Friday, May 7, 2010

Robert Downey Jr. – Movies Spotlight – May 2010

Today, Robert Downey Jr. is a huge star. He is known for Iron Man and Sherlock Holmes. But he has always been a great actor, from supporting roles in teen comedies in the early 80’s to starring roles by the 90’s to international fame and blockbuster hits by the end of the 00’s. This month he stars in Iron Man 2, touted to be the biggest superhero movie of all-time.

Early Career, the 80’s:

After appearing in a few small films in the late 70’s and early 80’s, Downey Jr. finally got his break when he joined the cast of Saturday Night Live, and got small roles in John HughesWeird Science and supporting James Spader in Tuff Turf. While he was fired from SNL the next year, as the show was overhauling its cast to avoid cancellation, he had established himself in the business. In 1986, he was considered for Duckie in Pretty in Pink, but lost out on the role, and picked up a part in the Rodney Dangerfield comedy Back to School. However, it was his role in Less Than Zero, based on the Bret Easton Ellis novel, which gave Downey Jr. his breakthrough to bigger and better opportunities. His performance was praised by many critics. Off this new found acclaim, he was cast in Chances Are, Air America opposite Mel Gibson and Soapdish.

Rise to Fame, the 90’s:

In 1992, Downey Jr. had a role of a lifetime as Charles Chaplin in Richard Attenborough’s Chaplin, and he did not disappoint. He is fantastic in the film and garnered an Academy Award nomination (losing to Al Pacino, blind and yelling stuff). Chaplin firmly established him as one of the best young actors in Hollywood. However, he did not choose or end up staring in any very good film through 1995, but did find good supporting work in Robert Altman’s Short Cuts, Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers and Ian McKellen’s rendition of Shakespeare’s Richard III. In 1996, Downey Jr. had his first drug-related arrest; he claimed that he had been on drugs since he was eight and struggled into 2001 to get clean – he was arrested a number of times and in and out of rehab. His career in the second half of the 90’s was not so great either. His best known films from this period are: Two Girls and a Guy, The Gingerbread Man, U.S. Marshals (you know it is not going well for you when you co-star in the sequel/spin-off to a great movie, The Fugitive, and your movie is awful), and Bowfinger. Chaplin, his first staring role and what should have been only the beginning, ended up being the only good film he had the lead in during the whole decade (pretty sad).

Rock Bottom and Rebirth, the 00’s:

In 2000-2001, Downey Jr.’s drug problems were costing him roles. He was supposed to play Hamlet in Mel Gibson’s stage production in LA, star in America’s Sweethearts and Woody Allen wanted to cast him in Melinda and Melinda – all of which did not happen. However, despite continuing to struggle with his addiction, he had a few great performances in the early part of the decade. Downey Jr., in a small role, is very good in Wonder Boys and practically saved Ally McBeal from being cancelled with his character, Larry Paul, in season four. By 2003, he was ready to start fresh and revive his career clean. He took the lead in the Mel Gibson produced The Singing Detective and co-starred with Halle Berry in Gothika. For The Singing Detective, friend Gibson paid his insurance bond so he could work on the film, while on Gothika producer Joel Silver withheld forty percent of Downey Jr.’s salary until after the film wrapped (apparently, similar clauses are now part of most of his contracts since). With those two film behind him without any issues, he was able to find a number of good roles in smaller or independent films, including: Good Night, and Good Luck., A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints, A Scanner Darkly, Zodiac, and Charlie Bartlett, all of which were met with critical acclaim. But, it was his performance in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (a personal favorite of mine) that really re-jumpstarted his career and made fans and film executives take notice.

Blockbuster Hero:

Up until 2008, Downey Jr. had never starred in a blockbuster (or even appeared in one for that matter), but that all changed that summer. In May 2008 Iron Man opened to a huge box office, acclaim from fans and critics and made Downey Jr. an international star. Only for him to follow it up with Tropic Thunder, another well received film also featuring a fantastic performance. Not since Chaplin has he really concretely staked his position in Hollywood as one of the elite actors, with his performances in films from 2005-present he has done just that. He is Iron Man, no doubt. And again with Sherlock Holmes, he is Holmes. In both films he is what makes them work, what makes them great. It is wonderful to see that he has turned his life and career around. He has two of the most successful franchises entering into this new decade.

Future Projects:

Along with Iron Man 2, Downey Jr. has Todd Philip’s new comedy Due Date coming in November. The film co-stars Zach Galifianakis and Michelle Monaghan, and features supporting work from Juliette Lewis, Jamie Foxx and Alan Arkin. It is a road trip film about Downey Jr. hitching a ride with Galifianakis to make it to his child’s birth on time. In 2011 and 2012, he has the sequel to Sherlock Holmes and Joss Whedon’s (YES) The Avengers, which sees Iron Man, The Hulk, Thor, Captain America, and others all team up in the same film. There are also plans in work for a third Iron Man.

Robert Downey Jr. Box Set (Selected Filography/Career Highlights):

1.) Chaplin (1992) – lead actor* [DVD]
2.) Short Cuts (1993) – supporting actor [DVD]
3.) Natural Born Killers (1994) – supporting actor [Blu-ray/DVD]
4.) Wonder Boys (2000) – supporting actor [DVD]
5.) Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005) – lead actor* [Blu-ray/DVD]
6.) Good Night, and Good Luck (2005) – supporting actor [Blu-ray/DVD]
7.) Zodiac (2007) – lead actor [Blu-ray/DVD]
8.) Iron Man (2008) – lead actor [Blu-ray/DVD]
9.) Tropic Thunder – lead actor [Blu-ray/DVD]
10.) Sherlock Holmes – lead actor [Blu-ray/DVD]
*Editors Picks

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