Robert Downey Jr. went on The Joe Rogan Experience with the guy who used to make people drink donkey semen in the 90s and is now a millionaire opinion leader, and talked about doing blackface in the early 2000s. RDJ says that while he knows it was a messy move, his heart was in a good place and “ninety-percent” of his black friends said it was “great”.
In 2008’s Tropic Thunder, which was directed by Ben Stiller and co-written by Justin Theroux, RJD played Kirk Lazarus–a fictional Oscar-winning Australian actor who dons blackface via “pigmentation alteration” surgery for a role. The character made fun of method actors and the crazy stupid shit they do for their art. Cut to Jared Leto clutching his pearls and taking offense to that as he makes a mental note to delete that old email to a dermatologist wondering if they’ll dye his skin black so he can play Martin Luther King, Jr.
RDJ told Joe Rogan about how his dad made a movie about a black man who takes over an ad-agency via unintended circumstances, and how that movie and watching his dad film it as a child shaped his decision. Unclear how exactly… via Washington Post
“I thought: “Yeah, I’ll do that. I’ll do that after Iron Man.” And then I started thinking, “This is a terrible idea.” …I thought: “Hold on, dude. Get real here. Where is your heart?” …My heart is a) I get to be black for a summer in my mind, so there’s something in it for me. The other thing is I get to hold up to nature the insane, self-involved hypocrisy of artists and what they think they’re allowed to do on occasion.”
Oh yes, it’s great to be black for a summer, especially when you don’t have to worry about racial profiling, racism, etc… RDJ went on to say that while his mom thought it was a bad idea, I guess he took a poll and 90% of his black friends were into it.
“Ninety percent of my black friends were like, “Dude, that was great.” …My mother was horrified. “Bobby, I’m telling you, I have a bad feeling about this.” I was like “Yeah, me too, mom.” …Ben, who is a masterful artist and director–probably the closest thing to a Charlie Chaplin that I’ve experienced in my lifetime… He knew exactly what the vision for this was. He executed it. It was impossible to not have it be an offensive nightmare of a movie.”
RDJ said that he does know it was a trash move, but because Tropic Thunder showed that blackface is wrong, he’s okay with it:
“I can’t disagree with them, but I know where my heart was. It’s never an excuse to do something that is out of place and not of its time, but to me it was just putting … a blasting cap on… It’s an interesting and necessary meditation on where is the pendulum. Why is the pendulum right?…But again, there’s a morality clause here on this planet, and it’s a big price to pay. And I think having a moral psychology is job one, so sometimes you just got to go, “Yeah I effed up.” Again, not in my defense, but Tropic Thunder was about how wrong that is, so I take exception.”
As well as 90% of RDJ’s black friends, Joe Rogan loved it too. RDJ seemed iffy on if he’d do it again today, and it seems like he wouldn’t. I don’t think he would either, because it’d cut into him getting huge checks to pretend talk to CGI animals in flops.