none.
Due Date is in UAE cinemas now.
Five shocking birthplaces
Inspired by due date’s childbirth theme, holly sands investigates some of the weirdest places in which babies have been delivered.
In a plane: A British woman went into labour on a flight from Ghana to Scotland. Her baby was delivered on board by a fellow passenger (thankfully, a doctor) just before an emergency landing was made at London’s Gatwick airport.
On a freeway: Helped by her husband and sister, a US woman gave birth to her fifth child on the side of a major freeway running from Oregon to Washington in 2008.
In a tree: In 2000, during floods in Mozambique, a woman amazed rescue workers after she delivered her own baby following four days spent clinging to a tree surrounded by floodwater.
In a train toilet: Just seven months into her pregnancy, an Indian woman visited the toilet during a train journey, only to find herself giving birth.
In a Kia Carens: In November last year, a woman from Dorset, England, gave birth to her daughter in the back seat of her mother’s Kia Carens minivan. Shortly afterwards, Kia Motors donated a new car (the same model) to the family.