Forty years ago, Robert Downey, Sr. directed, produced and also dubbed the voice of the lead character – a black man in “Putney Swope.” This summer the Downey family comes full circle as his son, Robert Downey, Jr. plays a . . . Black man in the comedy, “Tropic Thunder.”
In the “Apocalyse Now”-esque satire, the film takes aim at actor’s huge egos. Downey, Jr. stars as Kirk Lazarus (that’s him in the center of the picture) who ends up with a part in the film originally written for a Black man. Instead of recasting the role, Lazarus dyes his skin to play the character Osiris and . . . you know the rest.
The film also stars Ben Stiller (who also directs) and Jack Black in a modern day “Apocalypse Now.” Jack Black plays a comedian known for playing multiple roles in his films (like his last film, “The Fatties: Fart 2”). When the fake film’s director (Steve Coogan) and writer (Nick Nolte) get fed up with their prima donna cast, they drop them into the jungle to fend for themselves. The actors think they’re doing some sort of full-immersion filmmaking, but the danger they’re in is very real.
Downey is very confident that he did not crossed the line:
“At the end of the day, it’s always about how well you commit to the character,” he says. “I dove in with both feet. If I didn’t feel it was morally sound, or that it would be easily misinterpreted that I’m just C. Thomas Howell in [“Soul Man”], I would’ve stayed home.”
For your sake, Downey we hope you’re right. The moment your character does anything stereotypical because you believe that how Black people act, it’s on!
Does Downey in Blackface, even in 2008, offend you?