Robert Downey Jr. Has No Regrets Over ‘Tropic Thunder’ Blackface: ‘It Blasted the Cap on the Issue’

IndieWire | 1/21/2020 | Staff
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Robert Downey Jr. reignited his career by launching the Marvel Cinematic Universe with “Iron Man” in 2008, which just so happens to be the year he threatened to ruin his career by going blackface for “Tropic Thunder.” Ben Stiller’s Hollywood satire cast Downey Jr. as Kirk Lazarus, an Australian method actor who undergoes “pigmentation alteration” surgery to darken his skin in order to play a black character in a war movie. Downey Jr. appears in blackface for the majority of “Tropic Thunder,” a decision that has continued to spark debate and court controversy for 12 years and counting. Downey Jr. looked back at the casting while promoting “Doolittle” on a recent episode of “The Joe Rogan Experience” podcast.

“My mother was horrified,” Downey Jr. said. “‘Bobby, I’m telling ya, I have a bad feeling about this.’ I was like, ‘Yeah me too, mom.’ When Ben called and said, ‘Hey I’m doing this thing’ – you know I think Sean Penn had passed on it or something. Possibly wisely. And I thought, ‘Yeah, I’ll do that and I’ll do that after Iron Man.’ Then I started thinking, ‘This is a terrible idea, wait a minute.’ Then I thought, ‘Well hold on dude, get real here, where is your heart? My heart is…I get to be black for a summer in my mind, so there’s something in it for me. The other thing is, I get to hold up to nature the insane self-involved hypocrisy of artists and what they think they’re allowed to do on occasion, just my opinion.”

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