Robert Downey Jr.: ‘Never, ever bet against Kevin Feige. It is a losing bet’

Robert Downey Jr. is riding high. A natural high these days – he’s been clean for more than a decade, he’s happily married to his rock, Susan Downey, and he just won his first Oscar, for Oppenheimer. He’s also crazy-rich from the years he was Iron-Man – he had one of the most infamous backend deals in Hollywood history, and he’s also open to coming back to Marvel if they ever want him. All of which means that RDJ can do whatever he wants, and apparently what he wants is to chat with Esquire and remind people that he’s still friends with Mel Gibson. I mean, I get it to some degree – RDJ was at rock bottom several times and Mel was one of the few power players to really stand up for him. RDJ has done the same for Mel. You can read the full Esquire piece here. Some highlights:

On how acting in The Sympathizer is different from Oppenheimer: “I knew that playing Strauss, in Oppenheimer, was going to be like picking fly sh*t out of pepper—that it was going to be extremely exacting, that it was going to be . . . not confining, but liberating by its varied implicit limitations of what my usual toolbox is. So I had a feeling that, like a coiled spring, Sympathizer would be my unwind.”

On whether he would return to the Marvel Cinematic Universe: “Happily. It’s too integral a part of my DNA. That role chose me. And look, I always say, Never, ever bet against Kevin Feige. It is a losing bet. He’s the house. He will always win.”

Susan Downey on how she “saved” Downey: “Everybody loves the simple narrative of somehow I came in and turned his life around and blah, blah, blah. But I can tell you that I would never be who I am without him in my life. His trajectory is just the easier one to chart because he’s had to live his ups and downs in public. When we met, we were fortunate that he was in a place where he was open to do things differently than he had historically. But you know what? So was I.”

On the “walking couples therapy” he and his wife Susan started doing during the pandemic: “Trying to figure out where we’re at, what’s pissing us off, what are we afraid of, what do we want, what will bring us closer together, how do we measure ourselves against relationships that we define as exemplary and not be repeaters or over-emulate? How do we want to shape our life?”

Mel Gibson on his reaction when Downey asked Hollywood to forgive Gibson for his drunken comments disparaging Jews: “A couple of years into that he invited me to some kind of award he was getting—we always had this kind of seesaw thing, where if he was on the wagon, I was falling off, and if I was on the wagon, he was falling off. So I was pretty much nonexistent in Hollywood at the time, and he stood up and spoke for me. It was a bold and generous and kind gesture. I loved him for that.”

On the death of his father: “I think when he left this earth, his soul was light as a feather. What better thing? It was a classy as f*ck exit, I’ll tell you that much. I don’t know your experience or anyone else’s, but I think there’s a fear for any son that his father will die like a coward.”

On Jimmy Kimmel’s opening-monologue joke about him at the Oscars: “I don’t care. I love Jimmy Kimmel. I think he’s a national treasure.”

On accepting his Academy Award, onstage in front of the world: “I was just trying to hold my mud.”

[From Esquire]

The Esquire piece is really long and RDJ is in full performance mode for the interviewer. Mel is quoted extensively – they’ve known each other for over three decades and, honestly, you can tell how much Mel adores him. The way these kinds of magazine profiles work is that the celebrity (or rather, their publicist) submits names of people to contact for filler quotes. Meaning, if RDJ didn’t want Mel Gibson to be quoted extensively as a friend/ally, he wouldn’t have been. Interestingly, Jodie Foster is also quoted extensively – I would assume they’re still very close too, and Jodie is another one who has known him for decades.

What else? I wondered if RDJ was pissed about Kimmel’s joke at the Oscars, and I wondered if RDJ’s vibe was just sort of “off” that whole night for another reason. But this Esquire piece sort of makes it clear that he was extremely nervous and just trying to keep his sh-t together during the whole awards season, basically.

Cover & photos courtesy of Norman Jean Roy for Esquire.

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33 Responses to “Robert Downey Jr.: ‘Never, ever bet against Kevin Feige. It is a losing bet’”

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  1. Danbury says:

    Ok yes he’s always in performance mode, but that’s fine? This interview makes me like him more actually (not that I disliked him before …). He just seems very human, despite everything. Not as far up his a** as you’d expect a guy that rich and successful to be.

