It's a good time to be Robert Downey Jr.
With a career resurgence that continues unabated after the one-two punch of 2008's Iron Man and Tropic Thunder, the 44-year-old actor finds himself operating with new clout and a potential new franchise with Sherlock Holmes, opening December 25 via Warner Bros.
HOW DID HOLMES FIRST END UP ON YOUR RADAR?
About 15 minutes before Sherlock Holmes came into my periphery I was half-jokingly asking (producer) Joel Silver -- whom I credit with basically re-inviting me to the world of big studio movies with Gothika -- Dude, where's our franchise? This was in the immediate aftermath of Iron Man. And pretty soon after that he said, Remember that franchise you were talking about? I think this could be a good one. Next thing you know I was talking to (Holmes director) Guy Ritchie.
YOUR HOLMES IS A MUCH MORE PHYSICAL VERSION THAN WE'RE USED
TO. TELL US ABOUT THE FIGHT SCENES.
We developed a lot of (the choreography) early on and some of it was very dialed in but often as not we'd get there and say, This doesn't feel quite right, and we'd pull out as many toys as we had that were clad in rubber and start swinging. I only really got rocked once and I needed less than 10 stitches. We actually still finished the day and then I went to the hospital.
WHERE DID YOU GET BUSTED OPEN?
Just on the inside of my lip. It was no big deal. But I was very happy when Guy said it was more serious than he thought. That really made my day because he would routinely show up on set with black eyes from his jiu jitsu training.
WILL PEOPLE RECOGNIZE YOUR HOLMES?
Well, we got invited to the annual Baker Street Irregular's ball in New York so I guess we haven't fallen too far from the tree.
WHAT WAS IT LIKE WORKING WITH RITCHIE ON WHAT'S REALLY HIS
FIRST BIG-BUDGET STUDIO FILM?
He had a lot of really fantastic ideas about how to put the right spin on reintroducing these characters. There was something so relaxed about (the set) that it sometimes verged on chaos. But we were also shooting almost entirely on his home turf and it was a great education for we Americans to go over to England and see how they work and what they respond to and what they find repulsive about the American way of working!
I'M AFRAID WE'RE GOING TO NEED AN EXAMPLE.
OK. We'd call a story meeting, and Susan (Downey's wife and a Holmes producer) and I would just launch into the myriad subjects we need to attack to make the script better and we'd look up at Guy and his British buddies or department heads. They'd kind of look at us as though they didn't want to make us feel bad but were mildly disgusted with how uncivilized we were about just launching right into work. So I was like, Susan, why don't we get a cheese plate and a little of that low- to mid-grade caviar ... maybe somebody wants a blini. It's tea time isn't it? Well, let's see if they want some tea. And no sooner did we start opening our sessions with an offer of a beverage or some food -- as soon as we civilized ourselves -- the floodgates of goodwill opened.
HAS YOUR APPROACH CHANGED AT ALL IN THE WAKE OF YOUR RECENT
The difference is personal in that I have a bit more influence now -- that my ideas maybe carry more weight than they might have before. But regarding the type of project, my approach is unchanged. Go for broke and exempt all cliches if possible. And set up and pay off story points in as clever and honest a way as possible.
ARE YOU HAVING MORE FUN NOW THAN YOU WOULD HAVE IF ALL THIS
HAD COME 20 YEARS AGO?
Absolutely more fun now, perhaps because I've lived more mistakes than I could possibly repeat. I'm kind of a professional troubleshooter in a sense. Having done so many films the less than optimal way, I tend to smell the end result of faulty process pretty acutely ... and hopefully help it be avoided by my co-workers.