What does the end of the world look like in the Marvel Universe? Judging by The Avengers, it is one spirit-breaking catastrophe after another. First a demi-god with a magic cube declares war on earth; then alien shock troops and monstrous leviathans invade New York; then it gets worse as a U.S. nuclear warhead is fired at Manhattan. It builds up to a crescendo the most unthinkable disaster of all (especially if you’re a Marvel Studios executive): The moment Robert Downey Jr.flies up, up and away from Earth, maybe never to return.
Yes, Downey and his Tony Stark character have considerable magnetic appeal and it’s difficult to imagine Marvel asking the 47-year-old to do anything less anytime soon. (In fact, there’s a lot of chatter that Marvel may send Stark back to the far ends of the cosmos as a cast member in the 2014 film Guardians of the Galaxy.) Downey, like his clanging alter ego, has been machine-like the past five years. Set aside his summer Marvel job and it’s still impressive: two Sherlock Holmes films; an Oscar nomination for Tropic Thunder; an evocative performance in The Soloist; and the comedy hit Due Date (which he once told me he views as “one of the most privately joyful experiences in history”). I caught up with Downey for a lengthy phone interview recently and we’ll be running installments right here all this week. We started with Part 1 yesterday, here’s Part 2.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Iron Man 3 picks up not long after the alien invasion of New York where Tony Stark went into battle at the side of a thunder god, a living legend from WWII and a giant green man-monster. Will we see any of those Avengers in this movie? Or does this movie need to be Tony’s Me Party?
Robert Downey Jr.: The whole Avengers thing [with $1.5 billion in global box office was such a relief and such a confirmation of [Marvel Studios President] Kevin Feige’s vision for this all along. As Kevin has put it, the next step after that is to bring in someone like Shane Black and – without pretending that the Avengers don’t exist – find a way to go back to a kind of re-investigation of Tony’s world, which he thought would be, one, fun for the audience and, two, would rock in a different way than The Avengers. But we can’t help it — everywhere you look now in every Marvel movie there are opportunities where certain new pals of his could be useful. So they’re in the atmosphere, so to speak, but I wouldn’t expect to see them on the ground in this one.
This will be your fifth Marvel Studios film in five years and you’ve starred in two Sherlock Holmes films in that span. How challenging is it to carve out time for another drama like Zodiac or comedy like Due Date? Or experiments like A Scanner Darkly? I know the interests of Team Downey go far wider than popcorn franchises.
Yes, they do and basically we’re going to head in that direction for most of 2013. And the nice thing about Marvel’s kind of unprecedented success is they are already able to do what Warners had done along, which is avoid that approach of beginning [a project by picking a release] date and working backwards from there. And by avoiding that you get a schedule where there’s more space. And, also, the smart money always says, Let’s wait a little longer and do a little better. When I first thought of what my world would be like if every other year I had to put out a product for more than one franchise, the thought was: Well how will I ever get to do anything else? But neither seems to be hurrying toward their deaths and still there’s space that allows the rest.
When you consider the wide spectrum of roles in all of the films out there Stark and Holmes aren’t that different. Brilliant, decadent, anti-authority, charismatic but vainglorious, etc. I could see you getting itchy if those two roles filled the entire canvas.
Yeah, definitely. You know seeing Denzel [Washington’s Oscar nominated role] in Flight and [the film’s director, Robert] Zemeckis being back in live-action mode I was thinking how many great opportunities there for us fortunate actor/movie types. There’s an explosion of possibilities.