Robert Downey Jr.: “Don Quixote” is brilliant, inspirational
He was destined to play Don Quixote in the big screen but the delay of the project turn away the possibility. Today Robert Downey Jr. is a big star thanks to the Iron Man franchise that has become a box office and a critical success. Nobody thought fifteen years ago that Robert Downey Jr. would be the face of that franchise, plus anAvenger. Problems aside he's made quite a comeback thanks to titles like Sherlock Holmes, Iron Man and Avengers. As a modern Don Quixote he knows how to fight against all odds.
Q: Is it true that at some point in your career you were going to play Don Quixote?
A: There are so many characters out there that you never know. But in this case I must say I read the book as it was a true possibility to play that character and I must recognize that I loved the novel. I though it was brilliant, inspirational. Most of the buddy movies are based in Don Quixote. Is a real hero.
Q: Did you read it in Spanish?
A: I barely can ask for a meal in Spanish. I only know how to say Por favor. No. I read it in English and as I said, I loved it.
Q: What type of books are you reading now?
A: I’m now in an existential mood. Beside all the books from Sherlock Holmes I did read Steven Forrest about the evolution of astrology.
Q: Are you spiritual. Has an act of God ever prevented you from being somewhere?
A: I’m not equipped to answer questions really about anything that happened before about five years ago. But I love that sort of stuff. I love it when we’re on set and everyone’s all ready to shoot the scene and then suddenly a cloud rolls in and it starts pissing rain and you’re like, “No, we’re not, we’re not doing anything”.
Q: Do you enjoy looking sharp in the movie and on red carpets?
A: I’ll tell you what I enjoy. I enjoy not minding that I’m in a very fortunate position. And part of it is that if I’m coming out and doing press I know that time came and went and I was never really part of it where it was really classy to look like a schlub when you were out promoting things, when you actually were kind of working for a company. So yes I enjoy it a little bit and I take it as seriously as I need to.
Q: The film has a lot of humor. How much did you enjoy it?
A: It was a lot of things and fun was one of them. Remembering or trying to not reenact but kind of carry on from the first 2 Iron Man, obviously there’s a lot of humur in it. Some people even told me they felt it was more of a comedy than a superhero movie.
Q: Do you feel that Iron Man was the turning point in your career and how do you feel being the guy on every bus and poster right this second?
A: It’s odd. It feels kind of like a kid’s birthday party today. I didn’t sleep well last night and maybe it was something else but I think I’m just excited. I don’t know how I feel about it. I notice it and I would prefer to be in this position than to not be in this position but I don’t necessarily relate to it directly. Because I still consider myself a worker amongst workers and that’s how I best operate.
Q: How do you deal with stress?
A: A thousand things. What do we do? My thought life is the origin of my stress so I focus most of my efforts against managing my thought life and then I have martial arts. I have a great relationship, I have great family. I have a great kid. I got horses now. I hear equine therapy is supposed to do something for me. I think they only care because you have a snack in your hand but we’ll see. Maybe it can turn into love.
Q: What do you like to do in your free time?
A: This is my idea of free time! Yes. This is free because, I don’t know, if I had a zit it wouldn’t be on film forever. It’s just between us. I hate to say it but maybe that’s why I was excited last night too. I just love getting out and actually talking and interacting with people. And whatever happens here, it’s recorded and done and it’s nowhere near as much pressure as trying to get the right movie in the can or trying to parent or be a good husband or anything. This is the easiest and most fun part of the job, I’m realizing. I know we’re supposed to bitch about it and say ‘My work speaks for itself.' No, it doesn’t. You are a person they hired to promote a movie as much as they hired to perform in a movie. So I try to make it fun.
Q: So even if you enjoy your life, your family and everything else, would life be boring without the acting part?
A: I don’t know if it would be boring. I think I would make it very interesting. But the truth be told I’m so lucky I would be looking a gift horse in the molars if I didn’t seize this opportunity. Plus with Jon and with this character I couldn’t think of a better opportunity for me to have something that feels kind of like it was a good fit for me. And it’s nice to be the centre of the whole franchise and the idea of that but again, what’s best for my head, and again what’s best for the end product... When you say was it a turning point, it was a turning point in that I stopped just thinking about my own selfish ends and started thinking about the entirety of the impact of the movie and the story and the emotional arc and the other players and started focusing more on the fact that a good player doesn’t matter if he’s not working with the team so I’ve really spent probably the last three years particularly really focusing more on the other elements of it. I know that I know how to act pretty good or good enough that people say it’s alright, so I’m keeping it interesting by doing other stuff.
Q: Did your wife help you understand that?
A: There’s many things she made me understand. Maybe that’s one of them. There are only two things I need to understand with her. Yeah. Anyway. There are two things I must not do.
Q: Any cons to having your wife as producer, or only pros?
