When speaking about Hollywood comeback stories, the actor whose name seems to always get mentioned first is Robert Downey Jr. Spending years in front of the camera giving quality performances in Brat Pack films such as “Weird Science” and even earning an Academy Award nomination for his performance in 1992’s “Chaplin,” his career took an unfortunate turn as drug addiction ruined his physical state as well as public persona. From late 2001 on, RDJ spent years trying to show Hollywood that he was still one of the most talented actors and now willing to focus solely on making his career as lasting as possible. Now, just 13 years later, Downey Jr. has immortalized himself as not only one of the highest paid actors working today, but one of the most celebrated as well. It’s pretty safe to say whatever he did work out tremendously, so we decided with his new film “The Judge” opening this weekend it would be fitting to run down some of this illustrious actor’s best performances.
5.) Paul Avery
Appeared In: “Zodiac”
“Zodiac” is my favorite David Fincher film, and while that could be attributed to the director’s technical perfection, with this film the performances seem to match if not elevate Fincher’s prowess. Downey Jr. is no exception, playing Paul Avery, a police reporter at the San Francisco Chronicle who receives the first letter from the infamous serial killer. After receiving a note from the killer directed at him, Avery becomes increasingly paranoid, turning to drugs and alcohol before quitting his job at the paper completely. Due to the dark and disturbing subject material, his performance in “Zodiac” is much different to any of the other ones on this list; it’s intense and driving, straying away from the quick witted and light humor we have seen from him since his reemergence, showing a sense of vulnerability that really brought his performance to the next level.
4.) Kirk Lazarus
Appeared In: “Tropic Thunder”
Take a white American actor and have him portray an Australian method actor who undergoes a skin color alteration in order to play an African American solider in the fictional film being made inside the real film. Confusing? Yes. Meta? Without a doubt. Controversial? Absolutely. However, Robert Downey Jr.’s performance of Kirk Lazarus in the 2008 comedy “Tropic Thunder” was able to bypass all of these trepidations because of one simple fact: it was absolutely hilarious. RDJ’s sense of comic timing was impeccable as he once again stole every scene he was in, earning himself an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor, a feat not normally accomplished by a strictly comedic film.
3.) Harry Lockhart
Appeared in: “Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang”
Downey Jr.’s portrayal of a crook disguising himself as an actor in Shane Black’s “Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang” is easily one of the funniest and most lively performances on his career. With quick snappy dialogue and a real sense of excitement, Downey Jr. steals the screen as Lockhart, providing audiences a cool and sly character to truly sink their teeth into. The chemistry between Kilmer and Downey Jr. is dynamic, but in the end it’s the amount of fun and quick-witted humor that the character of Harry Lockhart brings to the story that encapsulates this as one of RDJ’s more memorable performances.
2.) Tony Stark
Appeared In: Iron Man franchise, “The Avengers”
The role that reinvigorated his career, Robert Downey Jr.’s portrayal of this billionaire playboy philanthropist has become one of the most recognized and influential of the past few years. Back in the mid 2000s Marvel took a chance on hiring this once highly-respected actor turned drug addict (based on a recommendation by director Jon Favreau) to portray the titular character in their first film in a long string of comic book movies that would expand to become the Cinematic Universe we know and love today. Critically and commercially successful, “Iron Man” left a lasting impression on fans and solidified RDJ as a true talent. Simply put, you know you are playing a character correctly when one it’s consistently joked about that you ARE that character.
1.) Charlie Chaplin
Appeared In: “Chaplin”
Despite the film’s mixed reviews from fans and critics alike, Downey Jr.’s performance received critical acclaim, including an Academy Award nomination, and for good reason. RDJ absolutely nails the part of Charlie Chaplin, from his resemblance to the famous entertainer to his mannerisms, including inflection of voice. More so, Downey Jr. captured the spirit of Chaplin in his accurate representations of the vaudeville and film sketches that made the man so popular, injecting fantastic grace and humor into an otherwise unbalanced story. Richard Attenborough’s confidence in the performance fully showed when the director of the project decided to include historical footage of Chaplin himself at the end of the film, and with no quarrels from anyone about this decision it goes to show how seamless Downey Jr’s transformation into the life of this well-recognized Hollywood icon truly was.
By Nicholas Franco