I am all about the Marvel Universe and I love Tony Stark/Iron Man! I also love the actor Robert Downey, Jr. and see his life in parallel with that of Tony Stark’s.
Even director Jon Favreau saw the parallels with the character as he explained his choice of Robert Downey, Jr. by stating: “Downey wasn’t the most obvious choice, but he understood what makes the character tick. He found a lot of his own life experience in ‘Tony Stark’.”
In “Iron Man”,we meet the reckless, engineering genius, irreverent playboy, and heir to the Stark Industries fortune, Tony Stark. His engineering abilities eventually help him turn his life around and accept responsibility for the weapons of mass destruction he and his late father – Howard Stark have developed.
Like Stark, Downey is brilliant! I’ve watched his career blossom from the silly bully in Weird Science (1985) to his seemingly real-life story in, Less Than Zero (1987) to his incredible performance in the 1992 film Chaplin, which earned him a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actor and won him the BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role.
About “Less Than Zero”, Downey has said that for him “the role was like the ghost of Christmas Future” since his drug habit resulted in his becoming an “exaggeration of the character.”
His devolution from a teenage star to his public humiliation as a drug addict brought loss of relationships with pain and heartache to his friends and family. I’ve prayed for him to get his life together and not squander the gift he was given.
Unfortunately, as a child, Downey was “surrounded by drugs”. His father, a drug addict, allowed Downey to use marijuana at age six, an incident which his father has said he now regrets. Downey later stated that drug use became an emotional bond between him and his father: “When my dad and I would do drugs together, it was like him trying to express his love for me in the only way he knew how.” (Wikipedia)
At the beginning of “Iron Man”, Tony is actually promoting Stark Industries and his new project the “Jericho” missile. (a rocket-propelled grenade) On a promotional tour in war-torn Afghanistan, Tony Stark is injured and kidnapped by a terrorist group, who want him to produce a copy of his weapon. Angered by the turn of events, he secretly develops the prototype that becomes “Iron Man.” This imposing figure reeks havoc on his captures as Stark/Iron Man escapes. Back home at his lab, we witness the evolution of the look and strength of Iron Man as Tony fashions him into a force for good against those who profit from Stark Industry’s weapons of war.
Robert Downey, Jr. like Tony Stark was forced to face his demons and (according to Downey) turned his life and career around with the help of his family, therapy, meditation, twelve-step recovery programs, yoga and the practice of Wing Chun kung fu. Downey has also credited his wife Susan Levin – Executive Vice President of Production at Joel Silver’s film company and production partner – with helping him overcome his drug and alcohol habits.
Today, Robert Downey, Jr. as Iron Man, and as an Avenger, is an integral player in the Marvel Studios Universe which is proving to be one of the most profitable franchises in the film industry.
I smile whenever I see Robert or Tony. It feels good watching a fellow spirit not only overcome his challenges but thrive in the arena where we can share and enjoy his talent.
“A lot of people do get out but don’t change. So the thing is to get out and recognize the significance of that aggressive denial of your fate, come through the crucible forged into a stronger metal.” (Vanity Fair)