If you were to wind the clock back to 2007, a year before Iron Man put Robert Downey Jr. back on the map, you'd probably be hearing a lot of laughs. But for a man who had been written off by so many as unemployable, he had a true fan in Jon Favreau and that fandom lead to what many call the greatest casting decision in comic book movie history. After his numerous films and appearances for Marvel Studios, Downey Jr. is back on the top of the heap again, and while he knows how big he is, he seems to be doing a good job about keeping it in check.
This month's Vanity Fair boasts Robert Downey Jr. on its cover as "the highest paid actor in the world." With a payday of $50 million bringing him back into the Marvel Cinematic Universe through 2018's The Avengers 3, they aren't lying. To take the proverbial ride from zero to hero could spoil an actor's ego rotten, but Downey's been down this road before and he displays in the Vanity Fair interview that even Iron Man needs to check himself before he gets too egotistical. As you'll see in the blurb below, he's fully aware of what's going on around him at all times.
"I’ve gone from being convinced that I am the sole integer in the approbation of a phenomenon to realizing that I was the lead in the first of a series of movies that created a chain reaction that, if everything didn’t fire the way it was supposed to, there’s no operator, no anything. And you go, O.K., life is doing something here that included me but did not require me. But, yes, that role means a lot. Marvel is kind of like this sacred brotherhood."
Iron Man may very well be the closest thing we're going to get to an autobiography on Robert Downey Jr. for a long while. His casting in the role was so perfect because much like Tony Stark: he'd partied to the point that he crashed and then was forced ti start clawing his back up. He had set backs and he had moments of weakness, but he recovered almost as quickly as he fell. When he sits down and eats a Burger King burger in front of a bunch of reporters in Iron Man, that's not Robert Downey Jr. pretending to be Tony Stark. That's Robert Downey Jr. using Tony Stark to recall a personal moment of rock bottom in his own life, and he's admitted it publicly.
It's easy to think that Iron Man's success has gotten to Robert Downey Jr.'s head, but this interview is a good reminder that it hasn't. To hold Marvel to the business practice of making him a good deal to be in Iron Man 4 is not Downey's way of being greedy - it's his way of telling the studio that they need him as much as he needs them. With Marvel mentioning recasting more than once, and Downey starting to take on the role of producer of outside projects like The Judge, both sides are not hurting for opportunity, but would be fools to not try and make a mutually beneficial deal. Still, if he were to part from the role today, you could bet that neither Marvel nor Robert Downey Jr. would walk away thinking it was a waste of time.
You'll be able to see Robert Downey Jr. next in The Judge, which will be released in theaters on October 10th.