Like Tony Stark, the character he's played in "The Avengers" and now three "Iron Man" films, Robert Downey Jr. was born again. Once a bad boy whose well-reported drug problems cost him work, he successfully got clean and began fulfilling the mile high promises he wasn't always able to keep. "Iron Man 3" reunites Downey, now 48, with his "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" filmmaker, Shane Black.
After the huge success of the first two "Iron Man" movies, followed by "The Avengers," were you even in the position to turn down this third episode?
I signed up for three movies, so I didn’t have the choice! But I wanted to do it. I promise!
Did you have a say when it came to the evolution of your character?
Working on this kind of project, you’re dealing with so many egos. A guy in a suit tells you, ‘this is the movie I want to make’. And you’re like, "Hang on a minute, what are you going on about?!" "Iron Man 3," is first and foremost director Shane Black’s movie. He wrote the script together with Drew Pearce, another super talented guy. They spoke to all those involved for two weeks and then they disappeared. They came back two weeks later with a script that was 100 times better than what we had originally discussed. It was a surprise. Normally, with this kind of movie, you read the script and you think, "F—, how am I going to film this trash!" Its another kind of surprise…
After "The Avengers," is it nice to go back to being the main character?
We absolutely wanted to come back to something more "real." I have to admit, I love arriving on set and seeing how huge it all is — bombs exploding and all. Only, when I go out and watch a movie, I’m a bit of a snob. The most important thing is the relationship between the characters. In "Iron Man 3," Tony has no armour and no Pepper [Potts, his assistant and love interest, played by Gwyneth Paltrow]. He really has to fight.
He also has to deal with his panic attacks. Is that a hard thing for you to do as an actor, considering he’s also meant to be a superhero?
I love that kind of challenge. I remember reading it in the script: "Tony speaks to his computer and suddenly, he has a panic attack." I was like, what? Him? It seems weird but that’s who he is. Jon Favreau, who produced the first two episodes and who plays Happy Hogan in this one, has always said that this kind of movie is about normal people who can do incredible things with technology. It’s the nasty guys that come from another planet.
Can an actor sometimes feel "alone" in this kind super production?
We’re often alone in life, aren’t we? I do my thing, I try and stay focused and when I go back to my trailer, I play with my willy until someone calls me. And you have to be careful. I got a really bad knee injury on set. After "The Avengers" and "Sherlock Holmes," I had this feeling that I could do it all. Jump off a building? Sure! I wasn’t careful and we had to stop filming for six weeks...
Your career has had a lot of ups and downs. Do you take your job as seriously as you used to?
Honestly? You can take on two different attitudes when it comes to the way you deal with your life. You can try and control it. Or you can try and accept it. I think I worked harder than most people would have done on this kind of movie. I think I have a certain work ethic.
Like James Bond, do you think that Tony Stark/Iron Man will eventually be played by someone else? Can you see that happening?
Yes, of course. No, No, it would be very unpleasant! Especially if the new guy is really good!
Do you think you can go on doing superhero movies forever and ever?
I’m 48, and I’m torn about it. One part of me wants to stop right now, and another part of me doesn’t want to let go. Let's just say that I hope to be able to decide what to do when the times comes. I don’t want to be like those rock bands that continue going on tour when they’re over 60 and looking like zombies...