While Robert Downey Jr. has always been a pretty popular actor throughout his career, it's undeniable that his long tenure as the MCU's Iron Man turned him into a super-duper-mega-ultra-star. So it's no mystery why he stayed with the high-paying Marvel role for so long. Since exiting the Marvel-verse, Downey went on to talk to animals in Disney's not-quite-beloved Dolittle, but now he's plotting a return to TV for his first major small-screen role since Ally McBeal.
For what will also be his first TV role as a legitimate co-lead from the start, Robert Downey Jr. is reportedly attached to star in the dramatic adaptation of Viet Thanh Nguyen's novel The Sympathizer, with HBO having now ordered it to series, according to Deadline. The novel, which won a Pulitzer Prize, is a satirical thriller of the espionage variety, taking place near the end of the Vietnam War and centering on a half-French, half-Vietnamese communist spy. No, this won't be a Tropic Thunder situation with RDJ playing that role. (It's not that satirical, though it is pretty meta.) On the contrary, the hunt is out for an actor to fill that part, as well as the rest of the largely Vietnamese cast, while Downey is playing someone else entirely.
Or rather, he'll be playing quite a few other someones. It's reported that Robert Downey Jr. big reason for signing on for The Sympathizer ahead of several other offered roles because it will allow for the widest performance spectrum, as he'll be playing multiple roles opposite the main character. And unlike everyone in the Avengers, Downey's new roles will all be antagonists, from a CIA agent to a California Congressman and more.
This marks Robert Downey Jr.'s return to TV, which was previously capped off in 2002 during the final season of Ally McBeal. To be sure, he did take on a voice role in a 2005 episode of Family Guy, but it sadly didn't lead to any Patrick Pewterschmidt spinoffs. Maybe he'll also be one of the other roles that shows up in The Sympathizer. (Probably not.) Prior to the quirky Calista Flockhart drama, Downey's biggest TV claim to fame was his short-lived stint on Saturday Night Live, which is probably better off going unclaimed.
Even though this will be Downey's return to the front of TV cameras in many years, he has become more and more familiar with behind-the-scenes roles in recent years with his and Susan Downey's production company Team Downey, which is also backing The Sympathizer. The company just recently celebrated Emmy nominations for its other HBO series, Matthew Rhys' Perry Mason, which Downey was originally set to star in during the project's early days. And the Downeys were also a big part of bringing Jeff Lemire's comic book Sweet Tooth to Netflix.
Beyond Robert Downey Jr. and HBO's involvement, The Sympathizer can also boast the excellence of filmmaker Park Chan-wook as the series' director, as well as its co-showrunner alongside Twitch City and Slings and Arrows' Don McKeller. Park is presumably best known around the world for the brutal and inspirational and shocking revenge thriller Oldboy, as well as for his stellar gothic horror Stoker. On the TV side, he directed all six episodes of the AMC limited series The Little Drummer Girl, and currently serves as an executive producer on TNT's Snowpiercer, as he served the same role for Bong Joon-ho's original feature.
For now, it's unclear when The Sympathizer is aiming to start production, so it's even harder to gauge when the show might debut on HBO. Fingers crossed the cast comes together soon, so that we can see RDJ showing off his acting skills on the small screen.