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7 Questions with Robert Downey Jr.

The concept of having endless resources and an uncontrollable obsession isn’t exactly totally lost on Robert Downey Jr. This may explain his ability to adapt to his new role as Tony Stark, the mega billionaire turned iron-clad protector of the free world, in Iron Man. What might have been more difficult to adjust to was the role of box office super hero. Downey, known for playing artsy obscure roles, chats with Fred Topel about selling out, peeing in the Iron Man suit and more.

Zimbio: With biographies or dramas, you can research real people. What do you draw on for a comic book superhero?

Robert Downey Jr.: Well, I'm sorry, this might sound a little weird, but I'm not drawing on other things for him. I consider him to be a real entity for the most part. That works for me. Without abusing the influence I have, things are made very easy and available to me. I see $100,000 cars and things. However, regardless of how much dough I've made over the years, I've never lived four seconds like this guy's lived every day. So it's been this really amazing experience to see what it would be like if you had unimaginable resources and you had this change of heart. Then you decided to pool those resources into something that became very fetishistic and obsessive, where you have to figure out the morals as you go along. So I think it's a very human journey. But to continue not answering your question, I tended to actually go more into mythology.

Zimbio: Is that really you in the suit? Couldn't they just put anyone in that thing?

Robert Downey Jr.: Myself and these stuntmen, we kind of took care of each other because one of us was almost always injured and the other one was resting up to come in and get in the suit the next day. We could probably do a national campaign for Advil together, which I think would be very effective. Like as opposed to "Got Milk?" it would say, with the iron helmet on, "Got Advil?"

Zimbio: What about practical matters? Did you get breaks from the suit to, uh, take care of business?

Robert Downey Jr.: Well, I like to say I'm the first person who's been able to relieve themselves while wearing the suit. It was precipitous. There was a zipper but the zipper was still covered by a hip piece that actually had a groin attachment.

Zimbio: Have the comic book geeks been nice to you so far?

Robert Downey Jr.: Nowadays, we just go online and see what Geekpenis9 says. Whoever these people are, who are like running planet Earth, you go and see what their reactions are. So I was really happy when they were pleased that I was cast. Jon and I finally relaxed after we screened those four minutes at ComicCon. Who'd have thought that the culmination of this year of work, on his part, and Marvel and all these incarnations, the whole payoff was that we went there and we played it and the audience said, "That's what we were hoping it would be." It's online, everyone's really digging it and we go, "All right. We're gonna be good."

Zimbio: Were you surprised they wanted you to head up this big action blockbuster?

Robert Downey Jr.: No. I was happy. I was happy but I had to kind of get on my [own] team. If you're not in your own cheering section then why should anyone else be? That's just like a basic tenet of good psychiatry. You've got to be, "Yay! Go, buddy, go! You can do it! Weeeeee!" That's the reason that I got through whatever tough times I've had. Also, if you look at my peers, I'm basically the only person that anyone knows from 10 or 20 years ago who still has a f*cking career. I'm the only person who hasn't gone on and done this kind of like large accessible franchise. Maybe some other people haven't done it for reasons of their own. Well, I don't understand those reasons. I don't want to understand those reasons. I want to be right in the middle of the party. I want to go do the big stuff. Why wouldn't I?

Zimbio: So you have to weather the Hollywood storm to get to the big show?

Robert Downey Jr.: Oh, I don't know. I'm trying to think of when these movies really started being made. Ten, 15 years ago? I was always doing different kinds of stuff then. I remember I screen tested for Chaplin and I felt like [Richard] Attenborough and I had this destiny and it involved Charlie. You can mythologize it all you like. The truth is I did a movie. I did a biopic. In my mind and in my heart, I felt like I was communing with this great artist and I was supposed to do it and it changed my life and my career and I was nominated and all that stuff. When it was over, I was depressed and anxious. This [project], I went and I thought it would be really cool. I went and I screen tested for it. Here I am years later. I felt like Jon and I had this destiny and Stan Lee. You could say it's just another job or you could say there's something more to it. I don't think the irony is lost on anybody that I'm doing this role at this point in my life and career.

Zimbio: Do you get depressed after every movie?

Robert Downey Jr.: I think it's just that I had prepped for it for so long and it was such a big deal. Then it was over and everyone left and I was just still hanging out in Switzerland, drunk, and I didn't even know what to do. I was just hanging out and partying in the hotel room. They were like, "Even the accountant is gone. I think you've got to go." But to tell you the truth, I was also tired and it was Switzerland and they've got great food, chicks all around. Where else would I go? "Maybe back to your home, where you live." People are calling like, "Where's Robert?" I was changing rooms. So I don't know, maybe you call that depression or maybe you call that the right idea, but it's like anything. Almost everything is f*cking anti-climactic. It's the truth and we're all mature enough here to know that anti-climax is expectable. So it's not a big shock when you eat a big sugary desert and then you feel like sh*t an hour later.
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Q&A By Fred Topel
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