Film | News | Robert Downey Jr.

Robert Downey Jr. Plays Black Actor in Tropic Thunder


Yep, that's Robert Downey Jr. between Ben Stiller and Jack Black.

Entertainment Weekly explains the premise: "Robert Downey Jr. plays Kirk Lazarus, a very serious Oscar-winning actor cast in the most expensive Vietnam war epic ever filmed. Problem is, Lazarus's character, Sgt. Osiris, was originally written as black. So Lazarus decides to dye his skin and play Osiris, um, authentically."

Downey, Jr. acknowledged the risk: "If it's done right, it could be the type of role you called Peter Sellers to do 35 years ago. If you don't do it right, we're going to hell. At the end of the day, it's always about how well you commit to the character. I dove in with both feet. If I didn't feel it was morally sound, or that it would be easily misinterpreted that I'm just C. Thomas Howell in [Soul Man], I would've stayed home."

First Look: 'Tropic Thunder' [entertainment weekly]

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  1. I don't quite understand, but Johnny Lane will have to inspect him for "greasy hair".

    Posted by: Derrick from Philly | Mar 5, 2008 2:56:27 PM

  2. Gosh, I love Robert Downey Jr, but is there a shortage of black actors to play black characters? Or is there just a shortage of opportunities for them to get roles?

    Posted by: Pat | Mar 5, 2008 3:12:03 PM

  3. I may be alone, but I am disgusted by this. There are so many amazing black actors in Hollywood who end up taking mediocre roles to make a living, why on earth would they take a mediocre 'druggy' actor and give him a black role?

    To me this just smacks of 1930's racism - let's just slap some black face on Al Jolson and call it funny.

    And yes, I am white.

    Posted by: JJ JJ | Mar 5, 2008 3:20:16 PM

  4. Maybe he'll be nominated for an Oscar like Angelina Jolie.

    Unlike 'A Mighty Heart' though, this sounds like it could be funny.

    Posted by: David D. | Mar 5, 2008 3:21:01 PM

  5. No, you guys misunderstand.

    Robert Downey, Jr. is not himself playing a black guy.

    He's playing an Oscar-winning white actor who's playing a black guy in a movie. I don't know much about the movie but it sounds like it might be good satire.

    Posted by: nuflux | Mar 5, 2008 3:30:25 PM

  6. I wouldn't touch that role with a ten-foot... a-hem, pole. ;)

    Posted by: Jon | Mar 5, 2008 3:32:20 PM

  7. I was ready to jump all over this one until I reread the item. I THINK the premise is that RDJr's character is playing a black character under false pretenses, a la CTH in Soul Man.

    The question is, why? It wasn't funny before, and it's not funny now. But I 'll hold my final judgement until I see some actual footage.

    For the record, I didn't find Eddie Murphy or Dave Chappelle's whiteface funny either. Just creepy.

    But one whiteface incident stands out for me; back in the 80's a recurring plot on The Young & The Restless consisted of a good looking black actor who disguised himself as a white mobster in order to bring down the mob. That was kinda weird, too.

    Posted by: banjiboi | Mar 5, 2008 3:32:24 PM

  8. Good Christ! Do you guys actually read the articles?

    It's a spoof of actors. Like Zoolander was a spoof of models. He's spoofing a white actor who thinks he can pull off an African American role! He's making fun of black face.

    Posted by: crispy | Mar 5, 2008 3:32:58 PM

  9. Oh, and to the film makers:

    Blackface in ANY form is GUARANTEED to piss off black folks to some degree or another.

    Posted by: banjiboi | Mar 5, 2008 3:39:13 PM

  10. To Crispy.

    Again, black face is never funny to black people. Period.

    Posted by: banjiboi | Mar 5, 2008 3:42:48 PM

  11. Reading comprehension always seems to be a bit of a problem here and elsewhere...

    Read more carefully and perhaps more
    s-l-o-w-l-y fellas, it will save people from having to explain things to you.

    Posted by: Derek | Mar 5, 2008 3:49:34 PM

  12. I don't get it.

    Posted by: Sean | Mar 5, 2008 3:51:52 PM

  13. I had to re-read the article when I first saw it on this morning. But, I totally get the the concept and believe if it is done right and totally from a satirical point of view, it could be quite funny.

    BTW, every time I see Delta Burke as Suzanne Sugarbaker in blackface in that special episode of Designing Women, it never fails to crack me up and bring a smile to my (BLACK) face.

