Robert Downey Jr. blasts ego-trip interventions: “That’s recovery vulturism”

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.”

[From Esquire]

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.


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46 Responses to “Robert Downey Jr. blasts ego-trip interventions: “That’s recovery vulturism””

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  1. ladybert62 says:

    The interview is fascinating – the pictures are stupid – especially the one with him on the bed looking at a girl doll.

  2. The Original Denise says:

    RDJ has kittens!??! Another reason for me to love him!

  3. Franny says:

    He is my favorite. I just emailed my boyfriend to confirm that we will be seeing the Avengers next week. I’m not a big action movie goer, but I just love him so much. I’ve seen Tropic Thunder about 100 times just because of him.

    Edit: I just received the following email back:

    You only want to see that because Robert Downey Jr is in it, so no way Im going with you.

  4. Chatcat says:

    A person trying to beat an addiction has to want it for themselves. It is an inside job (tap to the heart). The intervention/support they get is only as worthwhile as the addict that wants to fix themselves. Having had a parent with a drinking problem beat it, friends and peers that have beat it or have it beat them, and friends whose 20 somthing kids are going thru it now it is all the same and RDJ is spot on.

  5. Agnes says:

    love RDJ. and i totally know what he’s saying – the fear and anticipation of becoming a parents are sometimes a lot. :)

  6. Eve says:

    I’m counting the hours to watch The Avengers (it opens on April 27th in Brazil).

  7. Incredulous says:

    I got to see The Avengers last Saturday. It is hilarious, sprinkled with people from the various movies, has one bizarre cameo and they get Hulk right.

    Plus Mark Ruffalo, Tom Hiddleston and Clark Gregg all do stand out jobs with Gregg coming this close to thieving the movie from RDJ.

  8. Little Darling says:

    I think that’s exactly what he’s saying and I agree. A person will not adapt truly to the results of an intervention and get the help
    They need unless they are ready, even the slightest bit, on their own. There has to be defeat, or hope, inside of that addict on their own right. He’s saying it can’t be forced
    Unless that glimmer is there already. Otherwise it’s pointless and will keep a repeated pattern (ummm like LaLohan)

  9. Gene Parmesan says:

    i don’t understand anything he is saying…but i love this man. There’s something about Robert

  10. jc126 says:

    I like the way he puts things.
    I think an addict has to be more or less dumped by everyone in his life before he will really seek help. As long as there’s someone who will always try to help or save them, they know it, and will not stand on their own two feet.

  11. Leigh_S says:

    Its more that intervention depends on a matter of timing AND motivation.

    I think addiction is like depression in a sense. Fundamentally, the individual is alone in the condition and chooses to sink or fight. Intervention can help provide ‘lift’ IF the individual is ready to fight upwards out of the abyss, but only then.

    That’s where I think he’s coming from. It depends on the readiness of the individual, not the exasperation of the interventioners

    Am I making ANY sense?

    • jc126 says:

      Refusing to enable or otherwise coddle the addict any further – not falling for ANY of their b.s. drama and alleged emergencies – can make them ready ASAP.

      But on Intervention, for instance, sometimes you’ll see someone whose family is ready to do that, but they have some idiot boy/girlfriend who will keep spending money on them, and thus they stay addicted.

    • Lee says:

      I completely agree with your interpretation of his comments. I also think there’s an element there of frustration over how difficult it must be to overcome an addiction even when you really do want to rise above, and a certain incredulity about the interventioners taking credit for the work that was put in by the recovered individual. It’s a two-way street in that sense – no one else can do it for you, and when you actually succeed in it, you should be proud of yourself and not allow others to cast themselves in the role of savior.

      and as for depression – I remember learning about a theory of depression that considered addiction and depression to be two-sides of the same root problem, where depression results from ruminating about your unhappiness and addiction results from distracting yourself from your unhappiness. It was also an attempt to account for the disparity in depression rates between the genders (depression is more common in women and addiction in more common in men, the theory was that women tend to choose rumination as a psychological tactic while men more commonly choose distraction). Anyways, there’s no saying one way or another really, I just thought some of you might find it interesting. :)

  12. Jenna says:

    I don’t know why that picture of him with the doll made me laugh so much, but it did. Love RDJ. Can’t wait till May and the Avengers! :D

  13. Roma says:

    I don’t think it’s concern-trolling when you are trying to help a loved one to stop killing themselves. I think he’s talking about people who think they can “fix” the problem.

    My dad overcame alcoholism but my brother died last year. I sent my dad to rehab when I was 15 and took him in a cab, but it was he who decided to get help. My brother had lots of support but chose his addiction. – and we let him choose it. It’s hard, but it’s about them and not you. That’s what I take from it.

  14. Kaboom says:

    I think Tony Stark is quite a cathartic exercise for RDJ as far as ejecting leftover douchebaggery goes.

  15. Katie says:

    Avengers doesn’t come out next week, it comes out May 4th

  16. Delouise says:

    Love RDJ and I am so happy he is where he is now, being able to show an audience his talent, humour, wit and grace! I think he is definitely one of our finest actors and I hope for him and for us, the fans, he will always get lucky and be happy with the projects he chooses.

  17. pwal says:

    Re: recovery vulturism…

    Why did Dr. Drew just popped into my head?

    And I wholeheartedly agree with RDJ… the person has to want it for himself.

  18. skuddles says:

    What a weird and interesting guy :)

  19. Ginger says:

    I am so happy that folks around RDJ and the court system chose to let him bottom out and deal with his addiction/recovery. He has such wisdom and grace that he gained coming out of the other side. He is so much fun…it would be a kick to shoot with him…I have a feeling those pics were his idea!

  20. Jezi says:

    I love him so! I am so glad he overcame his addictions, rebuilt his career, fell in love and started a family. He deserves it.

  21. hillbillygirl45 says:

    RDJ ROCKS!!! He can eat crackers in my bed anytime! (If he wasn’t married). He definitely has/had his demons, and it took awhile, but, I think he’s won the battle. I agree that he had to hit his own personal bottom before he got the help he needed. Now, one of the MANY differences between RDJ and the Cracken….he actually HAS talent.

  22. LeeLoo says:

    He is ABSOLUTELY right about interventions. I think my parents had it right, my actions had consequences. They let me ride out those consequences until I was ready to get clean. It worked for me and it seems like that line of thinkibg worked for RDJ. Have I mentioned there’s nothing hotter than a man who has been at the very bottom come all the way back to the top of his game? I think that’s why RDJ and Trent Reznor are my two main celebrity crushes.

  23. Cirque28 says:

    I don’t think RDJ is saying it’s useless to try to help an addict (although at times it certainly is). Addicts are not stupid– they can tell when you’re seeing the real person inside them and when you only see them as Problem To Be Fixed. The latter is about co-dependency and objectification and it helps no one. Not the addict, and not the co-dependent, who in their own caring way is most definitely on a ego trip.

  24. erica says:

    i didn’t think i could crush any harder than i already was on mr downey…i was wrong.