Think back as recently as 2005 and you may remember a time when the names “Robert Downey Jr.” and “Mickey Rourke” would bring to mind cautionary tales of actors with extraordinary talent who had destroyed themselves to the point where they were considered unemployable. Both were mired in a deep spiral of straight-to-video misfires and box-office bombs that boasted quickly-forgotten names like “They Crawl,” “Friends and Lovers,” “Stormbreaker” and “Game 6,” and their addictions were earning far more headlines than their acting.
Now, a mere five years later, the ’80s stars are headlining what might be the biggest film of the year. Marvel took a major chance when they hired Downey for “Iron Man” and Rourke for “Iron Man 2,” but ultimately they made a gutsy decision that would make the superhero franchise stand out from the rest. And as much as Downey appreciates the second chance, the resurrected superstar plays the angle down as much as he can.
“Stranger things have happened … this is the strangest thing that has yet happened,” he half-joked, dismissing the angle. “I don’t know what to tell you.”
As Downey was breaking through in the 1980s with smart-alecky sidekick roles in “Weird Science” and “Back to School,” a recurring gig on “Saturday Night Live,” and a dramatic showcase in “Less Than Zero,” Mickey Rourke was being praised as the new Brando in instant classics like “Diner,” “Rumble Fish” and “Nine 1/2 Weeks.” Back then, Oscars were being predicted for the two actors — not a decade of irrelevance followed by a superhero renaissance. But according to Downey, it was the story on the screen that got them their roles, not the one we all watched play out in the tabloids.
“Here’s the thing: [Director Jon Favreau] felt he was the guy and then I agreed,” Downey said of Rourke. “I am not the director, I am merely an appendage of said director. Then I went campaigning here and there. If I’d see Mickey at a little press get-together, I would bring it up in front of everybody. Or if we were at dinner, I would bring it up. And by the time we were at negotiations, we made it clear we really wanted him to do it.”
Longtime friends and supporters of one another, Downey and Rourke will soon be seen duking it out onscreen in “Iron Man 2.” But in real life, the two couldn’t be happier to be together again, partying like it’s 1985.
Check out everything we’ve got on “Iron Man 2.”
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