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The Strange Case of Iron Man Robert Downey Jr.

POSTED:

This is the week of the annual Showest convention, where film exhibitors gather in Las Vegas to chase hookers (just kidding!) and (no joke!) pray for gold to rain on the summer's megabudget epics. What shocked me this year was the announcement that the Male Star of the Year award would go to, of all people, Robert Downey Jr. Look, Downey's talent is indisputable. But he's hardly a box-office draw. His latest film, Charlie Bartlett, has already disappeared without a trace. And you can add Fur, Game 6, Gothika, Eros and The Singing Detective to the list of Downey films that won far less attention than his drug problems. So what's the deal with a "Star" award? Two words: Iron Man, opening on May 2nd, and .the kickoff of the summer blockbuster season. Downey stars as the Marvel Comic superhero Tony Stark, an inventor who puts on armor and battles evil as Iron Man. Early word on the movie, directed by Jon Favreau, is sweet. At forty two, Downey may become the next action hero. "I'd like to be on one of those posters," he told Variety. Me, I'd miss the mesmerizing maverick in Downey that added so much to films with more on their mind than the bottom line. His August comedy, Tropic Thunder, with Ben Stiller and Jack Black, sounds more like it — Downey plays an egomaniac actor who happens to be black, complete with afro. Here are a few of my favorite, wild-at-heart Downey movies. You might want to add your own.

Less Than Zero 1987

Downey's performance as junkie rich kid announced the arrival of a major talent.

Chaplin 1992

Playing the great silent-screen comedian, Downey won an Oscar nomination as Best Actor, but lost to Al Pacino in Scent of a Woman. How'd you like to rectify that mistake?

Two Girls and a Guy 1998

Downey delivers a tour de force in James Toback's sexual tornado of a movie.

Black and White 1999

As a bisexual film-maker who comes on to Mike Tyson at a New York party, Downey reaches comic nirvana.

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang 2005

This is Downey at his playful best as a petty thief who evades the cops by hiding out at an acting audition and mixes it up with Val Kilmer as a gay detective. You might think two masters of the quirky would be too much for a single movie. But they light up this one.

Zodiac 2007

Downey was robbed of another Oscar nod as a crime reporter investigating the Zodiac killer who started terrorizing the San Francisco Bay Area in 1968. His addiction to the case is trumped by his self-destructive jones for booze and cocaine. No superhero stuff here, but Downey is on fire.

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Peter Travers

Rolling Stone senior writer Peter Travers has reviewed movies for the magazine for more than 20 years. Send your comments and questions to him here.

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