Iron man

H o l l y w o o d s t a r R o b e r t D o w n e y J r. m a d e a s t e l l a r c o m e b a c k
a s To n y S t a r k a n d h i s s u p e r h e r o a l t e r e g o .
I n I r o n M a n 2 , h e o n c e a g a i n s h o w s s t r e n g t h o f c h a r a c t e r.
By Roland Huschke
Photo: RANKIN/Icon International
There is little that Hollywood loves as much as
a comeback. Happily, recent cinema history is full of the
spectacular returns of prodigal sons. John Travolta, for
one, was considered completely washed up as an actor until Quentin Tarantino resuscitated his career with
Pulp Fiction. Or think of Mickey Rourke, who no one was
willing to bet a cent on before his award-winning turn
in The Wrestler. But both of these resurgent stars pale
in comparison to the spectacular rebound achieved by
Robert Downey Jr. who went from burnt-out eighties kid to
arguably the most popular film star of the present.
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It’s less than five years ago that director Jon Favreau
threatened to quit if the financiers didn’t guarantee him
his choice of lead actor for a risky comic book adaptation.
After much testing of the waters, he was finally given
the go ahead. The film was called Iron Man and, much
like the title character with his jet boots, it propelled
Downey Jr. to new heights. In contrast to earlier occasions when the actor’s meteoric rise ended as Icarus’
did, this time, instead of squandering the goodwill of
fans and friends with his reckless lifestyle, he focused
his considerable talents and blocked out any inclination
to self-destruct. Although movies based on comic books
are usually targeted at teenagers, in Iron Man Robert
Downey Jr. succeeded in lending a juvenile genre invaluable hipness through his personality and
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Robert Downey Jr. a.k.a. Tony Stark in the new Iron Man 2 film.
a drama about schizophrenia, and the satire Tropic Thunder, which earned him an Academy Award nomination.
“I wouldn’t wish that much work on my worst enemy but
I’ve waited so long for such cool projects that I can’t
turn them down,” he explains. The clearest reflection
of how he sees himself comes in answer to the simple
question of how he is doing these days. “Well, what do
you think, buddy?” he replies with the broadest of grins.
“I’m having the time of my life, of course—and for the
first time I feel confident that I can hold my head high
as I follow the path that lies ahead of me.”
even if he spent two hours talking about the weather.
The New York Times encapsulated Downey’s magnetism,
writing that it would be hard to find a Los Angeles event
attended by the actor where he wasn’t the smartest man
in the room. That may not be news any more. Yet after
two decades in which, to all appearances, this was someone who was barely scratching the surface of his potential, we can all now sit back and enjoy watching him at
the height of his powers. Although Robert Downey Jr.
plays heroes with superpowers, his “super” status as a
In the last comment, Downey Jr. alludes to the
many times he came off the rails in the past. Even
though it already seems an eternity ago, he hasn’t forgotten that he was once at the top of the heap (when
first nominated for an Oscar in 1992 for Chaplin) before
practically self-imploding through drugs, identity crises
gravitas. Unlike Spiderman, Downey Jr.’s character is no
confl icted youth who has more trouble contending with
his raging hormones than his diabolical foes. Instead,
Iron Man is a reluctant hero who channels his mid-life
crisis into action-packed adventures but manages to
never take himself too seriously. The surprise smash
earned almost $600 million worldwide. No one in the
industry doubts that its success can be attributed primarily to Robert Downey Jr. who paired his commercial
instincts with his free-spirited performance for the first
time here. “The trick is to take the material as seriously
as if the script had just been delivered to your door by
Shakespeare himself,” explains the actor. It’s true that
the Iron Man sets are blown to high heaven in true blockbuster style. But in the role of eccentric billionaire Tony
Stark, Downey Jr. doesn’t even consider living a double
life as a shadowy avenger à la Batman at the end of the
first movie. Instead, he cheerfully announces his identity to the public, using his unique brand of nonchalance
and impertinence to win the audience’s hearts with an
eff ortlessness not seen in the 21st century—except perhaps in Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow.
With the wide, excited eyes of a child, Downey
Jr. can chat for hours about the whirlwind that has swept
through his life since then. About how thanks to Iron
Man he is a highly bankable star and was promptly asked
to play another cult character—Sherlock Holmes—in a role
that seems scripted just for him. And how he still managed to find time for demanding roles in The Soloist,
62 / inspire / Audi magazine
Just as Downey Jr. is open about his former badboy image in interviews, he also makes no secret of it
in his roles. He admits he’s no saint or savior. He is fallible and has lived life. And it’s those human qualities he
gives to his characters with his lined face and knowing
look. Iron Man 2 is the most hotly anticipated release of
the spring but so far the makers are staying tight lipped
about the details. Aside from the fact that the hero’s adversaries will include femme fatale Scarlett Johansson and
a mad, bad Mickey Rourke, it has also leaked out that
this time the producers wanted to give Downey’s character a darker past. After all, in the comic books he is
an incorrigible womanizer and drinker. When it comes
to portraying his own weaknesses
while winning the audience’s sympathy as a gifted entertainer, the
veteran of a good sixty films is
currently unparalleled. In an
era of 3D and computer animation, stars have a hard
time convincing audiences
on charisma alone. But
Robert Downey Jr. would
be a pleasure to watch
star is all his own doing.
Iron Man 2
Robert Downey Jr. and director Jon Favreau, the dream team
behind Iron Man, reprise their roles for Iron Man 2, which
opens in cinemas on May 6, 2010. The film version of Marvel
hero Tony Stark and his alter ego has swept up the two men on
a wave of success. In Iron Man 2, the title character faces off
against villain Ivan Vanko a.k.a. Whiplash, played by Mickey
Rourke. Other cast members include Gwyneth Paltrow and
Scarlett Johansson. Also spotted on the set of the sequel is the
Audi R8 Spyder.
To watch the Iron Man 2 trailer, go to
Photos: 2009 Concorde Filmverleih GmbH, RANKIN/Icon International
“The trick is to take the material as
seriously as if the script had just been delivered
t o y o u r d o o r b y S h a k e s p e a r e h i m s e l f.”
and time in prison. His second chance was only possible
through strict lifestyle reforms. “It recently occurred to
me,” he remarks, “that I don’t have to say a word about
the last century.” His detailed reports of how many vitamins he takes and his martial arts training to keep
himself literally fighting fit—what with his 45th birthday coming up in April—make it abundantly clear that
he consciously eliminates all risk of slipping back into
old habits. Talking openly about the life lessons learned
through past problems is part of the therapy. Staying
the course is much easier now that he’s married to producer Susan Downey of whom he says, “She’s my soul
mate and saved me by giving me an ultimatum—either
continue being irresponsible alone or live with her like
an adult.”
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