RDJ on getting a tan: “I like having some color before I go to London so I can hear Guy Ritchie say, “You c-ck. What are you getting a f-cking tan for? This is Sherlock Holmes.” You get ready to shoot a fall film during the height of the summer. What am I supposed to do, wear a hat?”
On the reminders of his last Playboy interview in 1997, when he was still using: “Sometimes it’s necessary to compartmentalize the different stages of your evolution, both personally and objectively, for the people you have to love and tolerate. And one of those people, for me, is me. I have a very strong sense of that messed-up kid, that devoted theater actor, that ne’er-do-well 20-something nihilistic androgyne and that late-20s married guy with a little kid, lost, lost in narcotics—all as aspects of things I don’t regret and am happy to keep a door open on. More than anything I have this sense that I’m a veteran of a war that is difficult to discuss with people who haven’t been there. I feel for the kind of zeitgeist diagnoses that are being applied to certain of my peers lately, and I think it’s unconscionable.”
On judging Mel Gibson: “I’ll speak much more generally. If I’m friends with somebody now, I don’t talk about them for public consumption. But remember, I was in jail, and I don’t want to discredit the doctor, but somebody just decided I had some disease in my brain. Sight unseen they needed to publish it and capitalize on this “truth.” More power to them, misguided or not. But the real problem is this: When you’re in the hood, don’t be alarmed by gunfire. That’s as simple as I can put it. For me, the hood was northern Malibu and my own isolation and dependency therein. That’s the only thing I really know now, and I don’t think about it. But I learned it in such a ghastly way. Yes, I need refresher courses of an educational variety, but I don’t ever need to revisit the obvious.”
RDJ on what he was lacking in 1997: “Nothing. Honestly, I don’t have a judgment on it. I just see somebody who’s like, “Oh God, life is really hard,” and this is how you’re coping, and it doesn’t work. You are not consciously aware of what you will have to unconsciously invite so you can go to the next place. It’s a molting stage, and I think some of it is just an exploded view of that phase of development in human beings or that phase of development in human beings who are underdeveloped at that stage.”
On playing a character in Due Date that has “never done drugs”: “The funny thing is, it didn’t [make me uncomfortable]. Except for times when I’m asked to remind myself and everyone else of it, what I notice is that it doesn’t even come up. No one on the set said, “Isn’t it funny that you’re saying that?” Nobody said that because I was so in character while I was saying it and because I was probably the cleanest person within 50 miles. Not having done drugs for literally five or six years is a lifetime. I think of myself as someone who has no desire, use for or even, strangely, conscious memory of that life. And yet I don’t shut the door on it, and I don’t pretend it didn’t happen. Back then I had more religious devotion to unhealthy and self-destructive things than I had to an honest day’s work. In that context I was happy to give anybody who needed it an honest day’s work, as long as when that day was over I could get back to my real job. And that’s all.”
On being a producer now: “In general, passivity is a big f-cking problem for me. Are you absolutely satisfied being an actor for hire? I stopped being satisfied being an actor for hire before we did this the last time. It’s just the way I was raised, the things I saw happen creatively in my dad’s work, the way I saw my mom being able to express herself as an actress in an almost underground environment. There was a director, there was an idea, there was innovation, there was a great sense of excitement and fun. And in that way Due Date for me was such a return to a felt sense of community with a small, like-minded group of peers. To me it was like big-budget summer stock.”
On his rise, now sober, after Kiss Kiss Bang Bang: “After that, working with David Fincher, Jake Gyllenhaal and Mark Ruffalo on Zodiac was just a very classy gig. And then things started adding up. I screen-tested for Iron Man, and the morning Jon Favreau called and told me I’d gotten the gig…I still get all choked up just remembering. It was such an invitation to this cornucopia of possibilities. And it all happened.
On Tropic Thunder, and being committed: “There was Ben Stiller, who to me is the closest living thing to Chaplin we have today as an actor and a director. He’s devoted to detail but also loves the feeling of a loose fish in his hand. I also thought about my dad’s film Putney Swope and how that was about a creative black man who, only by accident in 1968, finds himself in a position of true influence and power. And then I thought about all the years following that and how many black entertainers, more so than even my own pigmented brethren, had influenced me. I thought about struggle, and then I thought about my own struggle. And without imagining I could draw any realistic parallels, I decided to invest myself in it. I just had all these references guiding me and [laughs]—you know, forget everything I just said. My heart was in the right place, and when the character’s voice happened, I could do no wrong. That has happened only one other time, and it was with my character in Natural Born Killers, who interestingly enough was another Australian.”
