To say the career and life of Robert Downey Jr has been a bit of a rollercoaster would be an understatement of epic proportions. From his early roles in cult classics such as Less Than Zero through to an Academy Award nomination for his portrayal of Charlie Chaplin and big-screen blockbusters like The Avengers and Iron Man, Downey Jr has been nothing if not captivating. His latest big-screen outing is no exception, as he reprises the character that signalled his resurrection as one of Hollywood’s big hitters.
Tell us about the new film…
Since The Avengers, Tony has been a little traumatised. And I asked that he should be. I mean, a wormhole opened up and there were aliens and all that stuff! So rather than pretend that didn’t happen, let’s bring it into the latest instalment.
It’s a real return to form and an amazingly fun film. What makes Stark so unbreakable when his world is threatened?
I love you! Let’s have dinner… In a post-Avengers world we ask questions: wouldn’t he be a bit freaked out? Tony’s post-traumatic stress and how he comes back from that wound up being part of the theme.
Sir Ben [Kingsley, who plays baddie The Mandarin] will tell you that we didn’t rest on our laurels and were flexible with the story to make it realistic after the events of The Avengers. What Sir Ben won’t tell you is that there are scenes in the movie when we would throw any and every idea we could at him and he would bounce it right back. He was throwing heat like it was the sixth game of the World Series and he was the winning pitcher. Thank you for that lovely question. I adore you.
You’re looking ripped for the on-screen action. Is it a battle to stay in shape as you get older?
I’m required to say that I’ve been doing some training with Tracy Anderson [Madonna’s personal trainer]. But I hate to say it… Don Cheadle [who plays War Machine] is in better shape than I am and is more physically capable, but I’m not gonna let it stay like that! When fitness magazines start asking me what I’m up to, that’s what moves me. There’s no question that the dialogue between Don and I on who’s more fit is going to end… with Iron Man 17!
Would you like to direct a Marvel movie?
You mean eliminate the middleman and not work with people like [writer-director] Shane Black? I had a really good time making this. I don’t often set out to make a film and imagine I’m gonna have a fun time shooting because even though these are genre movies, we take ’em pretty seriously and then things get all stressed out. Shane and I aren’t talking right now. Success has driven us apart. But seriously, be the director? And worry about the budget while working with, arguably, several of the most self-obsessed and eccentric human beings on Earth? Do you really want me to?
It sounds so exhausting!
Can you explain how Downton Abbey ended up in Iron Man 3?
That was Jon Favreau’s idea. He likes it anyway, and wondered what would be the strangest thing that his character Happy [Stark’s bodyguard] could be obsessed with watching. And he thought the themes were similar.
Tony Stark deals with his anxiety. Do you ever worry about your next film and where your career might end?
Stop asking me questions. You’re making me anxious! Where’s Don Cheadle? He always manages to calm me down…
Stark keeps saving the world, but real-life billionaires like Donald Trump and Richard Branson don’t seem worried about the threat of super-villains. Do you think they should be? How do you think they’d get on if they had to spend a day as Iron Man?
I’m pretty quick and witty, but I might be out of steam, so why don’t you repeat the question? As I leave… I’m not sure how to answer that but I know we’re doing something right. And having guys like Shane Black and Drew Pearce listen to us run our mouths for weeks and then come back with a solid script is the reason why you’re sitting here telling me this film doesn’t suck!
Iron Man 3 is in UAE cinema from Thursday May 2.