During a sit down with comedian and podcast host Joe Rogan, Iron Man actor Robert Downey Jr. admitted that he believed you could make Tropic Thunder today.
The pair dove into the subject back in January when Rogan flat out asked, “Do you think you could do Tropic Thunder Today? Would that be possible?”
Reflecting on a movie his own father made back in the 60s, Putney Swope, Robert Downey Jr. felt it was possible, but it would be an interesting animal to tackle under today’s current climate.
He first answers, “You could do it. *Rogan laughs*”
He elaborates, “And again, like Eddie, you know, I look back to me, that movie to me was a circle back to my Dad’s movie called “Putney Swope” which I highly recommend anyone who hasn’t seen to see.”
He goes on to describe the plot of Putney Swope, “About a black guy who takes over an ad agency in the 60s ’cause everyone votes for him when the head of the company dies because they think no one else will. And it’s about what happens when someone who is free-spirited takes over an essentially corrupt endeavor. And he realizes and confronts his own corruption.”
Downey explains the film heavily influenced him and his decision to take on Tropic Thunder, “But I remember when I was two or three when that was being shot and when it came out and it was so apart of my upbringing and I just remember some of the folks around my dad at that time.”
He goes on to detail when he received the call for Tropic Thunder, “And so when Ben [Stiller] called and said “Hey, I’m doing this thing and you know, I think maybe Sean Pean had passed on it or something like that, possibly wisely, and I thought, ‘Yeah I’ll do that and I’ll do that after Iron Man.'”
While he notes he started to second guess himself he goes on to detail some of the positives in his mind for taking on the role, “And then I started thinking this is a terrible idea. Wait a minute. And then I thought hold on dude get real here, ‘Where is your heart?’ And my heart is A. I get to be black for a summer, in my mind. So there’s something in it for me.”
He added, “The other thing is I get to hold up to nature the insane self-involved hypocrisy of artists and what they think they are allowed to do on occasion. Just my opinion Also, Ben who is a masterful artist and director. Pry the closest thing to a Charlie Chaplain that I’ve experienced in my lifetime.”
Downey goes on to praise Ben Stiller before detailing how the majority of his black friends reacted to his role and the film. He stated, “It was impossible to not have it be an offensive nightmare of a movie. And 90% of my black friends were like ‘Dude that was great.'”
Joe then asked about those who weren’t happy, “What about the other ten percent?”
Downey Jr. answered, “You know, I can’t disagree with them. But I know where my heart was. And I think that it’s never an excuse to do something that is out of place and nut of its time. But to me, it was a blasting cap on… and by the way I think White Chicks came out pretty soon after that and I was like ‘I love that,’ I was like, ‘That was great.'”
Rogan followed up by saying he felt Tropic Thunder might be the last of its kind. He explained, “Well, it might be the last time we see that. Unless things change. It seems like that no one can, I don’t think you can do blackface anymore. I mean we almost lost the Prime Minister of Canada ’cause he did brown face. He pretended to be Saudi Arabian. He did Arabian Nights in high school or something.”
Downey responded, “It’s an interesting and necessary mediation on where is the pendulum. Why is the pendulum right, where is the pendulum may be cutting a little into what could be perceived as the heart in the right place openness of its time. But again, I mean you know, there’s a morality clause on this planet and its a big price to pay and I think having a moral psychology is job one. So sometimes you just got to go yeah you know I f’ed up.
He added, “Again, not in my defense, but Tropic Thunder was about how wrong that is. So, I take exception”
Rogan noted how there would be a group of offended people, but also claimed that there would be those who’d defend the film as well, “So I think you could do it today, I think you could, I think it could be done today. There would be so much outrage, but there would be also people cheering.”
He continued, “If you boiled down all the bullshit of what the film did. It’s f***ing hilarious to this day. I watched it again about a year and a half ago. It’s a great movie. It’s a great fun movie. It’s ridiculous, over the top, hilarious. And it worked. And your portrayal it wasn’t egregious, it was necessary. It made sense, all of it fit. The square pegs in square holes.”
Rogan then added, “It worked, but I think it’s the last time we’ll see a studio take a chance on a guy wearing blackface and the prolific use of the word retard. Those are two things.”
Downey responded, “The funny thing is that all the heat got deflected to Ben and Simple Jack. That’s what got people were pissed off about. And I go, ‘Woo, great!'”
He added, “But you never know when it’s going to be your time in the barrel. Sometimes life just says, ‘you know what’ and I’ve been on both sides of that coin; sometimes life just says, you’re a symbol now.'”
Rogan then asks if anyone had advised on Downey on turning down the role. Robert Downey Jr. admitted that the role “horrified” his own mother, she made it clear to the actor saying that she had “a bad feeling about this.” Downey replied to his mother that he felt the same way, but still moved forward with the project.
Later on in the interview, Downey detailed his wife’s opinion on taking the role of Kirk Lazarus, “My missus, who next to my mother, probably more so, the opinion that I was really waiting on. She was reading it in the kitchen laughing her ass off.”
He continued, “She goes, ‘This is so wrong, this is so wrong’ and she goes ‘And it’s so true if you do this right, you are doing something that’s…’ It’s about a bunch of self-involved idiots somehow or other becoming heroes. And she goes, ‘I love that. If that’s what it stays then it’s going to be good.'”
But what might be the most interesting part of this segment of the interview is that Downey Jr. appears to be extremely self-aware that everything he says to Rogan could be taken out of context and used to paint him in a negative light.
He tells Rogan, “By the way, I guarantee you, I’m getting out of here, my stock is not plummeting when I leave here. I’m not smoking dope. I’m not doing a Musk. I’m going to do everything right.”
I believe Robert Downey Jr. and Joe Rogan to an extent are wrong. Tropic Thunder with its in your face attitude about race, blackface, and humor would have today’s internet activists ensure everyone involved in the project would fall victim to cancel culture.
You can see Downey has that on his mind in the way he answers Rogan’s questions, he takes great care to make sure any word he says cannot be misrepresented. And that was in an interview about more than 10 year old film.
We know he believes what he’s saying, but given his cautiousness in the interview it’s safe to assume that he knows that any infraction, especially from a white male, would cause the strange colored hair activists to set their sights on the actor.
Now imagine that sort of eggshell working for a movie. That’s why it would be impossible to make the film today.
What do you think of Robert Downey Jr. and his role in Tropic Thunder? Do you believe this movie, or one like it, could be made today? Let us know!