You know him as Iron Man, the wise-cracking millionaire playboy turned tech-savvy superhero. But Robert Downey Jr. enjoyed a long and varied career before he snapped into the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe). We’re looking at films you forgot Robert Downey Jr. was in.
Before Marvel, there were the wilderness years. It’s common knowledge that Downey Jr struggled with drink and drug abuse. He even did a stint in prison as a result of his misadventures. His rise from recovery to super-stardom since 2008 is little short of miraculous. And let’s face it – Hollywood loves a comeback.
But this isn’t the whole story. Downey Jr. starred in a host of great movies, long before he donned the red metal suit. Let’s take a look at nine of those, starting with the most recent and working back to his baby-faced youth.
1. Zodiac (2007)
It’s the year before he debuted for Marvel Studios. Downey JR played seasoned journalist Paul Avery in David Fincher’s true-life serial killer tale.
A cynical, wise-cracking alcoholic. The role might have been tailor-made for the actor, who channels his easy charm into a performance so subtle, it was overlooked at awards season.
The perfect foil to Jake Gyllenhaal’s puppy-dog enthusiasm, Downey JR excels in this standout performance.
2. A Scanner Darkly (2006)
Genius director Richard Linklater took cult sci-fi author Philip K. Dick’s novel of mind-bending druggy paranoia. Then assembled a stellar cast for this highly original film.
Using rotoscoping, a technique where animators paint over filmed frames, Linklater cast Downey Junior as Keanu Reeve’s skin-headed, opinionated housemate Barris.
The freewheeling comic dialogue is perfect for Downey’s scattershot style. Later exhibited when he became Tony Stark in Iron Man.
3. A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints
Downey Jr is searingly powerful in this independent crime drama which also features Channing Tatum and Shia La Boeuf.
A latter-day Mean Streets, the film is set in the 1980s and present-day New York. It’s a semi-autobiographical character study by director Dito Montiel.
Downey Jr plays Dito, a writer returning to his old neighborhood with mixed feelings about his ailing father, with whom he clashed as a boy.
La Boeuf plays 1980s Dito, which makes this the film where Shia La Boeuf grows up to be Robert Downey Jr. Wishful thinking, some might say.
4. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005)
This independently-financed action-comedy was screenwriter and director Shane Black’s comeback film. After the million-dollar spec script bubble burst in the 1990s, Black was persona non grata in Hollywood. He enlisted equally blackballed stars Downey Jr and Val Kilmer for his directorial debut.
Against all odds, they created a film that critics enjoyed, although audiences mostly stayed away. The film plays like a crazy pinball machine of twists and wisecracks. Downey Jr breezes through it with ineffable charm, even when a dog eats his finger.
5. Wonder Boys (2000)
It’s fun seeing Downey Jr playing a gay character for a change. As a publisher who seduces and toys with the affections of Tobey Maguire’s wannabe writer.
In a supporting role, Downey Jr plays it rather straight, leaving most of the witticisms to star Michael Douglas.
It’s a generous and roguish performance to add to his varied repertoire. The film also provides the answer to a perfect pub quiz movie trivia question – “in which film does Iron Man end up in bed with Spiderman?”
6. Bowfinger (1999)
It’s tough playing straight man to Steve Martin on a career-high. But Robert Downey Jr almost steals his scenes as smug Hollywood studio executive Jerry Renfro.
In a film that also features the comedic talents of Eddie Murphy playing two contrasting characters, Downey Jr. more than holds his own. He’s in a role where’s he’s required to do little but look slick and ridiculously handsome. Nice suit too.
7. Heat and Souls (1993)
In 1993 Downey Jr worked with the legendary Robert Altman on his Hollywood-set ensemble movie Short Cuts. In the same year, he also made this, largely forgotten, high concept comedy from City Slickers director Ron Underwood.
Downey Jr plays a man inhabited by the souls of four recently-deceased people with business on earth to complete.
The actor clearly relishes the challenge of playing four contrasting roles, including two female characters. His bouncing back and forth between the clashing personalities is a comic tour-de-force in an underrated and remake-worthy movie.
This is the film for which Downey Jr won his Academy Award, and rightly so.
Playing comedy icon Charlie Chaplin was a huge challenge for an actor who’d been stuck in mushy rom-com and dumb comedies for the best part of a decade. Richard Attenborough clearly saw more than just a likeness in the young actor. Here he displayed a previously unexplored gift for physical comedy.
Although critics were a little cool about the film, Downey Jr’s performance was singled out for praise. His career should have taken off. Alas, some unfortunate life choices (and career choices) kept him from superstardom for a little longer.
9. Less than Zero (1987)
Even before his Oscar, there were glimpses of real talent in the 22-year old star.
There’s a feeling that the “out of control” drug-addled character he plays in this long-forgotten 80s drama isn’t so much of a stretch for him. Two years before the better-known Drugstore Cowboy, Bret Easton-Ellis’s expose of the young and privileged of Beverley Hills allows Downey Jr to act everyone else off the screen. He even steals the scene after his character’s demise – that’s the sign of a charismatic actor!
Whether he’s a lowlife, a charmer, a silent screen star or a black single mum (in Heart and Souls – seriously), Robert Downey Jr has always been the comeback king. He’s worked hard to enjoy his newfound mega-stardom. Perhaps it’s time to cut the wisecracking reprobate some slack?
