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May 09 2013

Robert Downey Jr: "...the better the writing is, the more annoying it is..." The man who is Tony Stark graces the cover of Off Camera issue #5 and sits down with the host of this magazine/website/podcast/television show, the photographer/director Sam Jones.

RDJ talks about his work process with scripts...

"Since working with Jon Favreau on the first Iron Man, I have practically zero regard for what is physically printed on the pages when I go to work. And sometimes, the better the writing is, the more annoying it is, because it's more likely I will not be able to innovate within it."

...and about looking forward to life after Iron Man, The Avengers and Sherlock Holmes:

"... transitions are always tough, you know? You simultaneously feel limited by something but also comforted by it. And truth be told, the Iron Man trilogy and The Avengers and the Sherlock series, none of that's been limiting. It's given me an immense amount of freedom, but like you said, time takes time and contracts run for a certain period. So the nice thing now is transitioning into having this production company with the missus, and we're going to start alighting to possibly greener pastures and other stuff."

He must find the stuff that Joss writes to be quite irritating, then.
Very good interview, it's not the standard PR blurb.
One of the things I enjoyed the most about Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang was that he seemed to be able to work magic despite the story flaws. I liked the movie but to me, it was clear that it would have never worked with anyone else. He was the MVP of that movie so when I read that better writing is more annoying, I interpret that in a way to mean that when he's given a script with a little less confidence behind it he is able to push himself more and more to be a better actor for that role. Everything I've read about him suggests he is someone who needs that responsibility
I assume you know that Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang was written by Shane Black who wrote Iron Man 3? :)
You know, there's no denying RDJ is a great actor. However, not sure I care for his views on writers. Writers and actors should have a symbiotic relationship to be successful. I've seen him say in multiple interviews that he more-or-less disregards what is written in the script when acting. Whether or not that is true, it's a little disrespectful to the writers to be going around bragging about that.
Some people are a force of nature and just can't be dealt with through ordinary means. RDJ is one of them.
What happens behind the scenes is one thing- bragging in public about ignoring writers and even finding their work 'annoying' at times just makes him come off arrogant to me. But yes, no denying he's a great actor.
Speaking strictly about The Avengers, it's a real credit to Joss' burgeoning Directing skills* to allow actors to improv as he did. (S.i.P./'Doth mother know....") Improving, the process of entertaining without a script, is very-like, VERY-difficult to do; and the reason we don't see more of it is because actors, in their humanity, wind up "cracking jokes about stories we're not telling." RDJ has a way of entertaining withIN the script. I suppose this interview is him ackowledging how addicting it can be! (There's no denying its working for him.)
The amusing part is Joss' commentary as writer-Joss says, 'This is JUST Robert improvising again.' {emphasis added.}
No need to argue fellas, it works!
{*The Avengers IS Joss' Second Major Motion Picture directing, yes? Career-wise, that is about the time James Cameron was being fired from 'Piranha.'}

On the subbject of scripts-scripts are two-dimensional pieces of paper. Actors who are trained to 'Obey the script' wind up giving flat performances. Given the two extremes, I'd pay for the round performance. The great actor can bring forth the written language as if they just thought it up. (ie. ScarJo's compliment about Ruffalo and his "spontaneous happy accident(s)" God, does that sound lewd when you spell it out!)

[ edited by BarryC on 2013-05-10 00:13 ]

[ edited by BarryC on 2013-05-10 00:28 ]

[ edited by BarryC on 2013-05-11 16:56 ]
It is an interesting interview. The interviewer seems like an incredible suck up, I'm almost surprised he didn't ask "Robert how did you get to be so awesome?". But never the less RDJ was amazingly open and honest.

I wouldn't read too much into what he says about writers since if you asked him ten minutes later you might get a different reply. I don't think he has hard and fast opinions; I think he would reply differently if you asked about different specific writers.
He is not an actor I care for. It is this arrogance that I find troublesome. And BarryC, I believe a great actor will be a great actor whether improvising or whether obeying the script.
RDJ is arrogant, but its his strength in many ways. I don't think he disrespects writers as such, I just think he often find their words restrictive for the story he sees in his head and the performance/character rendering he wishes to offer. (I've watched enough poorly scripted movies to wish that more actors were able to punch their way through mediocrity to something better.)

It's just than when it comes to the writing of, to choose a random example, Joss, the writing is already great. Why tamper with it? Maybe RDJ just can't help himself. Is that a flaw? Probably. Mind you, that RDJ seems to add to a script (rather than subtract from it) more often than not is a fact that I find hard to ignore.

The tension between an actor and writer can certainly be damaging. Not all actors improve a script by tampering with it. (Donald Sutherland - I'm looking at you.) But when it works, it can be fantastic. I think that RDJ and Joss made something wonderful in The Avengers, and hopefully they will make an even better pairing next time, because of (and not in spite of) their innately different strengths. At their very best, each could push the other to make something wonderful. Are they wonderful on their own? Of course they are, but challenges are the stuff of great life and great art.
It's odd, because by all rights RDJ and Joss should have been at each other's throats right from the start. But apparently, that hasn't been the case. I wonder why not?
They're professionals and recognised that they need each other?
I think I'll give him the benefit of the doubt, that RDJ isn't disregarding writers, but instead poor scripts. In that sense, he is expressing differently what Joss says, when a bad 3rd act in a script is often due to the two acts in front of it. Joss has expressed the frustration of seeing something is wrong, and not being allowed to correct it. This might be RDJ's way of dealing with that situation, and the annoyance is better writing that still contains significant flaws (so it can't be completely thrown out, but still needs changes).
Let's also keep in mind that we don't actually know what went on behind the scenes. All we know is the final result- the film itself. There could have been plenty of tension between the two behind the scenes for all we know. And as far as RDJ only disregarding bad scripts, that goes against what he says in this interview. He finds good scripts the most 'annoying', apparently.

[ edited by libradude on 2013-05-10 17:03 ]
Parsing RDJ's off the cuff remarks and trying to interpret them is almost always futile. Especially when they are in text. He's like Joss in that regard. How many people "read" Joss wrong because they can't hear the sarcastic wink&nod in Joss's voice?
Dana-Improv is to Traditional Acting as Apple is to "IBM/PC" they are two different languages. If it were close to similar, someone would have tried an hour-long drama without a team of writers already. (we here all know the world NEEDS good writers...right?)
What I meant about 'obeying the script' is those actors we have all forgotten who appear like: "I am saying this because this is what the script says I say." It is forgettable.
Michael Caine told a great story about his early days when he sat in his chair like a lamp on a chair. The director asked him what he was doing, to which he replied, "I'm just sitting here because I don't have any lines." to which the director said:
"You have lots of lines-you just don't choose to say them." and therein lies the rub.

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