    • Danbury says:

      Lol reading the comments I realise I may have missed a few episodes when it comes to RDJ…

    • grace says:

      I love him too and came here to say the exact thing….always performing! I guess that’s one of the things that makes him so good at his work. However….Not so sure this is a universal fear for men. Hmmm….

      ” I don’t know your experience or anyone else’s, but I think there’s a fear for any son that his father will die like a coward.”

  2. yellowy says:

    “I think when he left this earth, his soul was light as a feather. What better thing? It was a classy as f*ck exit, I’ll tell you that much. I don’t know your experience or anyone else’s, but I think there’s a fear for any son that his father will die like a coward.”

    Well, talk about pressure. 🙄

    I sort of understand what RDJ means, but that his all his ego talking. My father died in agony, worried about his family, after a long illness and he was the best person I knew. Maybe if I was a man and a patriarch I would empathise with his commentary but I think it’s pretty stupid.

    • ooshpick says:

      Yes. this struck me. What a privileged shallow thing to say. There is no cowardice in death as there is none in birth. It is a natural process that will take it’s own course. I think someone is trying to attribute some type of meaning to the ease of his father passing than have humility and gratitude that he was lucky.

      • Isabella says:

        I am glad you said that, as I was gearing myself up to be heroic in death, for the sake of my family, and it was so much pressure. I may feel nothing and just slip away. I may be in terrible pain. Nobody should expect a performance.

    • Eurydice says:

      Yes, that’s a weird sounding statement. To me, the lightness of soul sounds like what people say about making amends before death – and the cowardice is in being afraid (or refusing) to acknowledge the things one did wrong.

    • DeeSea says:

      This makes me so f***ing angry. My dad just died a few days ago, and it never even occurred to me to question whether he failed as a man by being “cowardly” in his agonizing death. As far as I’m concerned, RDJ is a heartless, pompous POS and he can kiss my grieving ass.

      • Eurydice says:

        I’m so sorry for your loss. My mother passed last week. We’re all very sad, but also very grateful that we had her as long as we did.

        I can’t take RDJ’s words personally because he’s coming from a background that’s so different from mine that we’re practically not on the same planet. They mean something to him, but not to me.

  3. Chaine says:

    Idk he seems like a typical old guy of his generation, pretty toxic masculinity if you ask me. I think Jody foster is another person who always inexplicably boosts Mel Gibson.

    • KLO says:

      I remember Jodie supposedly “confronted” RDj about his drug use in a sincere effort to help. i guess she tried to do the same with Mel. Sometimes you just are genuine friends with someone, people who are like family to you. Some people are not going to abandon their brother because they humiliated themselves publicly and have a substance issue. We don`t know what has happened to them all behind the scenes and there might be stories where Jodie needed help and Mel stepped in. Not every embarrassing, hard or hurftul story is shared with the public. Jodie has always been famously private. Just my two cents. I don´t know any of them personally.

  4. antipodean says:

    RDJ is, and always was, a tosser. Score one for the eternally self important, privileged Hollywood patriarchy. Tales of his talent are grossly over rated!

    • Noo says:

      @antipodean same and I found his comments about playing Strauss to be especially pretentious and unintelligible. Is it Cillian Murphy who says he finds it embarrassing to talk about his acting process? If only RDJ was more like Cillian.

    • asdf says:

      Couldn’t agree more. I can’t stand him. His Oscar win was a joke. Then again, when have awards been about actual merit? lol lbr they’re actually about networking.

      • Noo says:

        @asdf exactly and this is why we keep having conversations about equity and nepotism in Hollywood and the performing arts. Time and time again you see how it’s popularity (which comes from networking and access) that is the critical success factor for recognition.

  5. K says:

    Wow,that flexibility. Also..what an interesting comment about his father. His father shaped him (apparently in really horrible ways) and so that comment tells alot.

    • KLO says:

      Yes. it is a helluva thing to have an extremely flawed parent whom you still love. I guess they talked it over and grew from all of it, who knows. RDJ seems to have learned from his mistakes, maybe making them helped him better understand his dad. I am happy he is at peace with the whole issue.

  6. sevenblue says:

    RDJ is the one who started a defense campaign for Chris Pratt by gathering all Marvel men after he was voted as the less likable Chris. They didn’t do sh*t when Brie Larson got subjected to hate campaign from incels. Only a few stood by her, Don Cheadle and Samuel L. Jackson, both black men. None of powerful white men of Marvel defended her like they defended Chris because internet was once mean to him. That is the kind of a man he is.

