Kiss Kiss Bang Bang - Robert Downey Jr interview
Compiled by Jack Foley
Q. What do you make of Kiss Kiss, Bang, Bang yourself?
A. I love this movie, it’s such fun. I like that people are seeing it and then talking about it. It’s like when my kid and me and his friends all saw Napoleon Dynamite last year, and talked about it for the next six weeks.
Q. Is the final result much different than the first script you read?
A. Yeah, it’s like a good script come to life, which I think is really rare. The onus is mostly on the director, and the people developing it and the producers and then the cast and crew and everyone else. When you have a good script you’re almost in more trouble than when you have a terrible script. With a terrible script you hustle and try to make it better. But with a good script it can be trouble because you rest on your laurels, so to speak, you think it’s going to translate easily.
Q. Do you think that, for all you have experienced in the last few years, you are better equipped to play a character like Harry now than ever before?
A. I think it’s a great part. But I will agree that I think that things happen with people in relationships, that you might have been able to enjoy Morocco, say, if you weren’t getting out of a bad marriage. You know what I mean? I think you wind up doing the stuff you were supposed to do largely at the time you were supposed to do it.
Q. What do you like about Harry?
A. He’s just the Energizer Bunny, and roughly about as intellectually equipped! I get that, it’s not a Hollywood story, or a typically American story to me. It’s a story about guys, men and women and our perceptions of each other and how hilarious it is. It’s about these roles that we think we’re supposed to play.
Q. How was it working with Val Kilmer?
A. We came into this film from different angles, but with the same amount to win or lose. Val hadn’t done a comedy in a while, and I’ve been living a comedy in my private life for some time. It just seemed like we both wanted to score with this.
But Val is one of those guys you do the scene with and afterwards you say ‘okay, that worked’, and he’d be away already, eating a sandwich or talking on his cell phone. Then you’d watch the dailies later and see a totally realistic performance by a fantastic actor. You ask yourself ‘how does he do that?’. My RPMs are like at 6800 just to look like I’m not a mess, but it was completely effortless for him.
Q. Were you ever concerned that the script might be too clever, too self referential?
A. Sure. I read the script for Wonder Boys, and I said that was almost perfect, it was so classy, cool and funny. It’s a really specific thing. We stuck to it, it turned out good and a lot of people liked it.
But I think Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang really got that thing where, if a movie reads really funny and then has some dramatic or violent or sinister stuff in it, you can’t forget that primarily it has to be even funnier than you read it or that other stuff doesn’t work. If you’re doing a drama that has some comedic elements you can’t forget that it’s primarily a very serious film that has some light relief. Tone is tough, and my hat goes off to any writer who achieves it so that it doesn’t get messed up when you put it in the hands of a bunch of neurotic Hollywood types.
Q. With this film, your recent marriage to producer Susan Levin and a well received CD release this has surely been the year of your life, hasn’t it?
A. Look, even bad years are pretty good years I think. Everything is kind of okay if you think about it. It was just a really busy year. I’m like Harry in that I came to LA and was a little naïve, and was immediately disillusioned.
I was kind of like chasing my tail and trying to do the right thing, and was a little bit stupid. Or irresponsible, which is the same thing I guess. It’s just been really busy and I had a lot of great opportunities.
Q. But it’s fair to say that your life has changed significantly now, isn’t it?
A. I think life changes every year. This is just a little more comfortable.