On his Tropic Thunder character being responsible for Pres. Obama: “I remember a Rolling Stone article making the connection between my role being embraced as not offensive and the possibility of a black president. I don’t want to say I was directly responsible. [laughs] I’ll leave that for the historians. But do you think I could at least get a half-assed tour of the Oval Office as a result?”
On getting Iron Man: I prepared for the screen test so feverishly that I literally made it impossible for anybody to do a better job. I had never worked on something that way before; I was so familiar with six or nine pages of dialogue, I had thought of every possible scenario. At a certain point during the screen test I was so overwhelmed with anxiety about the opportunity that I almost passed out. I watched it later, and that moment came, fluttered and wasn’t even noticeable. But to me it was this stretched-out moment of what keeps people from doing theater for 30 years—just an unadulterated fear of failure.
On being married to his business partner: “It’s reminding yourself and your partner, through experiences or quietude, that you genuinely prefer their company to their absence, and then having a healthy amount of intentional separation within your unity. The other thing—and studies have been done on this—you need a certain ratio of positives to every stressful incident with each other. For every pointless spat we have, we need to have five moments of genuine connection and appreciation. These statistics apply to us. The physics of being in proximity, being cell mates and lifers together, just comes down to continually respecting each other. Sometimes I don’t want that and just want to be respected, to be heard. I don’t want to be managed; I want her to follow my directives. And it’s never gonna be that way—except when it is, and it’s great when it is.”
On wanting a daughter: “I think we should probably try to have a girl because I don’t want another male entity to have to compete; I don’t want Indio to feel there’s another boy in my life. But I don’t know what we’d have to do. Do we have to put it in a spoon and hang upside-down? Of course that’s wrong, and I think, Wait a minute, I don’t get to make that decision. It’s the stupidest conversation ever because it’s like saying “Red or black?” You have a 50 percent chance of being right and a 50 percent chance of being wrong. I think we’re going to have a girl. I think I will be wrist-deep in doo-doo within 18 months. I’m calling it, right here.
On getting older: “I think there’s something honorable about it. I’m trying to think exactly where it happened—maybe on Iron Man 2. Being around youngsters, guys and gals under 30, and suddenly realizing that, to them, you’re part of the old guard. My story is a f-cking period piece to them. Even when I was in a really bad way I always imagined being 75 years old and talking smack to some future industry upstarts. It was a fantasy then.”
On reality stars, and fame: “It means what it’s always meant, that everybody is famous somewhere for something. I wouldn’t have made it if I’d been born in 1975 or 1985 instead of 1965. Because the feedback loop is so intense that I would have combusted in some way. If I had to pick a decade or two to be a complete dope-smoking f-cking coke freak—not that I’m saying there was ever a good decade to do that. And honestly, because we’ve been talking about this back and forth a lot, in the context of right here now, I look back on it and think, Jesus, did I have a choice? I guess I always did. Why couldn’t I see until I could see? If there’s a reason for that, I haven’t figured it out entirely. But the nice thing is, I’m not in a hurry. I almost feel that’s an end-of-the-line answer to learn. But it’s just so trippy, dude. I mean, just think about when we did that last interview. You said 1997?”
On fears: “I fear infidelity. Losing my sense of true humility. Looking back I think, Oh my God, I could have been done. I could have been so fried and so bad off and, oh my God, such a cautionary tale. [laughs] And I still could be. By fear of infidelity I mean I have a passion for how delicate it is to maintain things that are really pure. And I don’t find myself tempted because I don’t put myself on a frequency that temptation likes to go. I keep myself in overtly pheromone-free interactions with all women, except my wife. She deserves it.”
He’s so in love with his wife, it’s rather beautiful. Susan is his whole world, jointly with his son Indio, I believe. I think he could probably live out the rest of his days with Indio and Susan in peace, and he just works so much because he needs to keep busy, he needs to not be idle. There are worse things, truly. I can’t wait for Susan to get pregnant! You know RDJ is going to be an amazing father the second time around – it’s going to be insane and wonderful. And I do hope he has a little girl. Because he is utterly unprepared for that, and it will be hilarious.