Robert Downey Jr. Has No Regrets About Doing Blackface For Tropic Thunder
For many people, Tropic Thunder is a straightforward comedy movie about Hollywood itself, with an ensemble cast. However, for others it's deeply problematic.
The 2008 film sees Robert Downey Jr. playing Australian actor Kirk Lazarus, a five-time Academy Award winner, who has 'a controversial pigmentation alteration surgery'. The upshot of this is that the character darkens his own skin to play a black character, named Staff Sergeant Lincoln Osiris.
Essentially, in the movie, the actor adopted blackface.
It's hard to imagine the same part being written today, however Downey Jr. says he doesn't regret taking on the role.
Speaking on Joe Rogan's podcast, the Hollywood star said: "When Ben [Stiller, the movie's director and star] called and said, 'Hey I'm doing this thing,' I think Sean Penn had passed on it or something like that-possibly wisely.
'I thought, 'Yeah... I'll do that after Iron Man.' And then I started thinking, 'This is a terrible idea; wait a minute.'
"Then I thought, 'Well, hold on, dude, get real here, where is your heart?' And 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 - just my opinion.
"Ben, who is a master artist and director, probably the closest thing to Charlie Chaplin that I've experienced... 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, and 90 percent of my black friends are like, 'Dude, that was great.'
"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've just gotta go, 'Yeah, I effed up.' Again, not in my defence, but Tropic Thunder was about how wrong that is. So I take exception."
However, he also admitted that his mum certainly wasn't a fan.
When asked by Rogan if anybody had told him not to take the role, Downey Jr. replied: "My mother was horrified... 'Bobby, I'm telling ya, I have a bad feeling about this.' I was like, 'Yeah me too, Mom.'"
In addition to his mum, the actor also copped some concern from his wife - however, she thought the concept behind the film was brilliant.
Upon the movie's original release, some critics took exception to the role, with The Los Angeles Times' Scott Feinberg writing: "I just can't imagine any circumstance under which a blackface performance would be acceptable, any more than I can imagine any circumstance under which the use of the N-word would be acceptable."
However, Stiller explained to Empire: "In the context of the film, he's playing a method actor who's gone to great lengths to play a black guy. The movie is skewering actors and how they take themselves so seriously."
Featured Image Credit: DreamWorks Pictures