    :-) :-) :-) :-)

    Posted by: phredd! | Mar 5, 2008 3:54:03 PM

  14. Yikes, Ben Stiller's got guns...and a rifle. Who knew....?

    Posted by: Ted B. (Charging Rhino) | Mar 5, 2008 3:55:07 PM

  15. Ok, so I misunderstood the original statement - I admit it but how many people are going to watch the trailer for this thing and miss it too?

    I still agree with several of the other commenters, that frankly, even if it is a spoof of a white actor playing black, it is still offensive.

    As I said before, how many people look at Al Jolson in black face and say 'ha ha' - I'd much rather watch the Anna Nicole biopic (see the trailer on DListed).

    Posted by: JJ JJ | Mar 5, 2008 4:01:41 PM

  16. It sounds like it will be a hoot to watch from NetFlicks!

    Posted by: Rad | Mar 5, 2008 4:04:51 PM

  17. Banjiboi: Don't presume to speak for an entire group of people. That's most offensive of all.

    Posted by: crispy | Mar 5, 2008 4:09:25 PM

  18. And btw JJ JJ that "mediocre 'druggy' actor" earned the staring role in Iron Man this summer. It's a huge movie with a huge budget and it's probably going to be the summer's first blockbuster based on the very cool trailer and the fact it's another Marvel comic character.

    I guess RDJ should be glad the producers, director and studio don't share your opinion of him.

    Posted by: Derek | Mar 5, 2008 4:35:50 PM

  19. PAT: I guess you protested against Dustin Hoffman's role in Tootsie because there are no shortage of female actors?

    Posted by: Mike | Mar 5, 2008 4:56:57 PM

  20. i believe the 2 "white chicks" were played by the very black wayans brothers.

    Posted by: alguien | Mar 5, 2008 5:07:14 PM

  21. i believe the 2 "white chicks" were played by the very black wayans brothers.

    Posted by: alguien | Mar 5, 2008 5:07:19 PM

  22. I understand the concept of this role and understand that Downey, Jr. understands the concept of racism so I'm not gonna start screaming yet. It just has to be handled correctly. Not like Rob Schneider in yellowface in "Chuck & Larry."

    It can be funny but I'll have to see how the movie handles it. I also would hope that there are other actors of color in the movie because if there aren't it would be a shame.

    Posted by: junior | Mar 5, 2008 5:08:59 PM

  23. Hey Crispy, let's just hope he can stay on the wagon (granted he has done well for a while).

    RDJ was genius in Chaplin what, 15 years ago? Since then he just hasn't produced much in the way of quality mainly because of the risk that he relapses and can't complete the movie.

    I can tell you someone is likely paying through the nose for insurance premiums to cast him in a major movie (or he could be doing it himself to get into the movie).

    Posted by: JJ JJ | Mar 5, 2008 5:27:51 PM

  24. What is the big deal. Is there a shortage of gay actors too. Straight men have been playing gay characters for a long time. It is called acting.

    Posted by: Brian | Mar 5, 2008 5:59:30 PM

  25. JJ JJ you really do need to focus on your reading man or just do the tiniest bit of research so that it at least sounds like you know what you are talking about.

    Director Joel Silver withheld 40 percent of his salary until after production wrapped on Gothika, as insurance against his addictive behavior. Btw RDJ has been clean for almost 8 years now-a bit better than "pretty good for awhile".

    And as for producing "quality" again just your lowly opinion but here are some (but not all) of the movies he has stared in since completing drug treatment:

    2003: Gothika
    2004: Eros
    2005: Game 6
    2005: The Outsider
    2005: Kiss Kiss Bang Bang
    2005: Good Night, and Good Luck.
    2005: Hubert Selby Jr: It/ll Be Better Tomorrow
    2006: The Shaggy Dog
    2006: A Scanner Darkly
    2006: A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints
    2006: Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus
    2007: Zodiac
    2007: Lucky You
    2007: Charlie Bartlett

    I can't speak for the whole list but Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Good Night, And Good Luck and Zodiaq were all "quality" movies. And GN,AGL was nominated for an Oscar So I have to ask you JJ JJ how many of those movies did you actually see? I mean it's funny how he goes from being "mediocre" and a "druggy" to "genius" in the course of your posts.

    It seems you really cannot tell us anything that is factual or not steeped in your own opinions. But why is that not surprising?

    Posted by: Derek | Mar 5, 2008 6:08:42 PM

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