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Q&A: Robert Downey Jr.

The Hollywood bad boy is back with two new movies

Robert Downey Jr., Kiss Kiss Bang Bang

Robert Downey Jr. at the Palais during the 58th International Cannes Film Festival attends a photocall promoting the film 'Kiss Kiss Bang Bang' on May 14th, 2005 in Cannes, France.

Evan Agostini/Getty

How’d you hear about Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang?
The then-not-yet-Mrs. Downey [producer Susan Levin] was reading the script in our collective bedchamber, laughing her ass off. I say, “What is so damn funny?” She says, “Oh, it’s just this thing we’re going to offer Johnny Knoxville, a really funny Shane Black script.” Later Joel Silver said, “The good news about you is that you’re still cheap.”

Just how collective is your bedchamber?
Let me put it this way: When we get down, all sorts of archetypes come into play. It’s like Shea Stadium with two people.

Have you read the Raymond Chandler books that Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang alludes to?
I did some research for Singing Detective, but that was more the British wordsmith approach, as opposed to that good-guy-in-a-bad-town thing. At some point, every guy in Los Angeles between the ages of eighteen and sixty thinks he’s that guy.

How long did you think that?
From the time I checked into the Chateau Marmont when I was nineteen until three days later, when I came to in the lobby.

Had you ever crossed paths with co-star Val Kilmer before?
I’d gone to one of the infamous Hollywood Hills Kilmer gatherings. Val was still a little bit in fat-king mode from Alexander, but he was dressed English preppy, so he looked like the middle of Act One of Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan.

How did Good Night, and Good Luck. come around?
Well, you obviously know who George Clooney is . . .

I’m sorry, George who?
Exactly. George Hamilton, Whoops. I read the script, I really liked Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, and I figured he was going to make a good movie.

You’ve been through some hard shit. Is it difficult to take people seriously when they complain that the valet parking is slow?
First of all, I love to complain. A great indicator that a man has fully matured is when half the things that come out of his mouth sound like a toxic, embittered grandmother. But I would suggest to anybody: Go do sixteen months in lockdown and see how much you got to complain about once you’re out.

Can you spot an actor who’s messed up on drugs from a mile away?
Film producers come to me and ask about actors who are screwed up on the set. “So he fell asleep —” “Well, it’s either OxyContin or . . . at any point did he try to make a model airplane? Did he have a project in the trailer? All right, then he’s smoking crack, too. What did he eat? How many coffees did he need?”

Where do you fit into Hollywood now?
I’m not an old bull yet, but I’m not in my midtwenties anymore either. I recognize that I’m a survivor; I think I have something to offer of value. I’m actually a really consistent and enthusiastic and fairly stable guy — although I did have a thirty-year dip.

In This Article: Coverwall, Robert Downey Jr.

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