    • asdf says:

      RDJ and white knighting for white men that are either racists or rapists (or both!), name a more iconic duo. It wasn’t just Crisp Ratt. RDJ has also staunchly defended his buddy Mel Gibson and poor persecuted victim Armie Hammer. RDJ is a racist misogynist bigot himself. I don’t know what’s loveable about him. Even if he wasn’t a bigot, he behaves like a self-important @ss.

  7. Meija says:

    I like his acting but he seems exhausting from this interview, like a wound up child with severe ADD

    • Louise says:

      Please don’t do that. Asking as somone with actual ADD.

      • Jaded says:

        Meija said nothing insulting about ADD – my granddaughter has it and before it was diagnosed she was inattentive, hyperactive and easily distracted. She was exhausting but now, with proper (non-drug) treatment, she’s doing much better.

  8. Pippa says:

    Isn´t it interesting that everytime people talk about Mel Gibson past it´s always only about the things he has said. No one ever talks about the fact that he was physically abusive to his girlfriend. Because violence against women is less of a crime than saying offensive things?

  9. Jaded says:

    His father was a drug addict who first started giving RDJ booze and drugs when he was 6 years old. SIX YEARS OLD…I hope his soul was filled with sadness and repentance for what he did to his son.

    • Saucy&Sassy says:

      Jaded, I didn’t know that. It’s remarkable that RDJ has been clean for a decade (or however long).

    • Eurydice says:

      Yes, the father/son bond was them doing drugs together – plus RDJ’s mother was an alcoholic. RDJ’s life was so screwed up – mentally, emotionally, physically – that it’s hard for me to know how to judge him. It’s easy to say, snap out of it, get help, straighten out, but all that abuse – self-inflicted and inflicted by others – must leave big scars. He’s been clean for over 20 years, but it sounds like he still has struggles.

  10. Aeren says:

    I will never forget when RDJ said “For a man whose native tongue is Spanish to be able to put together a phrase like ‘cultural genocide’ just speaks to how bright he is.” about Alejandro G. Iñarritu. Absolutely disgusting and said so much about him.

  11. asdf says:

    Oh my god, I was here to comment exactly this. I’m Latin American and I will NEVER forgive him for this. It’s not about Alejandro himself, because he ain’t no gem either, but about how easily the racism came out of RDJ the second he felt slighted. I wonder if he’d find me articulate enough 🙄

  12. therese says:

    I was afraid to say what I really think about RDJ, but reading the other comments makes me think I am among like thinkers. I just didn’t know if there were any. I do think he was violated by his father by giving him drugs, which set him up for the addiction he did have. I think he was traumatized by prison, even though it might have saved his life. I think he had climbed out of an abyss, which may be inspirational for other addicts, and I wish him well for the life he has now. That being said, I have never thought he was a good actor, I think he has his Schtick, which I don’t enjoy, and which never varies. He has an effected way of acting that is always the same, and I don’t enjoy it. I was appalled at his performance in Sherlock. Mugging away. Perhaps that type of performing is part of his persona, and his personal defense, but for the screen, it needs to be left at the door to be true acting. I didn’t think much of Guy Richie as a director for letting him get away with it. And not requiring more. As it is, it is just acting out. He is not a true actor, he is a personality. I haven’t seen Oppenheimer, but when I heard he was in it, I said to myself, you’ve got to be kidding me. Maybe the director held him to task and didn’t let him get away with mugging, being a clown. I don’t know. I may get around to seeing it. It may be a good performance and he was awarded the Oscar by everyone in shock, or for simply still being alive. (Don’t mean that unkindly.)

    • this! says:

      “He is not a true actor, he is a personality.”

      Exactly. Thank you for putting into words how I’ve always felt about him a couple other “actors”.

  13. Pajala says:

    The thing about Robert Downey Jr is that he is a very talented actor, but as a person he certainly seems like a screwed-up ass. I appreciate his acting but that’s it. And yeah, his conservative politics and defense of Gibson and Hammer do nothing for me. And in interviews he’s always interrupting his wife while she just stands there and giggles. Ugh.

  14. bisynaptic says:

    Possibly unpopular opinion: RDJ is overexposed, as is Mel Gibson, as is Jodie Foster.