Robert Downey Jr. covers the May issue of Esquire – he’s promoting The Avengers, which comes out next week, and should finally push The Hunger Games out of its box office domination. RDJ is reprising the Tony Stark/IronMan role, and early reviews indicate that The Avengers is WAY better than the last Iron Man (which sucked). Unfortunately for all of us, RDJ isn’t discussing his kittens, Dart and Monty, in this interview. He does talk about his newborn baby, though. You can read all of the Esquire interview highlights here, and here are some of the best parts (IMO):
Downey on his new son: “Three weeks ago, we had a bun in the oven, and we were about to have a kid. There was all this trepidation, all this projection, all this anticipation and goodwill and a good vibe about it. But what you’re squeezing to the side — or what’s in the glove box — is these thousands of forms of fear. And then he was born and they’ve all just kind of scattered now. It seems like he’s always been here.”
Downey on being a father: “I guess here’s what’s come to me in the last three weeks: That anticipation and fear are going to come back. Am I going to know what to do with them? Does any new parent, even if you’re not a first-time parent, ever really know what to do? Only thing you have to do, the only requirement, if you can hack it, is to not transfer your own discomfort in the moment to this fresh soul, right? … You got to be mindful. I don’t want to be so confident in myself. It’s that balance between being relaxed enough to not be communicating anxiety and present enough to not be creating the very thing that you were anxious about by being so relaxed — because I’ve seen that parenting style, too.”
Downey on being a hero: “Do I want to be a hero to my son? No. I would like to be a very real human being. That’s hard enough. Every dad casts a shadow, you know? And that shadow is you’re disappointed, you’re resentful, or you feel so supported and loved you don’t understand why life is so hard anyway — or, you know, it’s so long and so dark that you can never step out of it, so you might as well not even try. Right? So. So hero to me is not applicable to the human experience…I think that we all do heroic things, but hero is not a noun, it’s a verb.”
Downey on his wife: “If I picked for you the ten worst moments of my life, they were probably the ten most defining moments of my life. Whether they’re that complete rejection by a girl that doesn’t even know you’re crazy about her, and you are distracted riding your bike to school, and just as you look over at her, you take a complete ass-over flip into a shrub. And the girl just looks at you and keeps on walking with an expression that says, “Who is that schmuck?” And that’s every bit as significant to me as the moment I met Susan, in a rehearsal space with Halle Berry in Montreal ten years ago, and thought, Wow, she’s pretty damn cute for a boss.”
Downey on addiction: “A link between addiction and creativity? Horsesh-t. No, I never told myself that lie. I’m not saying that the correctly timed intervention here and there is blah blah blah — look, it’s valiant to go waste days, weeks, months, and years trying to fish someone you care about out of their own abyss. But if your intuition asks, Is this a big O.K. Corral ego trip on the part of the people who are going to say, “All right, we’re going to go in and handle this”? Because you’re not. You’re not going to handle sh-t. No amount of effort is going to nudge somebody out of a situation that they deem is hopeless. And people sense when there’s an ego trip involved, when there’s a “I’m here to save your life!” It’s horsesh-t. It’s horsesh-t. I hate it. That’s recovery vulturism.”
Downey on the ’80s vs. the 2010s: “Those were the challenges of our day. There’s a big, big, big infusion of truly, seriously, gifted, talented people, and everyone went however and wherever they were supposed to go. Nowadays I wonder what it’s like to enter the playing field. I mean, what does approval even mean when you can have a good night on a talent show and get a table everywhere for five years?”
Downey on Iron Man: “Yeah, I think Iron Man wound up being the first time I screen-tested since Chaplin. As far as I was concerned, it was destiny. Now, I can’t tell you how many people are sitting around with the cold, hard evidence that it wasn’t. I just wasn’t going to let lack of perseverance, lack of preparation, or lack of prayer get in the way. I just went crazy — in a good way. And suddenly it occurred to me, Oh my God, Stan Lee might not know this, but everything he created has all been leading to this moment. It’s me. Then I thought, Hold on a second, dude, is this just some sort of neurotic personality meltdown happening here? And then I thought, Nah, that feels different.”
I love RDJ’s stream-of-consciousness ramblings. He has a gift with words, and when you get into the right vibe, it’s always a rewarding exercise. My favorite part was RDJ’s take on “recovery vulturism” – a phrase I’ve never heard before, but makes perfect sense. You could probably also call it “recovery concern-trolling” – an implied judgment that someone needs to get their life together and you are the one to make it happen for them because you are so awesome. Is Robert saying that at the end of the day, all interventions are bulls–t? Is he saying that a person isn’t going to get help until THEY hit their rock bottom, and it’s useless to say or do anything for them until that happens? Because I think that’s what he’s saying.
Photos courtesy of Esquire.