That’s our list of nine movies you forgot Robert Downey Jr. appeared in. Did we miss any? Which was your favourite? Let us know in the comments below.
Check out more of our MCU articles HERE.
Read about IMDB information on Zodiac HERE.
Read about IMDB information on A Scanner Darkly HERE.
Read about IMDB information on A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints HERE.
Check out IMDB information on Kiss Kiss Bang Bang HERE.
Read IMDB information on Wonder Boys HERE.
Check out IMDB information on Bowfinger HERE
Read IMDB information on Heart and Souls HERE.
Check out IMDB information on Chaplin HERE.
Read more about Less than Zero on IMDB HERE.
9 Bands You Forgot Played Themselves In Movies
There are more bands than you think that played themselves on the big screen. Here are nine bands you might’ve forgotten appeared in movies.
1. Alice Cooper – Wayne’s World (1992)
Being a teenager in the nineties was great for many reasons. Two of those being the release of the Wayne’s World movies. The genius that is Mike Myers created one of the best music-based films of all time. Plus, he convinced one of the greatest rock musicians of all time to be in it. If you’re not a geek like me, you may have forgotten that Alice Cooper was featured in the film. It had the iconic scene of Wayne and Garth meeting, Alice, backstage on bent knees. We’re not worthy, indeed. Alice himself pulls off the diva Rockstar brilliantly, even though he’s a genuine, down-to-earth guy who plays a lot of golf.
2. Primus – Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey (1991)
Let’s try and erase the recent Bill & Ted movie from our memory and head back to 1991 for their bogus journey. They come from the future to kill the non-robot versions of themselves and ruin their performance at a Battle of the Bands competition. What’s cool is the band who are playing before them. Californian alt-metal kings Primus. Although the clip is only short, they play themselves and sound as you would expect. Epic.
3. Fall Out Boy – Sex Drive (2008)
You’d be forgiven for forgetting about this one. The teen sex comedy from 2008 is forgettable and won’t really appeal to anyone apart from its teen target audience. If you can sit through all the cringe-inducing moments, you will spot pop-rockers Fall Out Boy. They are performing in a barn in front of some drunk Amish teenagers. There’s a reason for that, but I won’t bore you with it here. What is good, is the soundtrack of the film. As well as Fall Out Boy, it features Airbourne, AC/DC and weirdly, Kenny Loggins.
4. Twisted Sister – Pee Wee’s Big Adventure (1985)
Paul Reuben’s character Pee Wee Herman made his big-screen outing in 1985. The children’s show star had a scene where he is being chased through a studio parking lot. Unbeknown to him, glam rockers Twisted Sister are recording a music video on a car. Lead singer Dee Snider is always up for a laugh, so it’s no surprise they’re featured. The clip is brilliant. Pee Wee’s prop-laden bike is just about to crash into Twisted Sister and the look on Dee’s face is genius. Go check out the clip.
5. David Bowie – Zoolander (2001)
Who can forget the brilliant Zoolander? Starring Ben Stiller as the dippy model, it’s one of the funniest comedies ever made. One of the best scenes of the film is the walk-off. This involved Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson’s characters doing a catwalk-off. Of sorts. Can you remember who refereed it? The legend himself, David Bowie. It’s not the first time Bowie was in a movie – remember Labyrinth? But this time, he plays himself. And does it with all the cool swagger you would expect.
6. The Mighty Mighty Bosstones – Clueless (1995)
I can’t say that I was a massive fan of this teen comedy at the time. The plot revolves around Alicia Silverstone’s character giving her friend a makeover. The premise doesn’t sound like it lends itself to a cool band cameo. You’d be wrong, though. There’s a scene where the lead characters go watch a gig. The band that are playing are The Mighty Mighty Bosstones. The Boston ska-punk legends are only on stage for a moment, but it’s a slick clip. It certainly brings the film up a level on the cool stakes.
7. Daft Punk – Tron: Legacy (2010)
This sequel to the original sci-fi classic is a cracking movie. The visuals and effects are stunning, as is the atmosphere of the film. The music to the film is also rather special. A futuristic and dystopian movie could only have one act doing the score, and that’s Daft Punk. It works a treat. The music is intertwined into the movie and becomes a part of it. The delicious electronica is the perfect complement to the visuals. The French electronic masters also have a cameo at the end of the movie. They’re spinning the decks in a blink-and-you-miss-it scene.
8. Aerosmith – Wayne’s World (1993)
We’ve already had an appearance from the first film further up our list, and the second doesn’t disappoint either. The plot revolves around Wayne and Garth putting on their own music festival. Book them and they will come, is the advice given. And they certainly did. The headline band for the festival were none other than Aerosmith themselves. They do a sterling effort on stage as performers. And Steven Tyler also shows that he can handle his own on the acting front too.
9. Reel Big Fish – BASEketball (1998)
Trey Parker and Matt Stone star in this bizarre and hilarious sports comedy. Written by the king of spoof David Zucker, it’s become a cult classic. The soundtrack heavily features ska-punkers Reel Big Fish. They do a brilliant rendition of A-HA’s Take on Me, which they also perform in the movie. The band are the entertainment at the stadium where Parker and Stone are competing. You can tell by the footage that the band are clearly enjoying themselves. They add a touch more fun to an already hugely funny film.
That’s our list of nine bands who played themselves in movies. Did we miss any of your favourites? Let us know in the comments below.
Check out our list of actors in bands HERE.
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