A: I think any of us would heartily agree that having your partner, having your fellow or your gal there, it really just depends on your communication level on the day and also stress levels and other stuff, because it’s strange that sometimes the person you are closest to is the person you feel most self-conscious about and then you know their rhythms so well. But a) she’s just an exceptional woman and b) we kind of transcended that because we’ve been down so many stressful work environment roads that we’d just as soon make it a pleasure to be with each other and we’re so fortunate you know.
Q: You once said if Iron Man didn’t live up to your expectations you’d done the suit, go to Marvel’s headquarters and wreak havoc.
A: That is the most self-centered arrogant thing I’ve ever heard. That must be an accurate quote.
Q: The first two films were a success. Of all the compliments you received was there one which made you happiest?
A: Let me think.... And then we’d have this very improvised sounding scene that was actually very well rehearsed between Gwyneth and I. Jon said he wanted her to reach into my chest which was a metaphor for really letting a woman into your heart and I said, “Alright, Mr Joseph Campbell...” And so between all of us we shot that scene which was kind of the heart of the movie so I guess when people say they really like the movie I remember the day we shot that scene and the people I was working with and all of us saying we thought with all these elements we were trusting each other on totally that an audience member would respond to this sort of collaboration.
Q: Gwyneth told us you were lying about what you said when you kissed her. Do you lie a lot?
A: No. As a matter of fact the two lies I’ve told in about the last five years happened today. I don’t want to say I’m bored because it’s a little early in the press tour to get bored. I’m not bored but so many things are misconstrued. I tend to have an unconscious bias or a motive when I enter into conversation with somebody or I’m not really engaging with them. Particularly in this situation. It’s nice to mix it up a little. For me it’s a conglomerative thing but I feel the movies I have loved growing up.... Like to me Tootsie is about an actor who’s having a very specific problem and then he takes these outlandish measures to correct those problems and creates all these problems with his measures and is closer to something he had no idea he was looking for. Then he almost loses that thing. Then you have these naturalistic actors, Jessica Lange and Dustin Hoffman on a New York street at the end and it seemed almost like a documentary about someone saying they’d made a mistake. I’m not saying Tootsie is my reference, I’m saying I could pick 25 movies and they’re all from a certain period of filmmaking and they’re all roughly form the ‘70s when there was a maverick element in commercial filmmaking and because I was raised in that suit that’s kind of where I feel I work best.
Q: You’re also a musician.
A: My son has bloomed into this truly prodigious and natural musician. Not because of that but also because I’ve been focusing a lot more on these films and doing them back to back, I also felt he had kind of taken up that mantle. When we were in Florence I took him into what I thought was a cool guitar shop but he said, “None of these guitars have any soul”. And I was like, “Of course, right, I knew that”. So I took him to this other place and he found a 1977 Italian classical guitar and then he went back to the hotel and started playing classical music on it.
Q: So it’s genetic?
A: I think it comes from both sides of his bloodline but truth be told I’m still very much musically interested and I’m developing an original musical project it’s difficult to explain but it will probably be another 15 years before I figure it out.
Q: You’ve said before Iron Man represents the best and worst of America. What does he represent for you?
A: It’s really odd because it’s this thing I’m so centrally located in and such a part of but I don’t really understand it. I still think, “Is this something that’s an artistic endeavor of mine, is this part of a job, is this me just doing something commercial?” Which is strange seeing as how we’ve made two movies already. You’d think I’ve have figured something out by now but I like admitting that I really don’t quite know. I’m a little slow but I kind of like that I am slow.
Q: Is it hard because you look at it from inside?
A: Maybe. But I tend to look objectively and sometimes I just look at myself as this very limited frail human being who’s representative of this larger idea that means so many things to so many different people. By the way it means so many different things to me so in some way I’m just another person participating in it in a way.
Q: You do martial arts?
A: It’s definitely healthy. It’s not an obsession. It is something I’ve dedicated myself to so really more than anything else it’s an apprenticeship.
Q: When will we see you in another smaller movie?
A: As we speak there’s a bunch of construction workers building this place that’s going to be the Team Downey production company so Susan and I are going to be doing our own stuff. So while we certainly don’t shy away from big commercial ideas a lot of the stuff we talk about are more in the low to mid budget range and only because the ideas are a little less directly accessible to a massive audience. They’re still very sellable ideas but not on purpose. She and I tend to think alike and also I am very interested in following her lead. She’s a great creative producer so I have a feeling as these years go by, how many times can I suit up and look cute and be charming and beat people up? Sooner or later I’m going to have to do something different. It’s so odd to me generally speaking that I don’t even know what to make of it. But as women go, she happens to be a woman and we really know how to get along. We really respect each other. There is such a deep respect plus she’s really sexy. Hold on, I’m going somewhere with this.
(c) America Reads Spanish