Robert Downey Jr. from Brat to Icon

Essays on the Film Career

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About the Book

Robert Downey Jr. may be best known as Iron Man, but his career as an actor stretches back to the 1970s and features several Oscar-quality roles. He has worked with a wide range of innovative directors from Oliver Stone and Robert Altman to Richard Linklater and Shane Black, and has played punk kids, detectives, journalists and even a serial killer.
This collection of new essays examines, in roughly chronological order, more than 25 of Downey’s best performances in films as diverse as Less Than Zero, Chaplin, Natural Born Killers, A Scanner Darkly, The Soloist and Tropic Thunder. Including a biography, chronology and filmography, the book highlights the inseparability of the actor’s biography from his works and from the unique combination of talents he brings to his roles.

About the Author(s)

Erin E. MacDonald is a professor of English at Fanshawe College’s School of Language and Liberal Studies in London, Ontario. She published a literary companion book on Ed McBain and is writing one on Ian Rankin. Her articles have appeared in the Journal of American and Comparative Cultures and in Clues.

Bibliographic Details

Edited by Erin E. MacDonald
Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 312
Bibliographic Info: 26 photos, filmography, bibliographies, index
Copyright Date: 2014
pISBN: 978-0-7864-7549-0
eISBN: 978-1-4766-1703-9
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Table of Contents


Acknowledgments  ix

Preface  1

Chronology  3

Introduction: “You know who I am” (Erin E. MacDonald)  7

The ­Pick-Up Artist and the Failures of Virtuosity (Christian B. Long)  17

Delightful, Duplicitous and Flirting with Disaster: James Toback’s Robert Downey Jr. (Thomas Britt)  29

“Mad as a box of frogs”: Channeling Chaplin in the Role of a Lifetime (Erin E. MacDonald)  40

Facing Life with Face Off: Race and Identity in the Films of Robert Downey Sr. and Robert Downey Jr. (Tony Prichard)  64

Robert Downey Jr.’s Media Monsters: Natural Born Killers, In Dreams and Zodiac (Karen Oughton)  75

Queering Downey Part 1: Queer as Catalyst in Less Than Zero, Home for the Holidays and One Night Stand (Erin E. MacDonald)  86

Queering Downey Part 2: Gender Identity and ­Cross-Dressing in In Dreams, Wonder Boys and Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (Erin E. MacDonald)  107

“This too too sullied flesh”: The Resurfacing of Robert Downey Jr. (Jason Davids Scott)  121

“Lie down with me Watson”: Transgression and Fragile Masculinity in the Detective Films of Robert Downey Jr. (Ruth ­O’Donnell)  136

Genre–and ­Gender-Bending in Shane Black’s Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and Iron Man 3 (Nils Bothmann)  153

Getting in Another’s Shoes: Clashing Ethics in Charlie Bartlett (Fernando Gabriel Pagnoni Berns)  166

Robert Downey Jr. as Star: The Irreverent Hero of Iron Man and Iron Man 2 (F.E. ­Pheasant-Kelly)  176

Fragmented Relationships: ­Father-Son Dynamics in Less Than Zero, A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints and Iron Man 2 (Jennifer Harrison)  191

“Welcome to the movie factory”: Tropic Thunder as Postmodern Comedy (Brian S. Reinking)  205

Layers of Lazarus: Robert Downey Jr. Hits “true emotional pay dirt” Through Blackface (Derek Adams)  218

Language and Power in The Soloist and A Guide to Recognizing

Your Saints (Sam Lundberg)  235

Robert Downey Jr. as Detective: Sherlock Holmes Redux (Linda ­Ledford-Miller)  244

The Avengers in Post–9/11 America (Mike Hernandez)  255

Biography  269

Filmography  291

About the Contributors  295

Index  297