For most people, when you think of Robert Downey Jr., you think of his role as Tony Stark in the Iron Man movies. Downey of course has had roles other than that, but this is no doubt his biggest. The gig has been pretty sweet for the actor, as he was paid $50 million to appear in The Avengers in 2012. When you consider how many other movies he's been in in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, there's no surprise that he's the third-highest paid actor in the world.
But if it wasn't for director Jon Favreau taking a chance on Downey, his life could have turned out very differently. Favreau had to fight the movie studio to allow him to cast the troubled actor, because he was apparently too much of a risk.
Downey has been a drug addict since the age of eight, saying his father would supply him with illegal substances. He's been arrested in the past for possession of heroin and cocaine, as well as possession of a weapon and breaking into someone's home (where he fell asleep in a bed.) With a past like that, insurance companies began refusing to insure projects that Downey was working on. He was also fired from Ally McBeal following an arrest in 2001.
Downey has been drug-free since 2003, and has worked hard to build his image back up to where it was. But despite his best efforts, the Marvel studios actively tried to keep him off their films. Favreau knew he was the right choice, and kept pushing for Downey's casting.
The director also pointed out that Downey's choice was natural, seeing as his life so similarly paralleled that of Tony Stark's.
"Everybody knew he was talented,” Favreau said in an interview. “Certainly by studying the Iron Man role and developing that script I realized that the character seemed to line up with Robert in all the good and bad ways. And the story of Iron Man was really the story of Robert’s career."
Favreau didn't see anything unusual about his push to get Downey in the franchise, though. That's just what he had to do in order to make it work.
"It was my job as a director to show that it was the best choice creatively ... and now the Marvel Universe is the biggest franchise in film history," Favreau pointed out. "That was a big gamble on whether or not he was really serious about it… and now history has definitely proven that he was dead serious about it and now he is the biggest star in the world."
Downey has been open about his struggles with drugs, and in 2004 he spoke with Oprah about his final decision to get help.
"I said, 'You know what? I don't think I can continue doing this.' And I reached out for help, and I ran with it," he said. "You can reach out for help in kind of a half-assed way and you'll get it and you won't take advantage of it. It's not that difficult to overcome these seemingly ghastly problems ... what's hard is to decide to do it."
Personally, I'm thrilled that Favreau pushed so hard to get Downey in the Marvel franchise. I can't imagine anyone else playing Iron Man!
[H/T: Cinema Blend]