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Robert Downey Jr. Doesn’t Regret Tropic Thunder Blackface

January 21, 2020 | Posted by Ashish

Robert Downey Jr. was recently on The Joe Rogan Experience Podcast (h/t IndieWire) and discussed his controversial role as Kirk Lazarus in 2008’s Tropic Thunder which saw him appear in blackface for much of the movie. Highlights are below.

On his mother being horrified by the role: “My mother was horrified,” Downey Jr. said. “‘Bobby, I’m telling ya, I have a bad feeling about this.’ I was like, ‘Yeah me too, mom.’ When Ben called and said, ‘Hey I’m doing this thing’ – you know I think Sean Penn had passed on it or something. Possibly wisely. And I thought, ‘Yeah, I’ll do that and I’ll do that after Iron Man.’ Then I started thinking, ‘This is a terrible idea, wait a minute.’ Then I thought, ‘Well hold on dude, get real here, where is your heart? My heart is…I get to be black for a summer in my mind, so there’s something in it for me. The other thing is, I get to hold up to nature the insane self-involved hypocrisy of artists and what they think they’re allowed to do on occasion, just my opinion.”

On the role blasting the cap on the issue: “[Ben] knew exactly what the vision for this was, he executed it, it was impossible to not have it be an offensive nightmare of a movie,” Downey Jr. continued. “And 90 per cent of my black friends were like, ‘Dude, that was great.’ I can’t disagree with [the other 10 per cent], but I know where my heart lies. I think that it’s never an excuse to do something that’s out of place and out of its time, but to me it blasted the cap on [the issue]. I think having a moral psychology is job one. Sometimes, you just gotta go, ‘Yeah I effed up.’ In my defense, ‘Tropic Thunder’ is about how wrong [blackface] is, so I take exception.”

Downey Jr. ended up getting nominated for Best Supporting Actor at the Oscars, Golden Globes, and SAG Awards for the role.

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Robert Downey Jr., Ashish